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Mexico

After going to Northern Idaho, and being in a holding house (the escort’s house).I was there for three weeks. This time around, being escorted was a little different because I was just escorted by the family that I was living at, so it’s a little easier.

A quick recap, I get kicked out of Cascade for being too influential on the other students. I get sent back up to northern Idaho, the middle of nowhere, to a holding house, while my family decides what they want to do with me. During this time, through different conversations with my family, I was told that I was a master manipulator, that I was able to manipulate programs, and everything else, which is absolutely ridiculous because we’re paying thousands of dollars a week for these programs, how am I able to manipulate them? If I was, hey, I’m pretty good, right? That’s a lot of power to be able to tell a 17-year-old at that time that he manipulated an entire program.

So, we’re down to Mexico. Now, you have to understand one thing. When your family thinks this of you, they tend to tell the places that you’re going. So, I might be walking into the abyss. But every place I went to had a file on me, does that make sense? So, every time I went to a shrink, all the notes and everything, they say it’s confidential, but it’s not. They just pass it along to whatever adult feels that they’ll be able to read it.

Now,  at 37, looking back. I’m like, “That’s the most ridiculous thing in the world,” because I’m the same age of some of the counselors. They’re not equipped to know what’s best for people, Unless there are the most successful people in every field, in every part of their life, then most people aren’t equipped to tell people what to do, or how to feel, or anything in their lives because most of the time, they can’t even tie their own shoes, how are they going to teach you how to tie yours.

Especially when they have all the psychoanalysis on you, they have all this ammo against you that’s almost impossible for you to fight because they have secrets, I guess, you could say that. They’re like the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, because they have secret files on you that you don’t even know about. How do I know this? Towards the end of the story, the psychiatrist told me.

Going down to Mexico was different, we had to leave America. I was escorted by the family I was living with. I knew this family, I was living with them for three weeks. By the end of the three weeks, in a weird way I was going to miss them. If it’s never happened to you, then it’s completely foreign. But I understand the relationship that a captive and the capturer have, there is a bond you end up growing, building with somebody, whether you want it to happen or not, your body becomes kind of in sync with this other person. Then, when you leave that situation, there’s a part of you that’s left there.

Mexico, we were in Bahía de Kino, Sonora, Mexico. We were in hell, but in paradise at the same time. And it was literally, I mean, the temperatures alone was hell. It was like 120 degrees every single day in the summertime. And you’re like, “There’s no way.” And I’m like, “Yeah, there’s a way because we’re in the Sonoran Desert, the desert was behind us, and the water was in front of us.” It was super hot. I’ve never been so hot in my life, and I’m somebody who loves the heat. There were four program houses. I don’t remember the names of them. You had two houses on the water, and then you had two houses that were not on the water.

When I first arrived, I was at a  house that wasn’t on the water. It was more or less a compound, bars on the windows, and everything was locked. As much as I would like to paint a picture as we were trapped in a jail. We were, but it was uniform in the neighborhood or in the environment I was in. So, it wasn’t like we were the sore thumb, all the houses had bars on windows and all the houses had broken glass on top of their fences. It was a small pueblo, It was tiny. We were in New Kino. There was Old Kino, which was more Mexicans, more like the poor part. And then New Kino, which was mostly American transplants, and old people.

When I first got there, the transition was really easy for me for a few factors. One, my best friend from Cascade, his little brother was at Positive Impact with me. How random is that? I’m in this very small environment, I went from one program with one brother, and then to the next program with the other brother. So, that was great, because then I felt like I already had a friend, and he was more my little brother. It was more like I had a little brother.

Then, another person from the program. That I knew we actually lived in the same dorm together at Cascade. He was down there as well.  that just opened it up even more. We weren’t friends or anything before, but we knew each other. We played basketball together. Just seeing a familiar face is always nice.

One of the counselors from Cascade was also in Mexico (She actually ran my Truth and Youth workshop). When I went to Mexico, the transition was really easy and simple staff already knew who I was. Then to top that, they moved me into the same house as my friend’s little brother. No, I don’t remember what time of day I got there. This program was an all boys program; it was a much more intense program. Much more structured. Let’s say, structured.

CEDU was the most structured, and most abusive, mentally and to your body. But Mexico, you had many different challenges to deal with than any other. Now, being hot is an understatement. A lot of people think and look at me and like, “Yeah, he likes it ridiculously hot.” With food, years later, that small amount of time I was at Aspen affected my eating for life with eating (yums, if you remember). Being in Mexico, and being exposed to that type of heat has changed me for life as well.

