Letters

Week of June 15, 2005

Down on Cherokee
Ha!Thank you so much for investigating the Mexican bus drama [Ben Westhoff, "Not on Our Street," June 8]. I hope Riverfront Times will continue to probe stories that involve local government. Apparently St. Louis' other media sources, especially TV stations, are too busy selling ads with murder stories and not spending enough time holding local governments in check.

I live right up California Street from Cherokee. Hispanics have been the best thing to happen to that dead, crack whore-laden place. Who cares if there's a bus there? Because believe me, it's not hurting anyone. If the business district really wanted to spruce up the Cherokee district, they would start recruiting gays to live down there and fix it up -- just like we have always done with all the other crappy places left behind by the straight folks and non-Hispanics. Ha.
Rodney Cook
St. Louis

The Farrar Faithful
Don't jack with Jay:In making fun of the titles of Jay Farrar's albums, it's ironic that your so-called music "writer" allowed a typo to slip by in his own surname [Ben Westhoff, "What's in a Name?", June 1]. Now, I know it's truly impossible for the RFT to correct and apologize for all of his character flaws. But maybe you can fix the typo in next week's Erratum and spell Ben's last name the way it should be spelled: J-A-C-K-O-F-F. Myself, and the legions of Farrar faithful who mistakenly read his Binkerish excrement, expect nothing less.
Dave Collett
St. Louis

Good one!Now I get it. For some time the RFT has been trolling for a new music editor. It occurs to me that Ben Westhoff's pointless and suffocatingly fatuous Son Volt hatchet piece is management's "nuclear option" to illustrate the depths of their desperation and the grotesque lengths to which they are willing to go just to call attention to this quest. Good one!
Steve Carosello
St. Louis

Cross Purposes
Leaving was the best decision I've ever made:I wanted to congratulate everyone involved in Malcolm Gay's "Kids & Drugs & Rock & Roll" [May 11]. I was in the Crossroads Program for almost two years. Leaving was the best decision I've ever made. I was able to get my life together on my terms. I didn't nor do I have a substance-abuse problem; I was just a fucked-up kid who was mad at everything and couldn't express it. The article is accurate and Frank Szachta is a liar.

Thanks for the good read.
Steve Fischer
Florissant

Take it from a mom:Thanks to Malcolm Gay for taking the time to write a balanced, interesting report on the Crossroads Program, where two of my children became sober four years ago.

A few things I learned during our time there: One takes precautions during the early period of sobriety (which lasts a few years, I believe) that probably won't be necessary for a lifetime but are critical early on, when sobriety is fragile and tenuous. For example, don't put yourself in situations that are going to prove tempting to you. Don't hang out with people you used to get high with. Don't date until you have enough time and maturation under your belt to be comfortable in your own skin and able to handle both success and failure in a relationship. Crossroads is an early sobriety program, and its guidelines are appropriate for early sobriety.

Clients are treated differently from one another, depending on their needs. Our son and his best friend joined the program six months apart. One was advised to leave his high school and attend an alternative one; the other was fine where he was and continued until he graduated, sober, a year and a half later. The difference, as I understood it, was that to the first boy, school had become his "pharmacy" and he felt he couldn't face the temptations there every day -- not so early in his sobriety. He did graduate high school and he is attending college.

New kids get a lot of attention because they need it. Look at what is being asked of them: give up your lifestyle, let go of the friends you shared it with, and open yourself to a whole new way of thinking (twelve steps). School and work get more emphasis with more time sober. While parents may be asked to give a child much slack during an initial period so that he can focus exclusively on developing his sobriety, the child is then expected to get on with school and find work. The responsibility to do these things rests on the client and his family. The staff's main focus is sobriety. By graduation, a client who is working the program should be well-prepared to move on and will find many of his friends who graduated ahead of him are there to help with the transition.
Mimi Menousek
Kirkwood

Take it from a pro:I have worked closely with the Crossroads Program for twenty years as a community-based private practitioner. I believe the entertainment quality in Malcolm Gay's journalistic style minimizes important aspects of a very big and complicated picture, aspects that concerned parents and other community members can't afford to overlook.

The most important of these is the portrayed seduction of adolescents into the Crossroads Program for the sake of dollars. At face value, this contradicts other information offered in his article -- that the Crossroads staff is poorly paid. Regardless, how else can an angry, manipulative adolescent with much to hide be caused to consider sobriety? Nobody chooses any form of change, particularly such a set of pervasive changes as sobriety, without believing that there is something significant to be had. The Crossroads Program has always outclassed every other treatment program in this regard. Enthusiastic sobriety modeled by attractive people has a predictable and desperately necessary appeal.

