Carl Charnett, Director of Gateway House, and residents ; part 1
BROADCAST: 1970 | DURATION: 01:03:28
The director of Gateway House, Carl Charnett, discusses Gateway House, a community for the cure of drug addiction (part 1 of 2). Includes interview of a resident, Linda.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Studs Terkel I'm seated in a large room of what was once, I take it, a very elegant mansion on the South Side of Chicago. It still is elegant: the woodwork, the high ceilings. You may hear voices of young people in the background. There are many rooms, I believe, to this rambling house, 4800 South Ellis. It is Gateway House. I find myself deeply moved as I sit here and have watched some of the young people, residents of Gateway House, some of whom just had a gathering, I take it. Talking with Linda, right here, seated across is serving me coffee, and someone else who is also a resident here asked if the guest, meaning myself, wasn't hungry. And your thoughts, Linda. Who are you? Not name. Just give yourself. Who are you?
Linda Once upon a time I guess I wouldn't have been able to answer that question. I'm 21 years old. And I was using drugs approximately five years on and off. I came to Gateway House from Philadelphia when--a reference of a friend.
Linda Yes. I had started out by taking amphetamines, which were diet pills, because I had a weight problem at the time and I was a very lonely girl and I felt very rejected from people in general. I had a lot of inadequate feelings about myself as a woman and an individual and started using amphetamines and taking 20, up to 20 a day after a period of five years. In the last four months before I came to Gateway House I was shooting methedrine, which is also an amphetamine, only it's more potent and more dangerous. I've been in Gateway House now for a period of three months, and changes have taken place already, such changes as, I began to realize that drugs weren't my problem. They were the symptom of my problem. That I used drugs because I felt [bad? dead?] about myself as a person. And I can always remember fantasizing over things that I wanted to be and wanted to do. And my dreams are starting to come true now, slowly but surely.
Studs Terkel If you can go back, you know, because often people ask "How come? Why?" I'll be talking to Carl Charnett, who is the director of dynamics here of Gateway House. He's worked with Daytop in New York, too, [we'll have more?] with Carl, who's busy right now at the moment. I'm seated--I see most people here are young, going back and forth. They have gatherings. What I sense here--we'll come to--there's sort of a gentleness, a sort of a--a sort of tenderness I seem to sense here at the place.
Linda Well, I guess if you were to come into Gateway House and see two men reaching out for each other, it wouldn't be a strange scene at all, as a matter of fact it happens very frequently here. We treat each other as brother and sister, and we're one big family. Most of us never really had a family life or we wanted to separate ourselves from our families. And here we have an opportunity to have brothers and sisters. I know I myself have a very good feeling about it. It makes me feel good to know that I have people on my side and people that accept me for what I am, not anything more or anything less.
Studs Terkel You yourself when you were 16 and began to take the various drugs that you took, as you say, to escape certain things that were hard for you to face. Is your family--without probing--was your family middle class? How would you describe your family?
Linda Well, I lived in a middle-class Jewish community. I was going to high school at the time and my father owned his own business and my mom worked with him. It started out I went to a diet doctor for weight control pills and that's how it began. I started with one and two a day and wound up to almost 20. I--in the beginning I didn't take them to escape my problems. Near the end I did.
Linda Well, my mother was heartbroken. My father was heartbroken. It caused animosities in the family. My mother kicked me out a few times. My father has just passed away three years ago. And that's when I really started going heavier on the drugs and my mom kicked me out of the house a few times, always taking me back the next day. I think that was the first step to her really giving me responsible concern, because I was pretty frightened out there all by myself even for that one night overnight. I wasn't used to it. And that's another thing I found out when I came into Gateway House, is that I was considered a baby emotionally because I acted off of my feelings and I wasn't able to control them.
Linda You mean my friends were they? I had friends, but I never really expressed my true feelings to my friends. I usually held it within myself and as a result I was basically alone. If I was in a room with a thousand people, I still felt basically alone.
Linda Not any longer, no. I still have a lot of dope fiend ways about me. I'm still not as honest as I want to be or would like to be. I'm still lazy and would like to take the easy way out of times. I'd still like to act off my feelings.
Linda There are many people in the street that work from nine to five that are dope fiends. A dope fiend, it doesn't necessarily mean that a person is taking drugs. A dope fiend can be a person that is maybe addicted to watching television all day long as a means of escape.
Linda Yes. It happened in Gateway House. Through groups. We have three groups a week here, and basically what groups are all about is learning about yourself. Finding out the bad things about yourself, facing them and trying to change them. Also finding out the good things about yourself and working on them to your fullest potential.
Linda Well, I was in another therapeutic community in Philadelphia for a period of four months. And I have a friend out here in Gateway House and his mom and dad told me about it. And I called up and asked if I could come and I flew out here.
Studs Terkel Speaking I'm sure to other people here and to Carl. Carl Charnett, the director. When you recount your experiences, you flew out here, you still had that lonely feeling when you came here, did you know what to expect?