So, when I mean hot, there was no air conditioning when you were trying to sleep. It was so hot, no fans, no, nothing. It’s just dead hotness. Truly just dead hotness. I love the heat, but it would take you forever to go to sleep because it was so hot. No blankets, no covers, and you’d literally have a puddle of sweat in your belly button. That’s how hot it was. When you took a shower, right? You would be sweating while you were in the shower, that’s how hot it was. And we’re right by the ocean, it was really humid. It was hot as could be because of the desert. So, it was dry as could be. But then, it was also as humid as it could be because you also have the sea of Cortez.

it was an environment I’ve never been in before. And I don’t know if I’ve ever really want to be back and live there, in the wintertime, it was almost like freezing. So, it was extremes to say the least. What differentiated Mexico from the other programs? The other programs were structured, but this was a different type of structure.

In Mexico, it was following a book called, the Positive Peer Culture. there’s rankings like the military, that’s the best way to explain it.  you know how in the military, there’s the general, then there’s the major, then there’s the lieutenant, then there’s the private, right? So, in this program, you had the psychiatrist which is the white American, then you had the head Mexican, which was the milieu manager. Then, you had the Mexican staff. And then, you had the resident leader, and then you had the room leader, So, each person had their specific job. The chain of command was in control.

So, when I first arrived, if you remember me telling you, one of the staff knew who I was? So, within three weeks of me being there, this was a step program. it was the Positive Peer Culture that was structured like this. The resident leader was in-charge of all his entire house. If you had 12 people, then the resident leader was in-charge of all 12 people, but they would have help, which were the room leaders, they were in-charge of particular rooms. So, if the staff had a problem, they would follow the proper chain of command.

they would go to the resident leader, then the resident leader wouldn’t go to the individual themselves either. The resident leader would go to the room leader, and the room leader would then take care of the problem, the reason why you would do it that way is, just you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.

So, it’s easy to explain the first house I was in, three weeks in, they made me in-charge of the house. I was brand new. I wasn’t allowed to do anything. But the house was in trouble, there was no leadership. The counselor from Cascade knew who I was, she was like, “Well, I know Erik has a strong character.” So, viola, I barely knew the program, and now, I’m in-charge of my program. I’m in-charge of everything. When it came to my house, there was the staff, then there was me. Maybe, you could say my family wasn’t all the way off when they said, I had manipulated the entire program (CEDU), because three weeks into this program, I’m in-charge of everything.

This is a step program, you’re step zero if you’re on punishment. They basically say it’s an N.O, which is a new opportunity. Then, you had step one, step two, and then step three. The resident leader was usually assigned to a step three. For me to be assigned The Resident leader as a step one, when there were people in my house that were above me, was unheard of.

What is a step? Wow I forgot, let me explain the reward punishment system, like a new opportunity, what is a new opportunity? How do you get a new opportunity? So, the reward punishment system. Each day, remember, it’s a Positive Peer Culture, the life that we were living was a direct representation of our peer culture.

If we were behind, it was a direct representation of us, because the staff was there to guide, not to lead, not to do anything. It was in-charge of the resident leader in my first house, the first house, because each house is different, because you have a different ecosystem.

In the first house, I became the resident leader of the top and my best friend from the other program, his brother became the resident leader of the bottom half. Of 24 different guys, I’m literally in-charge of all of them, because my little brother, he’s like my little brother. But he was really extra emotional compared to me. So, every week we’d have resident leader meetings from all the houses, and we talked to the staff, like the main staff, and they stressed their concerns and we’d stress our concerns just like a meeting. And each week, our house damn near came in the best because on the emotional level, like the therapy part of everything, my little brother was key.

Sometimes, the downstairs group would run over and they’re having a special emotional session, or whatever it was. The staff loved that. That was great. But then, you also had my house, which was upstairs, and it was more robotic. 

Maybe I wasn’t the most emotionally supportive person, but I was the more stringent, the more punctual person. When you put those two personalities together, it created the perfect house. It helped all four houses would get together, and compete on the weekends playing basketball. My house upstairs and downstairs, also had the best athletes. So, we’d win in basically everything. We were the best emotional, the most punctual, and we’re also the best athletes. So, our house was the model house.

Each day, remember, it was all peers. during the meetings, we would discuss things, the staff was there to guide and to monitor, but not to nitpick our daily routine, if that makes sense. Everything I’ve talked about thus far sounds really easy. And it’s like, “well, what was the catch” The rules! The rules were very stringent.