It is unfortunate that Bob Meehan's mouth has caused such damaging controversy and raised integrity concerns for Crossroads. Their time is better spent serving their clientele than doing damage control regarding a self-absorbed bigot. Shame on Bob for his hateful diatribes and shame on those who will urge throwing the baby out with the bathwater as a consequence.

Adolescent substance-abuse treatment is messy stuff. Few people have the guts to get close to it and even fewer can claim any potency in their efforts. That Frank Szachta and his staff make a career of this, most of which has been as paupers, suggests they have both grit and dedication. They are not saints. They can be stubborn and autocratic. Yet, as frustrating as these qualities can be, it is these same qualities that have allowed Crossroads to sustain (for decades) program depth and integrity when other programs have caved in to and then been ravaged by managed care.

We desperately need a program for substance-abusing teens that is able and willing to meet them on their level and entice them into a real depth in opportunity for reclaiming their lives in sobriety. No such program will be comfortable for those who do not understand the nature of the beast nor the healthcare arena available to it. But in human experience, real growth never comes out of comfort.
Ken McManus,
licensed professional counselor

Creve Coeur

Back to the moms:I do not know if I would consider the Crossroads Program for my daughter after reading your article. That is unfortunate, since she has been in the group for three years.

Any parent who talks to the counselors, talks to kids and attends meetings knows about the "Parent Game." I use it to my advantage. When I feel that my daughter is out of line, I tell her to play the game. This usually gets a smile out of her and she walks away. The sleepover for Aimee Moreland was at my house the night before she left for Arizona. My boyfriend provided the host family for her. We care about Aimee and Beth and still miss them both.

Even I knew that Aimee "didn't get it." In my opinion, she thrives on attention, whether it's positive or negative. She does not say in your article if she remains sober. Crossroads is not for everyone. Teenagers will be teenagers, with or without an addiction. And everyone that was mentioned in your article had a choice in every matter.

Thanks for an interesting article. My daughter gave me permission to sign my name.
Barb Rabbitt
St. Louis

From the mouths of high school students:One thing about the article was that you had both opinions going back and forth, and there's nothing wrong with that. But this whole situation is ridiculous -- it's just overboard dramatic bullshit. It reminds me of being in high school (which I still am in). Don't get me wrong; I hate Crossroads with a passion, because it was miserable for me. I did the whole steering-committee thing too and told people shit I didn't agree with. It wasn't me, and that's what I hated about it.

Crossroads is like the Catholic church in the sense that it's a pale definition of sobriety, conning people into giving money because it will 1) help their kid, and 2) keep the group going.

In Crossroads they teach us about being a victim and having resentments and how that is unhealthy. Well, the kids who were hurt from this program are upset. They have resentments and believe themselves to be victims. Psychologically it's very unhealthy. But they're so concerned with going against Crossroads that they're blind to that advice.

Crossroads' motto is, "It doesn't matter if I have a gnarlier story than you. We're still fucked up." That is true to a degree, but when you're saying that to a kid who's gotten drunk or high twice, then you're taking away their adolescence. Now, I'm not going to tell anyone they're not an addict; it's not my place to say. For the person who has gotten drunk twice, it could save them for future events. My point is the angry anti-Crossroads people say, "Well, I'm not an addict." Then they go out and experiment some more. Now if the person isn't an addict, more power to them. But those who are could very easily be endangering themselves.

Another thing: The anti-Crossroadies want to end the program. Isn't that being self-centered? Sure, it doesn't work for them, like it didn't work for me. But what if it does work for someone else? Who are you to take that away?

What about the separated friends, people who leave Crossroads to do whatever while their friends stay behind? A lot of people claim they won't talk to you after you're out. But some do. It depends on the person. I look at it as: Well, they're still my friends no matter what "side" they're on. This isn't the Capulets and the Montagues. You kind of have to laugh at it. It's stupid drama bullshit once again.
Jeremy Crews
St. Peters

Clubs Editor
The Riverfront Times is looking for a part-time (25 to 30 hours a week) clubs editor to contribute to our music section. Must be knowledgeable about -- and fascinated by -- the local nightclub scene and possess a desire to put that knowledge to work in building the RFT's clubs coverage. Please send résumé and writing samples to:
Tom Finkel, editor
Riverfront Times
6358 Delmar Blvd., Ste. 200
St. Louis, MO 63130

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