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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: Lady Pleiades ()
Date: April 24, 2009 12:54AM

I, too, wish I knew who is still there and how they manage. I try not to judge. :) And there are people who left that I wish I could make amends to as well. people who I wished I had stood up for sooner...

But I am so glad that the handful of us here left and we all prove that there is continued recovery and sobriety and life after Choices. I was also very rigid about lots of things in regards to recovery too. It's hard to know what of the information was good and valid and what was not. I thought my current husband might have a video game addiction but we saw a marriage counselor who helped clear that up! life goes on and it is definitely good!

I have to admit, I took an ethics class last term as I'm getting a degree in school counseling and much of what they do there is plainly outlined as unethical... at least in the textbooks. it's hard to talk about, even so many years later.

But it's so nice to chat with you all!

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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: kashanclaws ()
Date: May 28, 2009 01:49AM

I love this forum.

I was a NAUGHTY GIRL who used the internet at choices (not to contact people, but just to read and learn and stuff... most of the time i was reading my favorite Zoology blog *is a geek*)

and i remembered stumbling upon this forum. And i legitimately think it saved me.

It put into words and actualized all the crazy things i was feeling... and suddenly i didnt feel so crazy anymore. Because other people had felt these things too. But when you are surrounded by those freaking PEOPLE who tell you to feel that anything other than following their way is RELAPSE+DEATH... you know what i mean. The brainwashing...

Anyway. Within the course of the next few months after reading this forum, and kind of "waking up" to a realization of how completely unethical my treatment was and how mentally tortured i had been, i left. After spending 14 months in that place.

But... seriously, you can't make this stuff up. That place was extremely damaging. I am going to be 21 in a few months, with three years clean and sober, and, now, happily persuing my passions in zoology. But its been tough. I try to explain to people what it was like there, and they really don't get it. Its painful. And i still get flashbacks to that retched circle where they would sit there and demoralize me. And half the time, the things they were saying weren't even true. But they would force them onto me, to the point i would actually start to believe them... you guys know what i'm talking about.

Anyway, there was one incident in particular that really scarred me. My parents don't understand, and i can't talk to them about it without them dismissing what i'm saying. And it messes with my head. When i was down there, a 13 year old girl came into the center for treatment, and i guess figured out that i was the "weird one, science geek, who the girls didn't really gel with". Anyway, she proceeded to tell the counselors that i was "talking to her about drugs and sexually harassing her" both of which were COMPLETELY false. She also made up a bunch of stories about how she was held at gunpoint.... You know the type, compulsive liar to the core. And, being that she was 'younger and all innocent' (my ass) they believed her. And being that i was a ready-made scapegoat, they basically put me up in front of everyone, and called me a child abuser, a child molester, a pervert, and told me i was really sick.

When none of that actually happened. And then i got kicked out of my house and was forced to sleep on a couch for 5 months, and whenever i went on "plans" with people, i had to tell them that i was a "child abuser" and "a sexual predator" and tell them i did things i didn't do. Becuase when i would tell the TRUTH and say i DIDNT DO IT, i was told that i was 'acting out' or 'in sex addiction' and 'sick' and then subjected to further demoralization. I felt absolutely crazy.

Eventually, the girl broke down and admitted she had lied about the whole thing. And everyone just acted like what she did was okay, and that it was her addiction that made her lie, and it didnt matter what the consequences were to me. I never got an apology from her, or from anyone, for being forced to tell people I WAS A FREAKING CHILD MOLESTER WHEN I CLEARLY WAS NOT.

I dare anyone, please, to tell a 19 year old girl, who has been not only gratutiously abused by fellow girls throughout her teen years (for being ugly, weird... you know how girls are), molested by her babysitter, AND who has been sexually abused on multiple occasions, I freaking dare anyone to tell them that it is THEY who are infact a sexual predator, or a child molester. I honestly hold those months as being the most traumatic of any of my life experiences, above those i mentioned.