Linda Well, I knew what to expect as far as the therapeutic community was concerned, yes. Because I had been in a therapeutic community for four months, but the difference is that I knew the people there and they had started to care about me and vice versa. And I guess it was kind of scary coming out here knowing that I didn't have anyone near, any relatives, any real friends except the one friend that I knew from Gateway House.
Linda Well, I'm--writing home or calling home is a privilege here in Gateway House. And until a person is deserving or until they've been here a certain period of time, we're not permitted to write. But I'm almost sure pretty soon my privileges will come, and I'll be able to write
Linda drugs? Well, I wasn't addicted to any drug. I was really in the beginning phases of becoming addicted. I wasn't on heroin, I was using methedrine at the time. Yes, she was thoroughly ashamed of me. She wanted very much to help me but really didn't know how, and through using drugs, I really became very far apart from my sister. We sort of have a pretty good closeness now since I've since I'm trying to change my way of living and my patterns.
Linda I went up to the 12th grade, but I quit school before graduation. Now that I've been in Gateway House, after I've been here maybe for another three months, I'll be able to start going to school here and finishing my high school education, maybe eventually going on to college.
Studs Terkel Right now we're seated this is the large, I take it this may have been a ballroom once of a very posh family. I'll see you again, Linda. I think Carl is ready for me, so I'll talk there, and people are doing--each one contributes different, like you were serving the coffee here at the time. Everyone does something, is that it? I notice everybody's busy doing something.
Studs Terkel Very happy to have seen and spoken with you. Maybe we can talk some more, so, going along, you know, just be very informal as, perhaps, we wandering around the Gateway House. Thank you very much.
Studs Terkel Charnett. I was just talking with Linda here, I thought we would informally, you know. No, go right ahead. No, go ahead, she almost finished, I was just asking one last question. No, it's okay. I asked Linda--that's Carl Charnett here, the director. I was asking Linda, what idea you have after you feel better and you leave Gateway House, what you think you might like to do.
Linda In all honesty, I really can't answer that question right now because although I've thought about what I'd like to do some day, I'm not quite certain. I guess when I get into second phase or maybe a few months before that, I'll be in a better state to answer that. I know that I've contemplated several times I may be coming back into the house and being a member of staff someday.
Studs Terkel Thank you very much. [pause in recording] When I entered this building, Gateway House on the corner of Ellis and 48th, I could see that once upon a time it was a posh mansion, the nature of the building itself. But even as I entered, it suddenly, the air ch--I'm talking, seated now with Carl Charnett, the director of Gateway House, and as I came in the air was different. I mean, I found--I'm not romanticizing, I found sort of a, mostly young people here, a sort of gentleness in contrast to what I might find in the streets outside. Is that my imagination?
Carl Charnett No, I don't think it is. I think that part of it is due to the fact that Gateway, number one, is even more than a community. It's certainly not a rehabilitation center per se. It's a family, a family of people who have all shown at various times in their life the symptoms of drug addiction and/or drug abuse. And now who are together working towards a better way of life, working towards becoming mature human beings so that the need for drugs or the use of drugs will no longer exist as a byproduct. And they do this as a team of people, as a family of people, all striving for the same goal, and that is of emotional maturity, stability, etc. And there's a great deal of honesty attempted here, there is a great deal of concern attempted here, and I think it's fairly evident to most people who walk into the building and begin speaking with the residents and feel the air that you spoke of.
Studs Terkel Suppose we go back to the beginnings. And I'll ask you about a certain thing I've observed. As I was coming in to see you, you were involved in a discussion with someone who may be living here, staying here. There was a meeting going on there, and I heard applause at the end of it. A lot of people were gathered, young people, Black and white, gathered there and there was a--so that was part of a session of some sort, I take it.
Carl Charnett Yes. A person who uses drugs after a period of sustained use, their whole lifestyle revolves around the procuring of drugs and the maintaining of habit, etc. Once they come into Gateway, there are many ways in which we encourage a person to start using his head, exercise his mind. The daily seminars between one and two take place every day Monday through Friday and most of the residents participate. And various topics are discussed. A person practices speaking in front of an audience and then receives constructive criticism. Philosophical quotations are discussed. Guest lecturers are heard, etc., so the applause you most probably heard I assume was the termination of one of the day seminars.
Carl Charnett About four years ago, a group of concerned individuals organized an organization called "CURA". Council--CURA, council for the--the initials stood for something, I can't quite remember what they were. Their concern was for the problem of drug abuse that exists in the country today and, of course, there was, concern was directed toward the Chicago area. After a number of years of treating with, of dealing or attempting to deal with the problem on an out-patient surface basis, they found it was rather difficult and they weren't really making much headway. At about the same time, the State of Illinois formed the Narcotics Advisory Council. Illinois--State of Illinois. The council by one way or another saw to it that a certain amount of funds were appropriated for a research program, a multi-modality research program, and they hired a man by the name of Dr. Jerry Jaffe who had a great deal of experience in this field to head up the State of Illinois drug abuse program, which as I said before is a multi-modality program. By that I mean there are a great many approaches towards treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers and narcotic addicts. There are inpatient programs which, such as Gateway which use as a goal and a philosophy completely changing the lifestyle of an individual, so that the need for drugs will no longer exist as a byproduct of the growing-up process.
