Trying to Understand the Concept
Sometime around two thirty AM, I heard my mother’s voice. Next thing I know, she was laying on me and softly saying, “Do you remember how I said I would do anything to help you?” Confused I replied with a “Yes?” “Well, these people are here to take you to your new school.” I opened my eyes to see two “transport people”—that’s what we called them—standing in the doorway.
I did not struggle or try to get away, but it was “policy” to restrain my arms until I was “locked in the car.” My mother kissed me as I got into the car, but through her kisses I knew what was happening. I had genuinely believed that I was going to see my aunt on my way home after I had been sent to Texas to finish out the school year, but to accept I would return home never felt right. I was right— oh so right— not to believe what I had been told. But never had I imagined just how right I was.
I arrived at Diamond Ranch Academy that same morning around eight-o-clock. I was quickly stripped, searched, given different clothes, and sent out to join the “Homeless” group. Needless to say, I did not receive a “successful” day. The next day, and the days and the weeks after my first day, I came to terms that I was not leaving. I also realized that no one cared what my issues were, and they wouldn’t listen; they were more concerned about fixing me.
I struggled, going up and down, in my spirits, emotions, energy, and program. But until Amnesty Day, I had not figured out how this place worked. It is sad it took me so long, but I finally figured everything out, and realized what was really going on.
The great day of “amnesty” brought many girls to their knees; including me. All claims against me and many others were validated with, “You’re lying.” We never stood a chance. For a day we were assured to have the slate wiped clean, there were sure a lot of people on suicide watch. I was set back a month in my program, but I had a revealing light bulb moment. I had previously been told that the only choice I had was to either have a good or bad attitude. I knew this, but that day helped me see past the program, and it allowed me to examine the facilities motives.
Our parents had been scammed in their weakest moments, and we were being broken, refused basic human rights— like going to the bathroom— and were being brainwashed to follow orders.
After this realization, I figured out how to manipulate the system. I opted to get my GED to get out of possible citations during school hours. I also learned the outlined role of an upper level, and that’s where I stayed; a “Manager” who had graduated from high school. This put me in the most comfortable position I had been in since I had been there. I triumphed in my victory but told my parents I was doing my best. When in reality, I had stopped trying; I was safe where I was.
Graduating from this place would let Diamond Ranch Academy claim another victory, and would have destroyed my parents when I had finally left and kept with my same opinions. I was a silent victor; it was safer that way.
Until I got pulled, I enjoyed myself. I stopped worrying about the program and started thinking about my future outside of DRA. I was numb and did not care about anything there but my personal gain. I was empathetic and supportive of the girls, but all bets were off for any staff who tried see inside of me. I knew my victory time was near.
The best day of my stay came the day all the program directors called me to the office. I initially figure I would be accused of something, but found out I would soon be free. I was asked if I wanted to stay and complete my program because I was “so close.” Respectfully I declined with, “I haven’t been home in over sixteen months. I think it is time for me to go home.” I will never forget that day. I actually felt happy for the first time the entire time I had been away from home. Although not all my time was spent at DRA, it didn’t matter, I would soon be allowed to live my life.
Two days later I was once again stripped, searched, and given my own clothes. My parents had planned for a vacation to Zion’s National Park and the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, before we even got anywhere, I realized that nothing at home had changed. I had been forced to make personal changes and had to come up with a contract before going home, but no one else had bothered to set rules for themselves. Even after explaining this, nothing changed—I had apparently been the only “problem.” I was forced to be an adult, and they should have been too.
After arriving home, I got a job, and soon started experimenting with things I had learned about from the other girls during my stay at DRA. I stopped listening, and made every excuse imaginable not to be at home. My then humble nature soon turned to resentment, lack of trust, and I was still having nightmares about being back at DRA.
The more my mother yelled and screamed for me to do what she wanted, the worse I became. After being kicked out; losing my job; miscarrying; leaving a bad relationship to start another; being homeless; starting college; moving back in; starting a new relationship, and being kicked out once more, I got married, and started college again for real.
I am almost done now, and am looking forward to my career, but I am not a success story. I’ve struggled, been miserable, and still struggle with psychological demons. What no one had formerly known was that I have personality disorders— well it’s plural now. Yelling and demanding me to be a certain way only made me feel worthless and like I wasn’t good enough for anyone. I lost all faith and hope in myself because no one could understand or empathize with me.
Now, I present myself as tough and like I know what I am doing, but inside I question whether the life plan I made for myself will actually work. Am I going to end up letting my mistrust and irrational fears consume me? Only time will tell. I fight a self-sustaining battle full of contradictions that remains in my mind where no one can see. I have learned it is easier to deal with by keeping it to myself; what people don’t know about me can’t hurt me.
For those of you, who are ex-students of facilities like DRA, remember, you get to control your life’s path now. Do not throw it away because you feel resentful or hopeless. Whatever you are willing to work for, you can have— as long as you do it the right way. Little achievements are mere fractions of what you can accomplish; you just have to point yourself in the right direction.
Parents, please talk to your children. Don’t yell. Approach your child the same exact way you want to be approached, and tell them you love them. Please find the real source of the problem: drug use and bad friends are not the root of the problem, just manifestations of it. When going through therapy, don’t choose a therapist that you like or that is convenient; your child will child never open up enough for a full evaluation. Being too controlling of a teenager goes nowhere: talk to your kids about being an adult in the adult world. Use sentences like, “I know this is your world right now, but what happens after high school?”
But first and foremost, parents please remember that the teenage years of adolescent development focus on acceptance and finding a place in the world. Remember that frontal lobes, where all the reasoning takes place, are still under construction too. Be an example, and allow friends of your child into your home because you never know which one of them will benefit. Teenagers are not structurally adults yet, so be loving, kind, their voice of reason, and do not blame or pawn them off for your behavior. Be a responsible parent and obey the rules too—monkey see, monkey do applies in reality. You are the one responsible for the way your children turn out, and they only turn out as good as their examples. Lastly, remember that someone relying on your payments will not objectively help your child; especially when their livelihoods depend on keeping your child as long as they can.