Now, you didn’t have much leeway. And again, as it’s a positive peer culture, it’s all run by each other (the students). At the end of the day, everyone voted whether you were a red star, a green star, or a yellow star. If you’re in a good environment, then everyone is going to give each other green stars. Like,” we are amazing, guys. Don’t worry, we’re amazing”. There’s a reward system.

every Saturday night, all the green stars got like the equivalent to $5, to be able to buy sodas and snacks. And then the yellow star, maybe $2, and the red star wasn’t allowed to watch the movies and got nothing. You added all your stars for the week, if your number was above a certain number, you were rewarded. But then if you didn’t, then you were punished.

The reward was, you got to sit in a room, watch a movie and eat snacks. The punishment was, while everyone else is having fun, you’re shit out of luck outside reflecting on your attitude. So, there was an incentive for everyone to get green stars. Unless there’s a person that was acting up, then there’s, I guess, bullying going to be. If people don’t like you, or if you’re being a pain in the ass, then everyone just votes you as a yellow or a red, and then we could exclude you from doing certain things.

The program also had incentives for us not to get our green stars, because if everyone’s always getting the green stars, then that raises the question, right? So, it was a weird situation, kind of like a popularity contest, but not at all because you’d also have step ceremonies, conducted by the counselor but also by the positive peer culture.

Everyone in your group voted for you, and it had to be unanimous. So, if you weren’t doing what you’re supposed to be doing, or if you pissed off Billy Bob over here, then there’s going to be an issue. But how did we deal with being in so small confinements the entire time and be graded on the day? Throughout the day, we were in structure, structure, structure, structure, structure.

We would have therapy, we would have school, we would exercise, we would go to the beach. Eating, you have to speak Spanish the entire time. If someone is caught not speaking Spanish, then that could cause you to not get a green star. If staff heard you, and even if everyone said, “Oh, you’re green star,” but staff is like, “I heard you not speaking Spanish.” Well, then, that could drop you to a yellow star for the day.

When you’re cleaning it’s all in Spanish, everybody has their assigned job to do, on behalf of cleaning the compound. there’s things that we had to do throughout the day. there was the counseling and the N.A( Narcotics Anonymous). If the N.A people came and you were disruptive in the group, then that would be a check against you. So, if you had too many checks against you, staff could override and it didn’t matter what the peers said. If staff was watching, then staff has their own ways of being able to do things.

Conflict resolution. There’s no way in a group of people conflict will not arise, what we would do is, let’s say, Joe and John over there get into an argument and we see it. we all have to circle up. And the conflict resolution is the first thing that you always have to do is find how are you at fault? Like, wait what? It had nothing to do with you.

It did, because if you had done something different, then maybe it would never have happened.

Each person became trained to think how they were responsible for every action that happened in the group, in the family, in the environment. If they were fighting over there, I could have been like, ” This morning, I saw John got a letter from his family, I noticed when he was done with the letter, he wasn’t in a very good mood. What I should have done is, I should have went up to him and asked him if he was all right, because that could have been a chain effect, that would have stopped the conflict.”

when you’re in it, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s like, “Why are they teaching us to do this? This is ridiculous.” But now, it’s like, “Okay, I understand why they had us do that.” forces us to become aware and responsible, because what, 20 years later, I’m thinking back on it and I’m like, “Oh, that was actually pretty useful,” most people, in today’s society, are trained to avoid responsibility, opposed to how I was trained to find responsibility in everything.

It didn’t matter. I could have been in the bathroom and something could have happened. Somehow, I had to figure out how I’m responsible for what happened, and we’re not leaving the group until there’s a sincere example from every last one of us how we could have been more aware and stopped the conflict before it started. That was conflict resolution.

w=What we also had while we were in Mexico, is “check yourself”. Each person was their own police officer. If your shirt was untucked, there was a list of rules. I don’t remember, this was 20 years ago, give me a break. I don’t know what I did with the pamphlet with all the rules, it was 20 years ago. But there were a lot of different rules.

Each one of the rules, if someone saw you break one, the first thing they will do is say, “check yourself”. And they’d point to what you needed to change. Oh, no, first is a nonverbal. So, you just kind of point it out. The second one was a verbal, “check yourself”. The third you’d go “here at Kino Bay, we accept all confrontations with a thanks for a thumbs up, and a thanks for reminder.”