Studs Terkel Just as I was talking to you before, you know, I was talking with Linda, who is very young, she is now 21, she was 16 when she began, it's a matter of changing lifestyle. She's implying this is what was happening to her.
Carl Charnett Yes. I'll go into that in a couple of minutes, all right? And there are also, there is also the synthetic narcotic maintenance approach where an addict who is addicted to hard drugs, opiates, is given a substitute medication in hopes that he will no longer have to turn to crime one, to support his habit. As a result he can become a human being who does not detract from society, is not a parasite, and has less of a chance of going to jail, getting into trouble with the law, etc. So there's the methadone maintenance approach. And then there are various durations of methadone maintenance, and then they're experimenting with certain blocking agents, such as Cyclasasine. These are also drugs with which either substitute for the heroin or make the heroin not felt when a person uses it, so that he will no longer after a period of futile efforts at getting high from the heroin, he will give up, etc. So there are a number of different approaches. All these approaches are now being tried underneath the umbrella of the drug abuse agency. All these approaches with the exception of Gateway are directly overseen by the state. Gateway, by virtue of its philosophy, of its unique treatment approach, would be rather difficult to run directly by the state. So Gateway is a nonprofit organization with a nonprofit board chartered by the State of Illinois who contracts with the State of Illinois, the Department of Mental Health through the drug abuse agency, and charges the Department of Mental Health a certain amount per day per person with a certain limit. Unfortunately, our limit this year is $200,000, and at the rate of $8.50 per day this only allows us to have 64 residents. Well, right now we have 86 residents, plus it actually costs about $10.50 a day to support these people. So we have to rely a great deal on community support.
Carl Charnett Yes.
Carl Charnett Yes.
Carl Charnett Yes.
Carl Charnett All right. The therapeutic community believes that anyone who uses drugs and abuses themself with the use of drugs. I'm not talking about people who use drugs by doctor's prescription or anything like that, but people who consistently take great risk in using drugs, whether it be LSD, whether it be heroin, whether it be speed, any one of these drugs, a person who takes great risk jeopardizes the people around him, jeopardizes his own future--
Carl Charnett It's a very debatable issue at this point. I can, I think I can speak on that a little bit later. We believe very strongly that any person that takes such great risk to derive a small amount of pleasure is on one level or another emotionally immature. We look at it in very simple terms. His surface behavior is very irresponsible, very irrational, very unconcerned with his future in a constructive way, and we equate this behavior to that of an infant or a child. And, so, when a resident comes in here for all practical purposes we tell him he's a child, an infant, a baby, and his behavior--yeah.
Studs Terkel At this moment a slight interruption as we're talking because, obviously, Carl Charnett receives many calls and many emergency matters, and this continues to be the case. I'll ask you about that in a moment. You were talking about the person who comes here and so the recognition you put forth to him is, his behavior is that of a child, infantile.
Carl Charnett Yes. A child. The reasons for his behavior--we simplify, we oversimplify so a person can begin to grasp it, and the reasons for his behavior are sheer stupidity. After all, the average scene that a drug addict goes through is, he goes out, uses drugs, gets a habit, gets arrested sooner or later, goes to jail, swears he'll never do it again, comes out of jail and does it all over again, and repeats the same cycle over and over and over and over again, knowing full well that there are a great degree of risks involved. And we call this stupidity. Sheer stupidity. It's our philosophy that a person who uses drugs demands immediate gratification. He may be very, very intellectual. He may be very, very academically capable, viscerally, emotionally, by the seat of his pants. He still demands a great deal of gratification. He wants what he wants when he wants it without regard of anyone else. Viscerally, the sun, the moon, the stars, everything revolves around his needs emotionally. Emotionally he feels he should, above all other people, start at the top of the ladder and not at the bottom of the ladder, and he goes through life with this lifestyle. He goes through life reacting to these emotional needs more so than his intellect, and he constantly gets in jackpots, he constantly gets into trouble. What we do here is we teach a person slowly but surely over a prolonged period of time, a year, a year and a half, it pays to act in a mature way. Our theory is, and it's fairly well borne out by some of the older residents and some people I know from Daytop who are graduates--
Carl Charnett Okay.
