Q&A with Cyndy Drew Etler – Author of The Dead Inside – A True Survivor’s Story About Her Experience with Straight, Inc.

 

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I recently read The Dead Inside by Cyndy Drew Etler and learned about Straight, Inc. for the first time. I’d never even heard of Straight and was quite shocked with Cyndy’s story. Cyndy was a troubled teen in the 80’s who had some experiences that aren’t all that uncommon. She was making wrong choices while trying to find her place in the world, until at the age of 14, when her mother decided to throw her into a drug rehabilitation for throwaway kids who are deemed out of control. This institution was called Straight, Inc.

I was able to ask Cyndy some questions about her experience with Straight and have included them below for those interested.

In case you haven’t learned about Straight, I encourage you to view my original review which includes videos and more information for The Dead Inside HERE and also the Q&A with Christine Flannery, another Straight survivor HERE.

Cyndy’s new book We Can’t Be Friends will be available later this year. You can find information on that below.

 

Continue reading “Q&A with Cyndy Drew Etler – Author of The Dead Inside – A True Survivor’s Story About Her Experience with Straight, Inc.”

Surviving Straight, Inc. Q & A with Straight Survivor Christine Flannery

I recently read a book by Cyndy Drew Etler titled, The Dead Inside. The book is about Cyndy’s experience with Straight, Inc. I’d never even heard of Straight until I read this book. You can see my original post on The Dead Inside which will soon contain a Q&A with the author and you can also see the trailer for the documentary/movie on Straight by clicking HERE.

I found this story to be incredibly disturbing and as I began searching online, I found countless cases regarding kids who were abused in this program. These programs at one point were supported by members of government including Nancy Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

After my research I met Christine Flannery, a Cincinnati Straight Survivor who was in the program from 1984-1986. You can read her story on her website by clicking HERE. I was able to speak with Christine about her experience at Straight. You can learn more about Straight and see the Q&A with Christine Flannery below.

What is Straight, Inc?

Straight, Inc. (1976-1993) publicly claimed to rehabilitate teenage drug users by using tough love and Alcoholics Anonymous principles. Straight, Inc. provided NO professional counseling: Straight, Inc.’s “treatment model” relied exclusively on “positive peer pressure” from unprofessional staff (program graduates) and from the teenage clients. Straight, Inc. claimed to have an astronomically high success rate and was supported by both the Reagan and Bush administrations. However, Straight, Inc. did not publicly reveal what many survivors will tell you. imagesi34er5667777zer.jpgThe REAL Straight, Inc. was a facility that used coercive thought reform (aka mind control, brainwashing), public humiliation, sleep & food deprivation, extremely harsh confrontational tactics, kidnapping, isolation and emotional, mental, psychological, verbal and physical abuse to forcibly break us down then remold us in the Straight, Inc. image. Straight, Inc. also operated in secrecy, just like a cult (Straight, Inc. has been listed on at least 2 cult expert websites). No outsiders were ever permitted to know what really went on. Straight’s rules and our fear of harsh punishment prevented us from talking to outsiders or from reporting abuses.- From Christine’s website

Here’s a video that Christine put together regarding Straight, Inc.

As many as 50,000 kids were in the Straight program, Straight, Inc.  is the biggest violator of human rights and civil liberties that this country has ever seen.  There are accounts of food and sleep deprivation, making kids soil their pants, beatings, spitting in kids faces, and marathon sessions where teenagers would be yelled at by many other kids for long periods of time.  Children were forbidden from reading any material including religious books.  Conditions were so deplorable that kids had to be watched 24/7, even as they wiped themselves on the toilet (reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps where Jews were made to defecate publicly like cats and dogs) to make sure they did not commit suicide.   Under such deplorable and humiliating conditions many kids resorted to carving on their bodies with a fingernail, piece of broken chair, or whatever else they could find just as a caged animal gnarls at an open sore. –From the Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network. 

Straight, Inc. was also renamed…

As Christine mentions on her website, Straight, Inc. became Kids Helping Kids, Pathway Family Center, Life, Growing Together, KIDS (of North Jersey, El Paso, etc.), SAFE, Alberta Adolescent Recovery Center (AARC), and others. Even though most of these spin-offs have been shut down, there are still similar programs for troubled teens that follow the same tactics as Straight.

In this video below regarding KIDS, which is basically the same program renamed after Straight, you will see how teens that were once in the program themselves became the counselors working with kids that have been brought into the program. These kids themselves are considered the professional staff.

Here’s another one about SAFE, another renamed Straight program. The video is old, but worth watching…

-Part 2-

Continue reading to see the Q&A with Christine Flannery…

 

Continue reading “Surviving Straight, Inc. Q & A with Straight Survivor Christine Flannery”

The Dead Inside by Cyndy Drew Etler – Straight, Inc.

I picked up The Dead Inside from Netgalley a few months ago and it took me some time to get to it. I’m glad to have read it and you can see my review below. To see the Q&A with Cyndy Etler, please click HERE.

The Dead Inside by Cyndy Drew Etler

My review

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This review may contain some spoilers…

The Dead Inside is a compelling memoir written by the author Cyndy Drew Etler. Cyndy was a troubled teen in the 80’s who had some experiences that aren’t all that uncommon. She was making wrong choices while trying to find her place in the world. She spends some of her time smoking weed and drinking alcohol with her friends, until she finally runs away from home because she just can’t take her family anymore, especially her step-dad, Jacque. There were things going on in that house that no child should ever have to succumb to. After making the decision to enter Foster Care, Cyndy finally has some peace. She’s able to still see her friends, have a safe environment and doesn’t have to deal with the turmoil from home. It’s not long after that, at the age of 14, her mother decides to throw her into a drug rehabilitation for throwaway kids who are deemed out of control. Cyndy is told that she is under evaluation for three days and she’s counting down the minutes to when she can leave and she’ll do whatever it takes, including lying. Straight, Inc. will now be Cyndy’s home for 16 months.

The story itself is unbelievable. I had a very hard time reading parts of the book that describe the physical and mental abuse these kids are exposed to in this program. They are basically in this building with a load of other drug users who have been sent there for the same reason and are used against each other. I can’t believe that it went on for so long and these kids had to endure it. They were locked down and not allowed to have any interaction with the outside world for a very long time. It’s violent and almost seems like torture at times. As I continued reading, I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to Cyndy. Would she ever escape? Will her mother ever realize her and her husband are the majority of the problems here? Will Cyndy be able to endure this treatment without losing it and causing herself to be set back?

The book is written very well and it doesn’t sound like there are many details spared. I did wonder throughout the story just exactly how bad was Cyndy as a teen? It seemed like all of her problems were stemming from her treatment at home and the lack of love from her mother. I was very happy that there was an epilogue included in the back which explains these programs and how they were eventually shut down, but at the same time shocked at how, in a way, they worked. The kids were basically brainwashed.

This is not an easy read or for the faint of heart. It’s extremely revealing, raw and horrifying at times and I wanted to get up and do something about it. I wanted to help Cyndy. It’s no surprise that she ended up in the career she has chosen and I commend her for her bravery in taking a very negative human experience and turning it into a lifetime career in helping others.

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for sharing this book with me in exchange for an honest review.

4-stars


Blurb

For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious “tough love” program the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids.”

I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi’s jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.

From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was…well, it was something else.

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.

To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.” Continue reading “The Dead Inside by Cyndy Drew Etler – Straight, Inc.”