If someone’s like, “check yourself,” and I changed whatever it needs to be, then I’d have to look back at him, give him eye contact and say, “Thanks for the reminder,” with a thumbs up. if I didn’t do it this way, then he could move up the line. So, the third one would be, here at Kino Bay, we accept all confrontations with thanks and a thumbs up and a thanks for reminder.

Now, if I do not go back and say, “I’m sorry, thanks for that reminder,” with a thumbs up, or if I’m sarcastic, that he can call peer support. It does not matter, It has absolutely no matter what it was about. A person could start a sequence on you for absolutely nothing, no matter. The peer would come over, doesn’t know what’s going on, it doesn’t matter. the peer comes over and says, “Here at Kino Bay, we accept all confrontations, with the thumbs up, and a thanks for the reminder.”

If the person does not, take out all sarcasm, (do not laugh) and be sincere and put their thumbs up and look at the person and say, “Thanks for the reminder.” Then, you can automatically call staff support. Staff support means you’re going to jail (solutions room). You obviously are not listening and you’re not being thankful for the reminder. So, they’re going to take you to jail.

Staff comes to get you, they put you in the solution’s room. They take your belts, they take your shoes, they take (if you have glasses) your glasses, anything in your pockets, and you have to sit in the solution’s room, to think about what you did. The staff is automatically going to put you in the solution’s room. No questions asked. Staff support was called, solution’s room. But then later, after you were put in the solution’s room, staff will come back and figure out what was going on.

Once staff figures out what’s going on, then staff is in control of the situation. They can pick how long you’re going to be in the solution’s room, which is a room, like an empty room with just walls around you. You could be in there for an hour, you can be there five minutes. I think the longest someone was in there was 27 days, there’s other ways you can end up in the solution’s room. Here’s a perfect example.

Now, this is my buddy. Now, he was a little difficult. So, he’s kind of like a baby brother. I was a resident leader and he was new. He was “out there”, wild. Very difficult to control and did not care about any kind of punishments. So, he was very difficult to control.

I spent a lot of time with this person, “man, you’re kind of ruining everything, you got to calm down, man. You got to calm down. You got to do things this way, man. We can’t do it like that. You know what I’m saying? I understand, that’s what you want to do but we can’t do that, alright.”

One time, it’s a Saturday, he got a red week. So, he won’t get any snacks and he was not going to be watching the movie. He was going to be stuck outside with staff. I leave, because I’m responsible to go get snacks with the staff, that’s why usually it was a step three. But at step one, I was trusted to go to the store, which was cool because every weekend I got out, and got to go to see the store, got to go see real people.

Depending on the staff, it was cool, we could stay out a little longer, there was Pollo Loco. We go get a little chicken or something. But we had to be fast, we’re not supposed to be gone very long. We’re just going to the store to grab snacks. So, when I came back, my buddy had picked up a metal rod and started chasing staff with it trying to hit them. It was damn near an emergency.

He waited until I was gone. I had to thank him for that. But then he started, it’s not as easy to try to tackle somebody, when he’s swinging a metal rod back and forth. Like, “Come on, come on,” trying to hit you.

Eventually, they got him to calm down, and they took the rod from him. He was in the solution’s room when I came back. That would be one way to get into the solution’s room. Another way to be in a solution’s room is, let’s say you had a difficult session in therapy with your family, and you need some time to calm down. Here’s another example.

My buddy, now, sometimes, people have anger issues, and I understand it. I never understood how you could get this angry. But he had a session with his family, and he was not in a safe place. So, he took all of his stuff off. Because in a solution’s room, you could also yell, scream, cuss, it doesn’t matter. You’re in jail. They give you the freedom to do whatever you want, as long as you’re in the solutions room, and you’re not being dangerous to yourself or others, because they take all your sharp stuff away from you, all your glasses, your belt, you can’t hurt yourself. You’re literally in your boxers, and that’s it.

He put himself in the solutions room, and he went crazy on the wall. For like, 20 minutes, I mean, he broke both of his hands because he was hitting the wall so hard, he was so angry. That would be another reason what the solution’s room was used for, to calm yourself down.

I’ve gotten so pissed off where I’d end up dropping my step. I forgot what my counselor said, he pissed me off I told him, “I don’t give a fuck about none of this shit.” I walked over to the steps board and erased my number and I put myself back down then put myself in the solution’s room and said, “What are you going to do? You can’t threaten me if I have no fear of losing it.”