Carl Charnett If a person is exposed to an environment which will reinforce his good behavior and reject his bad behavior consistently over and over and over and over again, the person will begin to learn viscerally that good, mature behavior pays off. If a person lives in the kind of a community that has an economy based on his attitudes, his values, and his behavior, slowly but surely he'll begin to experience that the display of a good attitude, the display of good behavior, the display of consistency will pay off. Everything in the Gateway community is on an earning basis. When a person first comes in, he gets the top end of a double bunk bed and the most menial job in the house. As he shows he can handle those simple responsibilities, just the simple responsibility of participating in the community in an adult way, the simple responsibility of mopping the floor with a good attitude, he'll be given more responsibility and more privilege. If he acts out in a destructive or in a self-defeating way, his additional responsibilities are taken away from him and his privileges that he's earned over a period of time are taken away from him. Now, the life through Gateway, through the community, is a very bumpy one, 'cause all of the residents here take three steps forward and two backward, and sometimes two forward and three backward, over and over and over again, but they are constantly, their good behavior, good attitudes are constantly reinforced while their bad ones are constantly disapproved of.
Carl Charnett It is a community. It's a family in every sense of the word, right down to a symbolic mother and father image. The older residents, the senior residents, serve as role models for the younger residents. Everyone in this community are ex-drug abusers or ex-addicts, including myself.
Carl Charnett Yes. Each and every one of us on our level of growth teach the level below us what we ourselves have learned. The two-month member teaches the one-month member. The eight-month member teaches the four-month member. The year member teaches the eight-month member. The directors teach the year members, and so on and so forth. And as I said before, it's a hierarchy of learning. A progress, so to speak.
Carl Charnett Well, it's not quite as simple as that. Number one, the new person that comes in has to make a certain investment. We're not going to take anyone in. You see, it's very easy for a drug abuser or a person that's leading a very inconsistent lifestyle to pay lip service. He'll make all kinds of declarations today about what he's going to do tomorrow, but tomorrow he'll forget about what he said yesterday because something else is on his mind, another need exists in his belly. And, so, it's very easy for a drug user to say, "I want help." It's very hard for them to prove that they want help. So number one, a person comes in through many, many ways. Some are referred by court, some are referred by the state drug abuse program, some come in voluntarily, some are sent by the probation department, some are sent by clergymen, rabbis, etc., any--
Carl Charnett Linda?
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Carl Charnett Yeah. They're all in the immediate vicinity of Chicago and suburbs mostly. When a person first comes in, the first thing he does is sit on the prospect chair, which is a symbolic chair in the reception area by the expediter's desk and he gets his first taste of things around here will not be done at his convenience. He'll have to wait. If he gets indignant and changes his mind, I guess he didn't want to do something for himself. If he waits patiently, I guess maybe he does want to do a little bit for himself. Then he gets called into a room with six or seven or eight residents and possibly a director or one or two senior residents and he goes through an interview, a formal interview. Naturally when he's first asked, "Why are you here?" His first response is, "I want to stop using drugs. I want to rid myself of the horrors of narcotics," or some sort of dramatic thing because chances are he doesn't know he's talking to all ex-addicts, he thinks he's talking to a psychologist or a social worker.
Carl Charnett Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And when we begin to probe, we find out that he has, let's say, a court case pending for possession of drugs, or his mother threw him out of the house, or his wife threw him out of the house, or he has no money, etc. And then we begin to press him for the real answer. And begin to put his back up against the wall. We laugh at him. We coax him. We tease him. We try every type of pressure to make him tell us and admit to himself at the same time why he's really here. And it ends up that he's really here because there's some external pressure forcing him to be here, and right now for him Gateway's the lesser of two evils. Had he not had that external pressure, he wouldn't be here. All right?
Studs Terkel We'll continue in a moment the conversation with Carl Charnett, director of dynamics at Gateway House, a center for the--well, rehabilitation isn't the word, a community of drug addicts trying to get off it. That's at 48th and Ellis. More of the conversation with Mr. Charnett and other residents, too, in a moment. We pick up a conversation with Carl Charnett at Gateway House talking about the newly arrived addict who wants to be unhooked and the conver--interview he has with some of the residents and members of the staff who are there.
