Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Date: July 08, 2009 10:22AM
Wow, what a great forum. I too am a former Choices Zombie, and yes, it is a cult. For 7 years I let that place completely rule my life. I can relate to just about every single persons story in this forum, and know a few of you who have revealed your name; I am so glad you made it out.
I came to Choices to get help with Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Sex Addition, and I am all of those (recovering thank God :) ). At first it was a great place. For the first time in over 15 years, I was able to put together one day after another without drinking, using, or acting out. But somewhere along the way, it stopped being healthy support, and slowly became the ruler of my life. The scary thing is that as an addict, you never see it coming. Before I knew it, they decided who I associated with, where I worked, who I lived with, and what car I was allowed to buy. I was forced to give up all of the things I enjoy doing (healthy hobbies not related to any of my addictions), and they chose new hobbies for me. I was forced to sell all of my non-essential possessions and give them the money. I was forced to quit my current job, and they would not allow me to pursue the career I was in the process of pursuing. They convinced me I needed to divorce my wife, and chose a new mate for me. And any unmonitored communications with my family would result is severe punishment. Towards the end, they were monitoring my bank accounts (they called it financial counseling where a counselor (unlicensed and unregistered at the time) would go through my check book and bank account statements and tell me what I could and could not spend money on. If any of their rules were broken, they would punish you in the worst ways, such as requiring me to beg for a place to live, the constant belittling by the counselors, being told that I would never recover, and their control of what I was required to say in AA meetings, which they monitored and constantly broke the anonymity of. And during group, the patients who were not currently being punished would get favors and special attention by being cruel towards those being punished. And the real sick part is that the counselors create an environment that makes you strive for that special attention. I had gone from being an active alcoholic and addict to an empty, soulless, suicidal zombie.
One morning they called me at work and demanded that I come to the office. On the way to their office is Calvery Church in Winter Park. At the time, I didn't have a car, so I was riding my bike. I stopped at the church, and sat there for about an hour watching the ducks in the ponds. They were so free and I was so envious. I looked up at the cross on the top of the building and prayed harder than I think I had ever prayed before, because for the first time in my life, I was suicidal. I then went to the office and was punished some more because one of the "appointed trustees" made some accusations that were not true. They refused to tell me who was saying this. I was at the end of my rope.
I went back to work, and then all of a sudden I knew my parents phone number. I do not know how I knew it, I had only dialed it once before a year earlier. I called the number, and the same parents I had abandoned and disowned (because of choices) came and picked me up from work. They helped me get my belongings, helped me get back on my feet, and payed for lots of counseling to help get me rewired from the damage that Choices Counseling Center had done. I was back on my feet.
For over two years after leaving, I could not drive through Winter Park for fear of running into current patients (more than a few patients were attacked by other patients after leaving). The first time after leaving Choices that I saw Choices patients was at Moe's Restaurant in Winter Park. I completely froze and got dizzy. My wife (just a friend at the time who knows all about my past including Choices) saw my reaction and without knowing them, knew what was happening. She got me out of the building where I immediately got sick.
I am so grateful today to be clean and sober, and free from that dangerous place. I am happier than I have ever been in my life. Through all of the bad, I did make some good friends there, and still think of them often. I can only hope they get out and get their life back. And Bronwen, great advise from your priest. I was seeing a psychiatrist after leaving, and he had me do the same thing. Aside from taking my life back, I am a much stronger person today. Plus, I stay clean and sober every day because I want it, not to avoid being punished in group. What a freeing realization. I do know you, I too was one fo the CCC screwups. Today I am very proud of who I am. I was there from 1992 - 1998/99. Dont remember exactly when I left, that whole period is still a blur.