They gave me my step back, mind you. You can’t dangle things in front of people’s faces. You can only do that if you know you have something over them. And I guess that’s what the Buddha is talking about. Without desire, there is no suffering. If someone’s trying to put something above you. If you no longer desire that, then you will no longer suffer, and that person no longer has power over you. I learned a bunch of weird stuff when I was there.

At my first house, for exercise, you got to be in shape. They would wake us up, load us in the van, drive us into the middle of the desert and then drive off and say, “Run to breakfast if you’re too late. Then, you’ll miss breakfast, there’s a time schedule. And then they’d drive off and meet us back at the house.

Now for me, it was not challenging. It was hot but I wasn’t fat and I could run. But to a few other people, that was literally murder. It was really difficult for them.

Daily schedule. After breakfast, we’d always have some type of therapy, whether it’s a counselor coming in and giving us some presentation on whatever they specialised in. Or it was N.A “Hello, my name is Erik and I’m an addict.” We had N.A three times a week.

As long as you were not a new opportunity. New opportunity, you’re not in the solution’s room, but you’re walking around with no belt, no glasses, no shoes, no, nothing. You’re basically walking around holding your pants up and walking around barefoot. You’re looking like a complete bum around the house because they won’t give you anything and you’re not allowed to do anything.

The beach was not considered exercise. The beach was the beach. Every morning, depending if you were in trouble, you go to the beach. We’d go swim for half an hour, or an hour, just be kids, the staff didn’t care, they enjoyed going to the beach as well.

One of the Mexicans, he was as cool as could be. We all loved him because we’d all stay at the beach a little longer with him because he’d get in the water with us. He’s swimming with us and before you know it, the other staff is coming out and telling us we got to go. He wasn’t very much older than us either, so, while I was 17, I think he might have been like 25. 

So, in the morning, we go swimming. Then after, we’d have more therapy or whatever it was. And then we have PT, which we literally turn the TV on and watch Russell Simmons. We had to do everything exactly as we saw Russell Simmons do it. To this day, if you put Russell Simmons on, I bet you I could … It doesn’t matter which one, right? You know, the little guy with the afro and little ABA shorts? I probably know each of them. I know the songs. No problem. I can turn them on right now. Matter of fact, that’s what I’m going to do today, just to remember, remind myself.The whole time, the staff was behind us, they couldn’t get enough of it. It was kind of their entertainment, watching and laughing at us.

Then, in the afternoon, after we’re done doing all the therapy and everything, we go back to the beach, go swim for a little bit, come home, do whatever, and then go to bed.

in the first house. Everything just sounds like, “Man, Erik, that’s great. That’s summer camp.” I’m not going to say it was the worst place in the world. I had been to much worse places. Just some of the things here. Some of the things that happened when I was there were much worse than anywhere else. One of my friends, he ended up getting a hole in his stomach. every meal, he would throw up. they thought he was bulimic he was being punished because he was throwing up. It took them five months before they finally took him to a specialist and it turns out he had a hole in his stomach. Another friend of mine got so sick they had to take him to the hospital and hook him up to IV because of bacteria.

I got so sick that one night I was praying to God just to kill me because my stomach was hurting so bad and they refused to do anything for me. The next day, I woke up with a black tongue. I’ve never seen that before. All of it was black. And I’m trying to explain to the staff. The staff sees it, they don’t care. And they basically forced me to work in a 120-degree weather painting. And I’m trying to explain to them, “I’m sick, man, I’m sick. I don’t feel good.” It doesn’t matter.

It was fun, but also not at all, I was running the house really well. I was running the house so well that the staff. This is what my counselor and staff did. They realized that when they put me in the leadership role, and now I’m supposed to be there for therapy and they put me in something that I’m good at.

This is what they said,  “You’ve taken care of the group and now we want the group to take care of you.” they took all my power, They took all my motivation, everything. And then this is what they told me, I could do nothing. I’m like, “Wait, what?”

Yes. The group had to take care of me. If I wanted to go to bed, I literally was supposed to be a baby. I could do whatever I wanted. If I wanted to do nothing for today, I didn’t have to. If I wanted to go to bed or go take a nap, I could. If I wanted to have one of my friends read me a story, I could. I could do anything I wanted and that was the death of me.

Because I was doing great, the house is doing great. Everything was fine and then you took it from me and then you instilled laziness in me. So now, I can’t do anything. Someone else is the resident leader. If I see something wrong, I’m not allowed to say anything.