I have nightmares about being back there, all the time. I cry about it when i think about it. All the time. And it's been nearly two years since i got home. And nobody understands. there were other things. But that one has been eating at me the most for the past two years, and nobody gets it.

Thank you for letting me share that with you guys. If no one else understands, i know you guys will.

Thank you so much,

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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: Lady Pleiades ()
Date: June 17, 2009 11:49PM

Hi Lauren

I am so glad you left. I went through a lot of the same situations that you did: being labeled in crisis, made to move, have "plans" with people, the horrendous groups, given psychiatric diagnoses, etc, etc. They know who to pick on that's for sure. And then no apology when she admitted she lied? I hope it makes you feel better that I was part of a legal complaint where Maureen was found guilty on all charges. The penalties were pretty mild, but she was penalized for her ethical transgressions. At the time, I could not have afforded a civil law suit but now I wish I had tried harder to pursue it because I can't believe she's still operating as is. ... A few lawyers said that it was entirely possible and other similar law suits had been won. Like many of us, I just wanted to put it all behind me. But I believe that what Maureen does is pretty near criminal.

I find that people who haven't been there can't really understand the level of mind control that goes on. Or the damage. People in AA, though, are usually pretty understanding so I got a lot of support there. And still do! :)

I understand completely if you still are haunted by your experiences. They do diminish over time but focus on the fact that you LEFT! You made the decision and did what you needed to protect yourself. That is a huge triumph!! Remind yourself of this every day! Feel free to PM me if you need to.

Although the internet was fairly new when I left Choices, it was helpful to me as well. I think it's pretty funny that they now restrict it. Can you say totalitarian? :) I also did a lot of research on cults and talked to many many professionals before and after. (yes, they all agree what Maureen does is pretty nutty.) If anything, I started this thread so that maybe some day, somewhere one person would be helped.

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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: numbersgirl ()
Date: June 19, 2009 09:46AM

Hi Lauren,

I am glad LP started this thread and like she long as it could help at least one person...and it sounds like it reached you. I am glad you found the courage to leave and rebuild your life away from there. Everything - including your rage is pretty normal for those that left - so take it easy on yourself and know time heals everything. It did for me. It took awhile but I was able to let go of most of it. But it's definitely a process.

What helped me was realizing and acknowledging that it was the place and not me that was inappropriate and way off center. No need to mull it over it in my head - their therapeutic practices are insane and unethical, PERIOD. I witnessed everything from people getting their cars taken away because they didnt bring the color choice to group to discuss to ripping families apart and keeping them separate because they felt they were ALL in addiction and everything in between. THAT IS NOT NORMAL - and while LP may term it borderline criminal i think it IS criminal. The good for me that came was never allowing myself to ever get in that position again with a recovery program, therapist, sponsor, ANYONE. My boundaries are pretty firm today due to that experience.

However, on the positive side, some of stayed sober and are living productive lives with that horrid experience behind us and YOU can too. Just give it time. Write anytime....hang in there....all will be okay!

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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: recovering01 ()
Date: June 22, 2009 04:35PM

I'm another one who left Choices.. I'm glad I found this forum. I do think Choices is a pretty dysfunctional place.

There were some good people there in the "community" but there are also some people there who were "appointed trustees" (ones who had been at Choices for several years) who were downright cruel. More about that later - they were people such as appointed sponsors, and those in appointed peer groups by counselors.
I went through many months of the most dreary time of my life while there. I have learned that Choices' confrontational style of "therapy" (if that is what it can be called - therapy?) doesn't work for a lot of addicts. They don't get better. Like many of you, I do feel I was emotionally abused while I was there.

I'm glad to see that someone was brave enough to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Health about Choices Counseling Center and Maureen Traynor. I do hope more people find this forum when they do a search about Choices online and they get some facts about it and see the link to the complaint.. However it isn't just Maureen that is culpable there even though it is her company. Many of the counselors there are just as amiss. Choices is run as a business and it shouldn't be forgotten that it has to follow legal practices and laws. They aren't doing a very good job of that.