Carl Charnett Next, we begin to talk to him about what does he think is wrong with him. Well, naturally, you know, the first responses are more or less the classics of, "My mother and father ignored me when I was a child," or "I'm neurotic," or "I was, I'm antisocial" or "I'm a schizophrenic paranoiac fram-a-scam" or whatever, you know. And we laugh at that, too, and then we begin slowly but surely using the behavior of a child as an analogy of his behavior; the self-destructive, self-defeating, repetitious lifestyle that he keeps on involving himself into, over and over and over again. Many times we find a youngster who is at home and we point out how everybody at home caters to his needs, how he throws little temper tantrums to get what he wants, his mommy doesn't give him five dollars which he says is for a haircut, but what he really wants it for is drugs, he says, "I'm going to jump out the window." Anything to get his way at any cost. So the investment, and this goes on and on for about an hour. The investment finally required, well, obviously required, is the beginning glimmer of honesty, the beginning glimmer of awareness, the beginning of honesty with himself about where he's really at. That he is, to all practical purposes, a selfish brat who wants his way at all cost, who wants his comfortability at all cost, who has never learned how to accept responsibility, who has never learned how to earn anything that he's wanted, always wants it the easy way now. So after he is accepted, providing he comes off with this honesty, he is immediately welcomed into the family. "Welcome to the family" is the customary phrase that's used. And he's told that he will have a job responsibility. Most probably mopping floors, cleaning toilets, or washing pots, and when he earns more, he'll get more. Everything he wants he'll get, providing he's earned it. When he's earned the privilege of writing, he will write. When he's earned the privilege of making phone calls, he'll make phone calls. When he's earned the privilege of getting a certain amount per week walking around money, he'll get that. When he's gotten the privilege to go to the movies or go to picnics, he'll get those things, too. Everything he earns. He's told the two cardinal rules of the house, which are "No drugs or chemicals of any kind," and "Under no circumstances any physical violence or threat of physical violence." The whole thing we make him understand is, we know you don't feel like acting like an adult. But our theory is, if you behave as an adult, if you act as if you are one long enough, you will become in fact an adult.
Studs Terkel So it's a question of the key phrase, [and that is?] responsibility to self and others. This is number one. How, then, is this done? When the person, you speak of the prospects chair, one way or another the person knows that the place--oh, I know. The question of time. Time. How long? How can you tell? What's the criterion for saying the person now is ready to--
Carl Charnett The time. All right. Number one, a person just doesn't leave. He goes through three stages. The first initial phase of his re-entry into the greater community is living in and working in. With various exposure towards the greater community. In the beginning he isn't even allowed out the front door by himself. And by the time he's here six months he can go to the movies with a buddy of his. By the time he's here eight months he'll be maybe part of the community relations team whose responsibility is to get up in the morning, put on a suit and a tie, take an attaché case and solicit businessmen and corporations and factories all throughout the Chicago and suburban area for our needs in goods, merchandise or in goods, services, or cash. And then he, when he's ready, and I'll go into that in a second, he goes into a second stage of re-entry, which is working in the greater community or going to school in the greater community while living in the house as a second phase resident. Then, after a period of time, he's cut loose from the community almost altogether to the point where he lives and works into the greater community and just returns occasionally for visits and occasional therapeutic groups and to act as a role model for the newer residents saying, "I did it. You can do it, too." The length of time is roughly a year for the first phase, an additional six months for the second phase, an additional six months for the third phase. But this can vary by as, any one of these phases can vary a great deal depending upon the individual. Now. The criteria for entry into these various stages as the criteria for any additional privilege in the house is consistency and maturity. The more he shows, the more he gets. The more he shows, the sooner he gets. Every single thing that happens to him in this environment is basically up to him, because he has a choice as an adult with a brain and an intellect. He has a choice of doing right from wrong. He has a choice of listening to his head or his belly.
Carl Charnett By all means. By all means. He wants to do something because it will give him gratification. His head tells him that he shouldn't do it. It's wrong. Viscerally, he still wants to do it. People like, like an infant. Did you ever see an infant? It's what's in its diaper because his bladder is full. Even though it knows at a certain point in its training that it has to go to the bathroom, it may not. It doesn't want to take the effort or the time to go to the bathroom. So it wets where it wets. In many senses the large percentage of drug users who use drugs to the point where it becomes very risky, very dangerous, and very dangerous drugs, to a certain, a large percentage of these people are just like that.
Carl Charnett Not so much how they came. No. We're not concerned with the past very, very much at all. It's the future that counts. What you do from the time you walked in the door. Your life is yours. The position you find yourself in--
Carl Charnett Yes. It's exactly what we use. Reality therapy. The position he finds himself is directly or indirectly due to his own efforts. And we're not concerned about why it happened before. You're an adult. You have a choice. You know right from wrong. Exercise your choice in the right direction and you'll get what you want out of life.
Studs Terkel Suppose I'm a new person. I'm sitting in the prospect's chair and I listened to what you and others are saying, of what I must do. Do you ever have this challenged also by a new person, says, "What is this, a prison?"
Carl Charnett Oh, certainly, people think it's a prison. And depends on the environment. If they're in the house, we laugh at him, usually, and we say, "Look around you. Does it really look like a prison?" No. And there are a number of ways in which we can show the person, but generally speaking when somebody who's trying to come into the house as a member of our family, we won't go to too many pains to convince him that what we have to offer is that valuable. He needs us. We don't need him.
Studs Terkel How do you determine this in the beginning? You, of course, there are others about--to determine that this person will be here. Is there a way or do you work on hunches or just what you see, is that it?
Studs Terkel So Carl, I'm talking to Carl Charnett, who obviously is here right in the heart, in the midst of this whole matter at Gateway House, the director. You mind if I ask you about yourself? Earlier you said that you yourself were an addict. Before that, you spoke of drugs and I brought up the subject of, it's very difficult when I realized the delica--the question of marijuana itself. Does this fall into this category?
