Well, Dear Reader, when we last saw our heroine she was making her grand escape from the clutches of the evil Scientology empire…
Now on to the next phase of what I like to call my Escape Trilogy.
I was driving down I-4 on the way to Lakeland, in my Enterprise rental car, and I was FREAKING OUT. I’m surprised I didn’t get into an accident, since I was looking in the rearview and side mirrors almost the entire way.
I knew, from my years of experience watching what happens when a person leaves the Sea Org, or “blows” in their parlance, that they would be on my tail.
I had two things going for me at the time:
- I was in a car that they wouldn’t recognize, since it was a rental. Well, I shouldn’t say that, because they’d probably already contacted Enterprise to find out what car I’d rented. Not kidding.
- They knew where my parents lived, and they knew where my younger brother and his family lived—both in Lakeland. But they didn’t know that my OLDER brother had stayed at the Lakeland Holiday Inn the night before.
My hope was that I’d left early enough so that I could reach Lakeland before they caught up with me.
My other hope was that my older brother and sister-in-law were still at the Holiday Inn.
You see, my brother Al was an over-the-road trucker at the time, and I knew he was due to head out that day.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God, what if he isn’t there anymore?” I knew that if I tried to go my family’s homes, the Scientology “blow team” would catch up with me and try to force me to go back.
Would they have physically forced me? I don’t think so. But they would have definitely tried to coerce me emotionally—often a much stronger pull, particularly when you’ve been in a cult for almost 20 years.
Anyhoo, I drove like a bat out of hell, straight to the Holiday Inn…
Only to find that Al’s pickup truck wasn’t there anymore.
NOOOOOOOO! What now? I pulled myself together and decided to go up to the room that they were in the night before, just in case they were still there. Oh please…
I knocked on the door. My sister-in-law Lynn opened it, and said, “What are you doing here?”
I broke down in tears. “I left.”
She grabbed me and pulled me into the hotel room.
“I’m on the phone with Al,” she said. “He wants to talk to you.”
She handed me the phone.
“Hi sweetie. You left?”
“OK, then. You’re coming with me.”
It took a second to register. He was heading out across the country for a couple of weeks, and he would set up everything so that I could travel with him.
If I had had any doubts that this was the right decision before, they had just flown out the window.
Lynn spoke with him for a few more minutes. My nephews, teenagers at the time, were there as well. They were worried about me but happy to see me. I told them that everything was fine now, even if I didn’t believe that myself.
Lynn was truly an angel. She took me to Walmart and bought me some clothes, some toiletries and a few books and videos for the trip. Having just those few things, given freely and out of love, was a strange—and wonderful—experience.
We went back to my younger brother Howard’s house to wait until we got the call from Al that everything was ready. I didn’t want to stay there, and I repeatedly told Lynn that they would be arriving any minute to try to get me to go back.
“I think we’re okay,” she kept saying. I, on the other hand, kept insisting that we leave. She thought I was being paranoid but she finally relented and we headed out to meet up with Al.
Once we got there and I got in the truck, Lynn got a phone call. It was my younger brother, Howard, telling her that someone from Scientology was at the house.
“You weren’t kidding!” she said. Of course I wasn’t.
As it turned out, they stayed parked in front of either my brother’s house or my parents’ house for more than a week, hoping that I’d show up.
I didn’t. I was traveling the country in a big rig.
The first few days, all I did was sleep, eat, and stare out the window. I didn’t talk much. I was just trying to decompress and take it all in.
I also looked behind us every once in a while, making sure someone wasn’t following us. I know, it sounds crazy, but I had good reason to be nervous. I knew a lot, I’d seen a lot, and I could say a lot if I chose to. They certainly wouldn’t want me to speak about what I’d experienced.
The days went like this: We’d drive for maybe 10 hours, then stop for the night at a rest stop. Al would sleep in the back of the cab and I’d lay across the front seats, trying to get some rest. Then in the morning, Al would get up and start driving, and I’d go in the back and sleep for a few hours.
It was a simple routine, but looking back on it now, I truly feel that being away from everything was the best thing I could have done. I was able to clear my head and just BE.
Well, except for the time, about a week into the trip, that Al’s cellphone rang. It was someone calling from Flag. They’d put one of my closest friends on the phone who wanted to talk to me. Of course they did—they use anyone they can, any way they can, to achieve their ends.
Al told her that he was an over-the-road trucker, that he didn’t know where I was, and asked how in the hell they got his number. They hung up at that point.
He told me who had called, and that she had asked me to call her because she was worried about me and missed me. I just shook my head. I knew better.
Al was incredulous that they’d managed to track him down. I wasn’t.
That was the last time we heard from anyone, and I tried to enjoy the rest of the cross-country trip. I discovered the joy of truck stop diners, the thrill of watching the sun rise in a different state each day, and the not-so-fun truck stop shower area.
Most of all, when I think about that trip, I think about my family. They freely opened their hearts to me after I’d spent nearly two decades completely ignoring them. I can’t imagine what those first few weeks would have been like without their love and support to keep me strong.
Next installment: My Exit, Phase III: Recovery Begins…