My world went down fast,  that’s when I was talking about, I dropped my step, when they took everything from me, it destroyed my world.

When you’re in that leadership position, it’s a very lonely position, because you’re making decisions for other people. Not all the time are those decisions something that someone wants from you. But in the end, they’ll probably thank you, but they don’t see it’s the best thing for them.

When you’re making those decisions, it can be very lonely because you don’t always make friends, you always have to make a tough decision. Or if a staff member is yelling at me, then shit rolls downhill. I have to relay the message to everyone and that’s not always the easiest thing to do. Or to tell someone that you’re not good at something? And like, “No, you’re going to do this. No, you’re going to do this.” 

When they took my power away from me, they took everything, they took everything from me. My motivation just kind of stopped and I became disruptive, I guess. I don’t remember too much, but dropping my step. You get 15 minutes a week for your family to call.

Around the same time, when they’re taking away my leadership, the family issues and everything were not going as well. I have a huge family, I have aunts, uncles, sisters. Everyone supposedly wanted to talk to me. My time would be at none, I’d be excited. you only have 15 minutes, And you knew if they didn’t call, then you had to wait until next week.

what started happening is, I’d be in class, and I’d be waiting on Sunday, and I’d be in a good mood, and then they’d forget. No one would call. And then, a week later, they’d call and they, “I’m so sorry. Blah, blah, blah.” Give me some excuse and then it just got to the point to where I’m pretty sure I was just an inconvenience for all 20 members of my family because 15 minutes on the weekend was too much to ask because they just stopped calling. They just didn’t call anymore.

One of the staff, she told me, she was our NA counselor. she saw it had been affecting me a lot, she told me the truth. She was like, “Erik, you don’t need to be here. The only reason that you’re here is because no one in your family wants you.” she wasn’t being mean, she was being honest. She’s like, “There’s nothing wrong with you. Just the only thing that’s wrong with you is that nobody in your family wants you.”

that was really hard to hear as a 17-year-old, but it was true. There was a staff member that was from my hometown (Asheville, NC), she had a phone book. I knew my biological family’s name. But, she refused. Well, she tried to barter with me. She tried to make a deal with me that she would give me my biological family’s information if I did something for her. So long story short, fuck you. You’re not going to leverage something against me. I’m not weak. I’m sorry. Not going to happen. So, I never got my biological family’s information and she obviously didn’t get what she wanted from me. Because no, you’re not going to negotiate with me on something like that. I just kind of looked at her like she was fucked up. You know, you have my biological family’s information at your disposal, but you refuse to give it to me.Whatever. Maybe it wasn’t her decision. Maybe it was my family’s decision and said that “No, he’s still a kid. So, no way we can’t give it to him.” I don’t know. I’m just a kid, right?

all that added up, they decided to move me houses. this time, I was on the beach. It was beautiful. I was very spoiled. We had a private beach every morning, we’d watch the sunrise over the water, there is this island and you could see the sunrise. It’d be pink every morning.

I got spoiled. So, was I in the greatest program? No, but I was in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

At the new house, it was a different world, different kids, different structure. Instead of there being two houses it was all one house

It was a really different environment, some of the downstairs students were in my new house so they had known me as being the leader of the upstairs, they were already comfortable with me, if that makes sense. So, they weren’t part of my group, but we were in the same house so they were comfortable with me. 

If you remember, I started a year behind because I repeated sixth grade moving in California. Then, when they sent me to CEDU, I was basically a sophomore in high school with a year and a half worth of credit. I ended up graduating high school in two and a half years.

when I was in Mexico, the way they had us study was completely different than I had ever done school before. It taught me a different way of learning. When teachers were teaching me “ blah, blah, blah”, up there, talking and talking; slow and boring, I couldn’t learn. It was super boring for me, my attention span would dissipate.

In Mexico, four days a week, it was mandatory for four hours of complete silence “here’s a book, here’s your packet, get to work”. It put me in a situation where there was nothing else to do. I wasn’t allowed to talk. I wasn’t allowed to be distracted. I could twiddle my thumbs, but that’s just as boring as actually doing work. That’s actually more boring than doing the work. When you’re working, at least you’re doing something.

I was just going through these classes extremely fast, extremely fast. If you think about it, I ended up graduating six months before I was supposed to if I had never repeated sixth grade.