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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: June 24, 2009 11:02PM

Lauren, it very much appears as though the group needed a scapegoat, and tag, you were it.

A dysfunctional family or group that refuses to acknowledge its actual troubles will often project its fears and hang ups onto a designated scapegoat.

Once you are tagged as the scapegoat, you fulfill a vital function for the fucked up group, and they NEED you to be the scapegoat. That means that nothing you do inside the group or family can convince them that you are OK.

Years ago, when I took a class on hospital chaplaincy, we were told how family dynamics often play out when someone is at the hospital. We were told that often in families one person gets singled out as the favored child and someone else gets designated the blacksheep.

As they put it, 'If you are the family favorite, you can do 9 bad things and one good thing and only the one good thing you have done is remembered. The 9 bad things you have done are ignored.

'If you are the family blacksheep, you can do 9 good things and one bad thing and that single bad deed is what everyone remembers, while the 9 good deeds you have done are ignored or devalued.'

I'd bet someone else at Choices was the designated favorite, as all too often a group that selects a scapegoat (who does everything wrong) will also select a favorite who can do no wrong.

If you guys want something interesting to read, get a copy of The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment by Donaldson-Pressman and Pressman.

The authors offer a model by which an entire group or family can have a narcissistic/self serving agenda. While seeming to nurture the children, the actual well being of the children is sacrificed to serve the false self/public image of the group or family.

Ironically, in my chaplaincy group, I was the one who experienced scapegoating. I was in my thirties at the time and it shook me up pretty badly.

Given that you were only 19 it bears tribute to how strong you were that you stayed sane and did not internalize the badness that you describe as being projecting on to you.

Until a group can face its truth, it has to project its unconscious anxieties onto a target.

Because the presence of a despised scapegoat takes the pressure off the group, if a scapegoat leaves, you can bet someone else will be selected to be the scapegoat.

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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: drbkas ()
Date: June 25, 2009 02:51AM

My daughter was at Choices for 14 months. When she went there, her life was a mess. She had been suspended from school, had 3 car accidents, and had lost control She was 2 days from going to college, when she got so wasted she blacked out. We sent her to Choices on the recommendation of her therapist. SHe had been to Caron for a month earlier that year.

14 months later she left Choices. She left with their input and knowledge. SHe did not just leave without notice or a plan. She was dropped of at the airport by a new secretary, with a few cents in her pocket and 14 months accumulation of possessions. No one stayed with her or said goodbye. Just dropped her at the curb.

No one called when she got home to see if she arrived safely. None of her therapists called. Phone calls from her "friends" and people who were supposed to care were non existent. Some people kept in touch for a very short time, then never returned calls or answered their phone.

When Choices had a weekend program in Baltimore, where they do this occasionally, my daughter attended to support those in need and show people that there is hope on this bumpy road. SHe tried to stay in touch and serve as some type of symbol that we can go on with our lives in the real world outside of Choices. She was met by being shunned. No calls. No letters. No communications.

What happened to all of the therapy sessions, programs, talks, about helping others, giving back, relationships, and supporting those in need? Does that only apply to when you are there? When you leave, that's it. You are excommunicated.

The real loss here is that people do leave Choices and succeed. They do maintain their sobriety. They do go on to go to school, get jobs, get married, have families, and become successful. Only Choices doesnt know about these people because they never keep in touch or use them as examples of recovery. What a shame! THese success stories are exactly what should be told to those in need. They are symbols of hope. They are what recovery is about. Learning to live in the real world, not a vacuum, and dealing with life's ups and downs positively, instead of using, is the true test of recovery. Being there for those in need is the foundation of recovery. Not only those in your bubble, but to anyone who needs it. God bless all of you who have left Choices and have gone on to happy and successful lives......

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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: kashanclaws ()
Date: June 25, 2009 03:34AM

Hey guys,

Sorry it has taken me so long to write back! I have read everything you all have said though and i really, really deeply appreciate it and have a special place in my heart for all of you. Thank you for everything, and most of all, for understanding ^_^ It means the world to be heard and to really be understood.