Carl Charnett Okay. You asked before, does marijuana for instance lead to other, more harsh drugs. I believe it's a very popular misconception that marijuana does. You see, 30 years ago the marijuana smoker was part of a small drug culture. And, because this small antisocial drug culture was a very tight, closed clique, it had available to it all different types of drugs. The marijuana smoker 30 years ago in order to smoke marijuana, the chances are, of necessity came into contact with cocaine users and heroin users and various other drug users.
Carl Charnett Because it was illegal and because the subculture was so tight, one person usually handled all of it. All of these drugs. And, of course, if he was that antisocial to participate in this subculture activity to begin with, he would be that immature or that prone towards taking risks to try the other drugs. Today, a conservative estimate would be 50% of the people in large city college and high school campuses experiment with or who are ongoing users of marijuana, it is no longer a subculture. It is the culture of youth to experiment or try marijuana today. So this same rule no longer applies. The average college student or high school student who occasionally experiments with or uses marijuana on the weekends will not be able to come into contact with a heroin user. It's no longer a closed subculture. It is the culture.
Carl Charnett Yes. Yes. Yes. Number one, marijuana is a stimulant, a hallucinogenic drugs. Heroin and the opiates are depressant drugs. The lack of effectiveness of one does not lead to a craving for another. It's a complete misconception. Marijuana doesn't really lead to stronger drugs as it did years and years ago.
Studs Terkel Economically?
Carl Charnett Economically, all levels of society. All levels of income. That's another myth, by the way, that the drug problem is a problem of the ghetto. Today in this day and age drug abuse is a problem that's all over the country, and it affects upper middle-class people as well as lower-class people, it affects whites in very well-to-do suburban communities as well as it affects Blacks in the ghetto areas. And it's a universal problem.
Studs Terkel Before we walk about, you guide me through the area through this particular Gateway House at 48th and Ellis, various rooms, floors, different people I meet, yourself, Carl Charnett, the director of Gateway House, you said that you--how did you get to be this way? Would you mind? How'd you begin?
Carl Charnett Our approach and Daytop's approach is very similar. Now I left Daytop last December or late November of '68 as a result of an internal, of certain internal difficulties the foundation had experienced, and a great many people left Daytop at that time. There were two opposing factions and I decided not to side with either and go my own way and get involved in a new program. As I--when I left Daytop, Gateway is a little bit more concerned in the area with the re-entry of people into the community than Daytop was--
Carl Charnett The greater community. A little bit more concerned with that than Daytop was back in November of '68. I'm not familiar with their present philosophy and outlook on re-entry into the greater community of their older residents so I really can't say where the difference is. Basically, most therapeutic communities, or I should say all therapeutic communities for addict re-education are run pretty much with the same philosophy. The philosophy also in part that says that the addiction or the dependency on drugs is not a problem. It is only the symptom of a problem, and the real problem is the inability to face reality, the need to insulate oneself from reality and the demands that society makes on them. And they all use similar techniques in teaching a person how to grow up.
Studs Terkel I mean, say, to make it in this society. You know, to go out. Make it is a bad word. To re-enter the greater society or do people, residents ever discuss the nature of the society itself and the values outside.
Carl Charnett Well, we do occasionally. We don't get too hung up in it because it's difficult. My own personal feelings is society is pretty screwed up. It's a shame that we have to promote the re-entry of our graduates into a society that condones a lot of the things that they were doing directly or indirectly. Today's society, my own opinion with it, you turn on the television the first thing you do, see if you're upset, take Compose, don't find the cause of your anxiety, take compose. If you're tired, don't go to sleep, take No-Doz. If you're lacking vigor and vitality take Vivarin. You know, it's a drug orientated society, it's a society that condones too much irresponsibility. It's a society that is constantly at war with itself and concerning racial issues concerning problems of drugs, et cetera, et cetera. So we don't like to get too involved. We don't like to paint too black a picture for our residents who have to go out there. What we do say, there are injustices out there, living out there is rough, but it's something that if you want to live in the greater community you're going to have to stand head and shoulders above everybody else. You're going to have to, in order to--if you've done what you've had to do in Gateway and you go back out into the greater community and live in the greater community with commitment, with values, you will be a change agent for people around you. Your values will infect them instead of their values affecting you.
Carl Charnett Well, there's a degree of commitment developed here. There's a change of a value structure developed here. There is a change of character and integrity developed here, all of it positively orientated constructive values are established here, and a person feels a great deal of responsibility to himself to keep up these values and commitments.