I ended up with a 3.3 or 3.4, something like that. I got accepted into the University of Seton Hall from only doing two and a half years of high school. When I was in Mexico, they told me about this test, I had to take a test. I had no idea what it was. They might have told me it’s SAT, but I’m like, “What is that? I didn’t know what the SAT was.” Like, “Why do you even want me to take this thing?” They’re like, “Erik, you have to.” I’m like, “For what?” I was oblivious to any of it. Technically I was only a sophomore in high school but since I was completing classes as fast as I was I was about to graduate so I had to take the SATs.

one morning they forced us to take this test or they forced me to take this test and they never really told me what it was about. But I guess for being black, I did pretty well. I mean, which is super racist that I say that and it’s way fucking terrible standards that just because I’m black and the score that I got, I’m higher up black person, which is, just as racist as it can be, basically, “you’re black and you’re supposed to be stupid, but you scored high on the black scale.” I ended up getting accepted into University of Seton Hall. That goes on to the next chapter. But back to Mexico.

When they transferred me to oceanography, it was beautiful. It was literally oceanography. Life was a little different. Within weeks, they put me as resident leader. But this milieu manager (head Mexican) was a complete 180 to the other milieu manager, the other Mexican at my first house.

The first house, he was laid back and he let me be in control of the house. This new manager, he was a micromanager. He would never let me do anything. It was my responsibility to do this. But then, everything that I wanted to do, he was a micromanager. I wasn’t allowed to do anything. Which to him, he was used to the old resident leader, he and the old resident leader had established a relationship and it worked well for them.

Well, you put in a new person, and it did not work very well, it got to the point where we were on a camping trip. I had had enough. I could not stand being resident leader at this house. He was difficult to deal with and was happening and I basically said, “I don’t care. I give it up. I’m not the resident leader anymore.” I gave it up. I didn’t want it anymore. It was the most miserable job under him.

At the other house, it was a lovely job. Under this new milieu manager, it was the worst job, and I did not want it. So, I gave it up. Me and the milieu manager, we didn’t like each other at all. I ended up getting my wisdom teeth pulled when I was in Mexico. First off, when they tell you do not talk and don’t open your mouth, there’s a reason why they tell you that. 

They’re telling you that to keep the pressure on your teeth, The message was not relayed to me on why to keep the cotton swab in my mouth and don’t open my mouth. They did not tell me that there’s going to be excruciating pain. So, they gave me some ibuprofen. It was an hour drive back to the house, but we decided to go to the mall, I was numb as could be so it didn’t hurt. It was fine. Well, when we got back in the car, the numbing juice wore off. And I don’t think I have been in that much pain. It was excruciating. And it’s an hour back to the house. The doctor is like, “If he’s in excruciating pain, give him this other pill.”

Well, the drivers were not able to give me medicine. They were just the drivers, So, when we got back to the house, I’m back with the milieu manager, remember we didn’t get along very well. He sees I’m basically crying, in so much pain. It is hurting and  the drivers are like, “Give him this. He needs this.” the milieu manager is like, “No, let him suffer.”

I wanted to kill him. there’s nothing I could do. I go to bed basically crying myself to sleep. That’s how much it hurt at 5:00 in the morning, when everyone else had to wake up, there he was waking me up. Now, all the other kids were like, “Man, this is bullshit, dude. Everyone else got to be on bed rest. Why is he fucking forcing you to wake up when he sees you’re in pain?” It didn’t matter. I got up, I had to do it. I had to tell the other kids that, you know, whatever. Let’s do it. 

Remember the staff that know me from Cascade? She wanted me to implement forums at Positive Impact. There was one other person in this house now, the other kid from Cascade. We were living in the same house now. She looked at me to start it and she told me, all the students are having problems with the main Mexican staff, the same person I was having problems with.

She was like, “Start it and get it going. give the other students the okay so they can start.” They used me as the guinea pig. I said, “Okay, no problem.” I knew what a forum was, I practiced with the best forum manipulators at Cascade. I knew how to fuck with people’s emotions I was trained well.

So, during that little forum, I did exactly what I was told to do. We ended up making him cry, he felt like a complete failure because, once I railed into him, then every other student followed suit, I gave them the okay. By this point, I’m 17, almost 18 years old, I’m not really small anymore. I’m basically the same size, if not bigger than I am now.

I also had a younger, deeper, more aggressive voice, more energy behind it, I wasn’t as calm as I am now. I did what I was told to do. And by me doing that, everyone was able to just do it. He wasn’t used to it or prepared. So, he started crying (Remember the story about Cascade I warned how dangerous a forum could be) after he really was on a vendetta to destroy me. In the end he destroyed me.