Interesting little thing... My mother ran into my old sponsor from Choices yesterday, and my mom (*sigh* oh mommy, trying to fight my own 'battles' haha) pretty much flipped out on her for them ostrasizing me there. I have tried to contact friends and old roommates of mine who were still down there, and the ONLY time they have ever answered any of my calls was by accident (i called from a different phone than the one they know is mine. I am a sneaky senorita). Well long story short, my mom pretty much tore her a new one (not sure that was totally wise, mom, but ya gotta love her for how much she cares about me) for them never returning my calls, because, in spite of my displeasure for the place, there are people down there that i really loved and had good friendships with, and that i miss. And it really hurts that i am a pariah to them, simply because i left. I mean, really, i'm still sober, i'm following my passions, i'm happy, and pretty damn stable! Can someone honestly say i'd be a 'bad influence?!'

But my mom said it best, to me, the other day. They don't want an example of someone surviving and being sober and happy OUTSIDE of choices when they left against the establishment's will. It weakens the hold they have on people. And what she said made sense.

It's just really heartbreaking to know i might never have a conversation with my old housemmate from choices ever again. She was like a big sister to me, and i loved her a whole lot. Now she wont speak to me. I had other friends there too, but it's Her i miss the most.

I'm not going to deny that the place helped me. It did. I needed to be out of my environment and to get some time under my belt. My relationship with my family is incredible now, and i owe it to them that they got my parents into therapy too to work on themselves and our family as a whole. Its been awesome. But their methods both disturb and anger me.

Am i grateful? ABsolutely. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I feel like having been through that experience has given me a depth and solidness of character that is uncommon in many people my age, and i don't say that out of vanity or thinking i'm better than other people, because i surely don't. But i'm definately a stronger person because of the experience. And for that i am grateful.

Anyway, thanks again for everyone's support and experiences. Just wanted to let you guys know i didn't fall off the face of the earth! It's been hectic here, I'm taking a summer class and working two jobs... but loving it! Plus i have 6 lizards and 30 fish of my own to take care of... its a labor of love ^_^

Hope everyone is doing well!
<3 lauren

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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: BW213 ()
Date: June 25, 2009 04:12AM

I'm glad we're all here and found each other. And the family favorite/black sheep situation is so true. I dated a "family favorite" for 6 1/2 years at Choices and was told repeatedly how luck I was to be with him and asked if I felt like I really deserved him with a strong emphasis on the fact that maybe I shouldn't. He was human like the rest of us but was seen as an intellectual, leader, teacher, etc. I loved him but our relationship became unbearable. I hope the best for him and part of that is to fall on his face, because otherwise he could live the rest of his life thinking he's the Golden Child.

I was very much the black sheep, and did everything wrong in the CCC eyes when I left. I have stayed sober (16 years) but started eating sugar and flour, dated 3 months after breaking up, moved in together, stopped going to the spin-off meetings, etc. I have found out all on my own that I do need more discipline around food and exercise and that maybe I moved too fast in dating. I'm happy with him but am still recovering from thinking that everything I do is wrong and that everything said to me is an accusation. I don't know that I've liked myself in 13 years and it's hard to recover from. I'm getting there and I'm grateful for that.

I met with my priest last month to help me with the resentments and nightmares I've had around Choices. He gave me some great advice that I still need to follow (and this blog is my committment to do it today). He said to write down everything positive that came from my time there, then write down everything I've learned since leaving, then let the rest go. It's hard, but I think it will help with the regrets, nightmares, doubts, anger, disappointment, etc. I still relive terrible group memories in my dreams and wish I could stand up for myself seven, ten, and twelve years later. I can't, but I can acknowledge that my life is better now than it was.

Thanks for reading and being here.

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Re: Recovering from Choices Counseling Center
Posted by: Jerry Curl ()
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.

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