Studs Terkel Carl, could I, because this is, I'm fascinated not only by Gateway House and by the people who are here, but about you, too, your awareness that you have now, yet, your first knowledge, your first encounter came when you yourself--how old were you when you first took drugs, you yourself? I don't mean for this to be a confession--
Carl Charnett I started using marijuana when I was about 16 or 17 years old, simply because that was the thing to do in my environment. But I guess there was a lot of other reasons why I continued to use marijuana and then went into other drugs. I guess my parents were much too permissive with me. I guess I never had a reasonable amount of demands made on me. I never learned emotionally that I have to be responsible for my actions, I have to earn my way in life. I got things too easily. Well, I grew up with the outlook that I deserved to get things easily. Who is anyone else to deny me? This was the emotional feeling that I had, and I fooled around with light drugs such as marijuana, mescaline, the amphetamines. Alcohol. Until--
Carl Charnett Yeah. That's unfortunate. That's all. It's just our poor legal system. I don't think marijuana is any better or worse than alcohol. In fact, in many respects marijuana is less physically harmful than alcohol, but it's because of our society and our, the narrow-minded, legal way of looking at it, marijuana is illegal and alcohol is legal.
Carl Charnett Yeah. I got married when I was about 25. And up until the time I was 25, I didn't try heroin. I was still that concerned about my own future in an inconsistent way that I didn't want to jeopardize that, because I knew many people who had used heroin and who suffered greatly by it. But shortly after I got married, I began to experience the burden of severe responsibility. We had our first child. I had a wife and a child. And somehow I just had never learned to be responsible for myself. And here I was in a position of having to be responsible for them. Well, that's when I started using heroin, and I used heroin for about four years. And my whole life, from that time especially, went completely downhill. My values, the small amount of values that I did have drifted by the wayside. The goals that I had drifted by the wayside, and I turned into a stone-cold dope fiend, a junkie. And my wife started using heroin, too, and there we were, two dope fiends with at that time already three kids, and our lives were going down the drain. Right down the toilet. And I finally, because I knew that my life was going down the drain because I knew I started getting into a lot of trouble with the police, I'd gotten arrested several times, and things were closing in on me fast. I knew I had to make a choice about doing something meaningful for myself. And, so, I heard about Gateway--about Daytop Village from someone, and I went in about four and a half years ago or so as a resident and I started learning what it'd be like, what it's like to accept the consequences of my behavior good or bad, and I started on the climb, on the long path towards growing up. And I began to in fact grow up, accept responsibility, and I also took two steps forward and three backwards many times. And after about two years in Daytop I was promoted to a staff position. And the last year or a year and a half I spent with Daytop was at the resident director of their, one of their upstate facilities, which had about 130 or 140 residents. And then, because of the breakup, I left and started going my own way. And then I was contacted by Dr. Jerry Jaffe out here in Chicago to come out to Chicago and help out with the Gateway Foundation.
Carl Charnett Yes.
Studs Terkel A new person at Daytop, which is a pattern similar to here at Gateway, and now you're a director here of your own window is open, the awareness and at the very beginning was speaking to a new person here, Linda. And the last thing she said is she hopes, she doesn't know, she hopes not quite so sure what she'd like to be but after she is better, she hopes that she, perhaps, even will work on the staff here. So there's a continuity, is enough of an idea here. You were saying earlier that an older person, the person who one year, or you know, a person who is here a couple of months becomes the teacher, in a sense, or the [vibe?] of the other. And, so, in a sense what you're doing is part of a continuity.
Carl Charnett Yeah. All Of the staff here at Gateway are graduates of either Daytop Village or senior residents in staff positions of Daytop Village. And it's by necessity that a good staff member in a therapeutic community came up through the ranks. The identification with the residents is very, very important, the fact that he can say, "I was in that dishpan once four years ago washing the dishes and I worked my way up, it's possible for you, too."
Studs Terkel It's also that you can't be kidded, either, the way as, say, a doctor [removed?] or a psychiatrist [removed?] who hasn't been an addict can possibly be kidded. [Unintelligible] person sitting in the prospect chair. You've been there, you said.
Carl Charnett We've been there. In other words, an addict comes in here and starts in running me a game about his withdrawal symptoms, I'll laugh at him because I've kicked three dozen times, I know what it's like. I know when he climbs the walls, it's an act to get attention. I know that he's either looking for a fix, or some chemical to make his withdrawal somewhat easier, or he's looking for some status. An addict who goes into jail and climbs the walls sees either looking for the prison doctor to give him a shot of dope, or he's looking for his in--the fellow inmates to respect him and to say, you know, out of the side of their mouth, "That boy, he must have had a hell of a habit, he must have been a big time user on the street." It's status. Withdrawing from heroin today is the stories that you hear are largely journalistic license. It's not that difficult to withdraw from heroin. The physical effects after three days or so are over with. And the real problem is learning how to live in a mature, responsible way.
Carl Charnett None have graduated yet, because the graduation stage takes about 18 months. We have seven residents who are already in the second phase of re-entry either going to school, working steadily, or looking for jobs in the greater community. In another four to six months we will expect to have graduates.