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As my 18th birthday was approaching fast I wanted to give back to my friends and brothers in the program, I wanted to write a workshop one of those 24 hour workshops. One that I actually enjoyed the brothers, it was a bonding experience when I was at Cascade. With the other kid from Cascade who is going to help me on this Grand Venture, we came to the conclusion with the staff from Cascade as well, that we could implement a couple of different things from different workshops into our main workshop.

Well, there was a staff member I liked., I’m 17, I think she was like 21. So it wasn’t unnormal. She wasn’t very much older than I was. Well, I wrote her a letter. That one particular letter I didn’t send, there’s only one person, who knew about the letter, and it was my best friend. He was my bunkmate.

Well, he went on a trip with his family. And when he came back, they basically manipulated him to just tell on himself. So, he told on himself, for things like snorting pills or something. They basically said, “Redeem yourself, snitch on somebody else.” I don’t blame him because he was a kid, he didn’t know what he was doing. He told them about the letter. (Do not forget the lesson we learned from Cascade “I choose to hurt you”) .

So, did I send the letter? No, I just wrote the letter. I had the letter, I was going to give the letter to her, but I didn’t. The letter disappeared. I didn’t know where it went. I ended up writing another one that I didn’t tell him about, and I gave it to her anyways. So, did they stop anything? No. But did I get caught for writing a letter? Yes. Because he snitched me out.

The morning we’re about to go for this workshop that I was literally trying to give to all my brothers in the program. the main American who knew me from Cascade, she came busting in the door. And is like, “It’s all off. It’s all off. Erik, in the office now.”

I’m going to the office, milieu manager, and all the staff is there. They’re yelling and screaming at me showing me. They’re telling me about the letter and all this other kind of shit. Basically making it seem like I’m a terrible person and telling me, “Pack your shit, you’re out. You’re kicked out.”

Later that day, I had to pack all my stuff and was not allowed to say goodbye, talk to anybody. And they shipped me back to northern Idaho. Like that day, like I was gone. Before I left, let me explain because I was turning 18 in February, and I got kicked out February 17th. So, I got kicked out two weeks before my birthday. So, I was going to be leaving in a couple of weeks anyways. When I was 18, they could have waited two weeks, but it doesn’t matter. One of the main psychiatrists, right, not a counselor but an actual shrink doctor, he had said some things to me before I left. He took me to the side and he was like, “Erik, I want to explain something to you.” And he started talking about my files. And he was like, “Erik, let me show you this.”

So, he’s going over everything and he’s like, “You have these types of tendencies,” I mean, he’s explaining everything to me, literally turning me into a monster. Because of the testing I took, he was like, “Your family, after testing you took, you are,” this is the example he used. He said that you could do something really bad and have no remorse for it.

He used this example, “you could set their house on fire, burn them alive, and then not second guess it and have no remorse for it.” He was basically telling me my family was scared shitless of me, maybe they are, maybe they are not. I’m not sure, that’s what I got out of it. With that information he gave me, I’ve had to be very careful. I try one, not to be in a situation where I get really, really, really mad. And then, two, the older I get, I do understand it, because I’ve gone through a lot and certain things just don’t affect me, at all, I don’t care.

I don’t have any emotion or feelings behind certain things. And I think that’s what he was getting at. And that’s what he was trying to get across to me is that I don’t have the emotional makeup that would make a normal person normal. Call it, PTSD or whatever, from both my parents, watching them die. But he was basically saying that, be careful, because you have this in you that you have the capability of doing something extremely horrible and not feel any remorse behind it.

Kicked out and sent right back up to northern Idaho I was still 17. Little did I know what was about to happen. My entire life up to this point, I had never really dealt with money. I had been in boarding schools since I was 12, since my parents died.

My family gave me the opportunity. They’re like, “Erik, you can come live in the city that we live in but you’re not allowed home.” Maybe I should have chosen one of those solutions, but I didn’t. I don’t remember, I was 17 I’m 37 now, but I’m guessing that I might have told my family I knew what I was doing. And they said, “Okay, you’re on your own.”

I haven’t had much contact with any of them. In the next section, leaving Mexico and becoming an adult, 18 to 22 because at age 22, I met my biological family. At age 22, was 11 years after my mom died.

In the next section of this story, we will be discussing what happened when I got out of Mexico, I didn’t have any family or anyone.

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