It’s not easy for me to write about Narconon, even just to spell out the word gives me the creeps. I guess that’s why “con” is appropriately inside this word, because it’s what the place is.
I believe it set my son back in his recovery for at least two years, at a critical period in his life. He relapsed soon after each of his two 6-month stints at Narconon in Fort Collins. At least, I reasoned, he stayed sober while he was there as a student, intern, and employee in 2010 and 2011, and while he was on probation, but I doubt if it was worth $45,000. Now, I realize there is much better treatment available for that price, but I didn’t know then.
Narconon doesn’t acknowledge addiction is a disease.
It doesn’t advocate for abstinence from drugs and alcohol or accept any of the 12-Step programs or believe in any medication-assisted treatment. It believes a person is powerful enough to practice self-control and moderation in all areas of his life, which is referred to as “temperance” in “The Way to Happiness” book by L. Ron Hubbard; his made-up version of the Ten Commandments, I suppose.
Even though its program is based on the religion of Scientology, I didn’t observe a religious, much less a spiritual aspect to it, in the sense of humility, compassion, love, or awareness of God or a Higher Power; which was a total departure from Cody’s Catholic upbringing.
Had I known this horrendous apostasy, I would not have chosen it willingly. Not that I am against other types of religion, but I would never choose a program based on science fiction; something about the fearful spirits of the Thetans, who are from outer space. Kid you not, folks.
What parent or family member, if given the true facts, would?
No one in their right mind would choose this, and that’s where the “big con” lies; they know exactly what they are doing by not telling.
Instead of building a person up, it’s designed to break a person down, forcing the students to stare at ash trays for hours on end, as a part of their T.R.s, which stands for Training Routines. It has several confusing program acronyms; T.R.s, V.G.I.s, B.I.s, and more. When Cody used to call me, he would talk in these phony acronyms. It sounded like a cult language to me, and I tried to block it out at the time. Hear no evil, I thought to myself; at least he was sober.
I later found out prompt medical care was not readily accessible, nor was a doctor, nurse, counselor, or therapist, even though I was told differently at the initial interview.
One former student told me he was withdrawing from opiates, and couldn’t keep any food or water down. He became numb in his hands, arms, legs, and feet. One of the methods used to help students detox naturally is to take them for walks, so they took him out for a 3-mile walk. He became so numb it frightened him, and he begged them to take him to the hospital. Two hours later, they managed to transport him there, and he was diagnosed with kidney failure due to extreme dehydration. He stayed in the hospital for almost two days to recover, with an IV for his dehydration, and if he had waited any longer, he would have needed kidney dialysis.
My son was prone to alcohol withdrawal seizures, and I had witnessed two of his seizures in the past, which were incredibly frightening, because both were Grand Mal seizures. I told the staff Cody would need to be in a medical detox, with anxiety medication, and I was assured he would be fine. When he became excessively anxious, he pleaded to be taken to the hospital to no avail. It was the feeling he had right before a seizure would occur. Someone finally took him to a hospital, essentially to the “drunk tank”, and he was given medication by a nurse there. He never told me this, but I suspect he had a seizure before they took him to the hospital.
Another former student told me he couldn’t sleep at all when he was in his withdrawal, and kept requesting help with his sleep. They had given him high doses of vitamins, which were referred to as “drug bombs”, and Cal-mag, which is a vinegar-based drink with a combo of calcium and magnesium, but he hadn’t slept for 5 days. He kept asking and getting nowhere with the intern and he finally insisted on seeing a supervisor about getting something to help him sleep. When the supervisor came in to talk to him, he was very annoyed and said these words to him.
“Somebody who loves you just spent $33,000 to help you, so you need to buck the fuck up.”
Compliance by intimidation was often a part of the deal, obviously greed as well, creating this weird, disturbing environment. Cody’s father used to say when he visited him that it “felt more like a prison than a treatment center”.
There have been claims people were held against their will, but I have no personal knowledge anyone was. There were security guards, student control officers, and ethics officers, though. I do know of students who were chased down, trying to run away from the center, and coerced to come back by student interns. My son chased down several students, who were trying to flee the place, while he was an intern. Cody was a fast runner, so he would get sent on these chases often.
I pictured him, when he was a young soccer player, chasing down the soccer ball, whether he was on offense or defense; he was always the fastest kid on the field. Little did I know he would be chasing down drug addicts a few years later at a Scientology center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, making $50 per week as an intern, and formerly a student of the fake religion.
Below is Cody pictured with his daughter, Olivia, whom I brought up to Fort Collins, when he had a Saturday afternoon pass to leave for a couple of hours. We went to a park near the center, and it was so sweet to see him playing with his daughter.
Cody was a good and sensitive human being when he was clean and sober, with a heart of gold, like his father.
He loved his daughter dearly, but there was always the guilt hidden beneath the surface in him. This disease is so full of shame and guilt, and he tried hard, so many times to stay sober, but there was something going on inside he couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with completely. I wish I knew what it was; maybe it was just all of the shame and guilt. I don’t know.
He had been to two rehabs before Narconon, which were both good treatment centers, before our decision to give him tough love, and before he got into so much legal trouble. He always went willingly, and asked to go to rehab the first time he went. He wanted to get better more than anything else, and kept trying.
Nothing prepared me for this heartbreaking reality with my son.
Loving an addicted child is a very lonely place to be, and I suffered in silence for a long time, only having a few friends and my sister I could open up to about Cody’s struggle with addiction. I never told anyone what I knew about Narconon, until writing this blog.
I have not completed my story about Narconon, so now there is a Part 3 in the works.
I will tell about the rest of the program, including the “get rid of the drug cravings” month-long sauna and vitamin regimen, and the student internship, which Cody signed up for, not knowing it would prevent us from getting him back in, under the 6-month relapse period, without paying again. We had to fork over another $15,000, after he was already there, under what we thought was free. I will tell about his experience as an employee, where he got his minimum wage pay taken away for several days for giving a student a candy bar.
Ugh. Is there no end to the Narconon drama and deception? Nope, I’ve got more to tell.
Mary Cucarola – March 2016
Cody playing with his daughter, Olivia, at a park near Narconon, in 2010.