Carl Charnett Well, let me put it to you this way: just as a child grows up with his family, gets married, goes to war, goes to school, moves out of state, still communicates with his family, a resident who grows up here still stays in communication with his family. He's made lifelong friendships here. By the way, don't let me make this sound like peaches and cream. When a resident comes in, applies for admission, he's told upfront that in many ways it's harder here than it is in jail. In jail you don't have to look at yourself. In jail you don't have to accept responsibility. In jail you can be allowed to keep up your image, you won't be constantly confronted about your attitudes. Here you will be confronted day in, day out, 24 hours a day about your attitude, your behavior, your image, your self-evaluation, you'll be forced to see yourself as you really are. And when you are forced to see yourself as you really are, it's a very uncomfortable experience. And a certain percentage of the people run. Roughly about 50 percent of the people don't make it. About 50% of the people leave before they're ready. And invariably go back to drugs. But it's our own anticipation that roughly 80% of the people who make it through the program will not return to the use of drugs, which is a far cry from some of the statistics that have already been established in terms of the classic or the traditional psychiatric methods of treatment. You know, Lexington, Kentucky, the federal institution at Lexington, they quote anywhere from one to three percent success rate.
Carl Charnett Yeah.
Carl Charnett Yeah. Oh, sure. Most, in fact even today, most psychiatrists will throw up their hands and refuse to treat a narcotics addict. They call them character disorders, which they may be in fact, they're socially maladjusted people who they can't get through, who they can't motivate. Let's face it. When you take a person who's spent 20, 25, 30 years developing and reinforcing a destructive lifestyle, you're not going to change that lifestyle on a part-time basis by one or two or three hours a week of therapy. He has to be totally immersed in a completely different environment so he can un-learn all his old behavioral patterns and learn new ones. It's not a part-time job.
Studs Terkel At Gateway there's total immersion in a new community, a community that is staffed by people who've been there and a community of their colleagues who are in it with them, different stages, and as you say, the mirror is over there. Well, who makes the person, the new arrival, that is, face up to his reality? The other people here, too?
Carl Charnett As I said, it's the whole process of the therapeutic community is a teaching process. As soon as he is accepted in the house and given a job responsibility, the older residents pay attention to him, explain the workings of the house to him, offer him support, offer him guidance, etc. Now again, it's not all peaches and cream. Everybody knows that they came here to change intellectually, but it's difficult. Everybody knows they should be honest, but it's difficult. As far as the greater community goes, we have a much more honest and direct community in here. There's no comparison, but people still occasionally lie here. And then the guilt gets the better of them and then they cop to their lies and accept the responsibility of their lies. But people are working towards a goal. They are working to better themselves, but they do slip.
Studs Terkel As you're talking, Carl, perhaps we can wander about the place Gateway House, you've given us a picture of the background. You say it's that one phrase sticks in my mind, "Much more difficult than being in prison," or being in the Army, for that matter. All you do there is follow orders and you can live with your fantasy.
Carl Charnett Right. Now here a person has a choice: there are no guards, no bars, no locks. A person can always decide to run, which is the easier to do. When a person is confronted about his attitude and behavior, he has the choice of changing or running. Running is easy. Changing is difficult. He really has to put forth effort to make it here. Because he can run when he gets uptight, he can run away from it all.
Studs Terkel I'm talking to Carl Charnett, the director of Gateway House here in the outer office just near the vestibule, not too far from where the prospect chair is, and we'll, perhaps, wander about now. The place. Oh, one last thing Linda was saying in the beginning. She said her voice seemed a little hoarse because she'd been through screaming therapy, group screaming. You have various forms of therapies, is that it?
Carl Charnett No. Basically there's one form of organized group therapy. These are the house clusters which are in fact a reality attack-orientated therapy where the House gets together three nights a week, and on certain other specially needed occasions, and has the house clusters of eight or nine residents, a cross-section of the population from senior resident and staff to the newest manning the door comprise the groups, and the house may be broken up into five or six groups, and in the groups there are no hats, there are no officials, there are no staff and no residents. If I walk into a group I'm subject to get hollered at. Now, the groups serve a number of purposes. One, addicts, heavy drug abusers are by nature hostile people. They can't get their way. They like, they want to have their way all the time but they can't. There's a lot of bottled-up hostility there. The groups are provided one, so that an individual can get his hostility off in a constructive way, a meaningful way, a purposeful way. Two, the groups are so individuals find out that they're not unique, they're not different from anybody else in this house. They have the same feelings, the same fears, the same emotions, the same loves. Three, they can find out that they can be loved for themselves and they don't have to put on an act, they don't have to put on an image, they don't have to be something other than what they really are. It's their behavior and their attitudes that we may dislike, but as human beings they're all pretty good people.
Studs Terkel And, thus, this is part 1, part 2 tomorrow of wandering through Gateway House. I should like to point out before I forget that every Saturday night everyone is welcome, there's an open house. Everyone welcome. 8 o'clock Saturday night, 48th and Ellis, Gateway House, open house. Everyone welcome.