OK, so I escaped from Scientology and the Sea Organization. NOW WHAT?
What was I supposed to do? Not only had I left the only life I’d known for so many years, I’d also left my entire world view behind, as well as all my friends.
But I was lucky. I had one thing that a lot of those who escape Scientology don’t have: My family.
Once I arrived back from my whirlwind trip across the country in my brother’s big rig, I needed a place to stay. That was a no-brainer. Mom and Dad were so happy to have me back in their lives, that they wouldn’t let me stay anywhere else (not that I could have anyway, with no money and all).
Understand, my parents were in their 80s at the time, so it wasn’t a typical “older child with aging parents” scenario. Nonetheless, they provided everything I would need to feel safe and comfortable.
However, I wasn’t feeling safe. Or comfortable. I was freaking out. I had just come out of a situation where every minute of every day was a demand to PRODUCE, PRODUCE, PRODUCE. There was NO downtime. NO time to rest at all. It was a crazy, fast-paced world of having to do something productive every minute of every day.
Naturally, having come from that, it was hard for me to just relax.
But my mom, as is her wont, said wise words: “You’re not allowed to look for a job right now. All I want you to do is catch up on sleep, eat, read, and relax. We’ll take care of you for the time being. We haven’t been able to help you all these years, so let us do it now.”
So that’s what I did. I ate, slept, read, watched TV, saw movies, and did nothing “productive”. It was really foreign to me, but I liked it.
It was like a whole new world had opened up to me. The first time I spent an afternoon walking around an outdoor shopping mall—WITH NOWHERE ELSE TO GO AND NO TIME LIMIT—was a revelation. I was FREE! Which is hilarious now that I write it, because of course, Scientology is supposedly all about achieving “total freedom”. Right.
Once I was rested up, it was time for me to do something with my days. So I started looking for work.
My foray into freelance work was great—until it wasn’t.
I decided the easiest way to get money flowing was to start doing freelance design work. I needed a computer for this, so my parents went into their savings and bought me an iMac. Did I mention I was blessed with the greatest parents in the history of the world?
Then I needed a client, but didn’t know anyone. The easiest thing was to connect up with an old friend from the Sea Org at Flag, who used to be one of my best friends. She had left the Sea Org before I did, but was still an active Scientologist. She had “routed out” the “right way”, since her entire family were Scientologists and she didn’t want to risk being disconnected from them.
Her parents owned a company and I knew if I contacted her that I could get some freelance design work. Of course I didn’t let her know that I’d “blown”, because if I had, she wouldn’t—or actually couldn’t—have spoken to me. So I left that part out and just told her I was “out now.” She assumed I’d done the standard routing-out procedure, and was thrilled to hear from me. She knew what I was capable of, so immediately had work for me to do. I probably worked for her for three years off and on, and she was very happy with my work—until someone spilled the beans that I was an SP, or Suppressive Person, because I’d “blown” the Sea Org. At least I assume that’s what happened because one day I just stopped hearing from her, and she never returned an email or call again. Just cut things off completely. I’m sad about it, but more for her than for me. It’s a rough position to be in, because I can’t know what it would be like to risk losing my family forever, just for speaking to someone who’s persona non grata.
Fortunately, I was gainfully employed at the time at a part-time job managing a coffee shop. Here’s how that came about:
My first “real job” outside of Scientology! I did it!
I wanted to get a “real job”, i.e. 9-to-5, like “normal” people, so I put together a resume. However, I didn’t have a clue what to write about my work experience. Having no information available at the time for ex-cult members trying to get a job, I just winged it. I put down that I had been the Marketing Director for the Church of Scientology International.
You can imagine how well that went over! I can laugh about it now, but man, it was a tough time for me.
So I began to do a little research online. This was 2007, so it wasn’t like there was a whole lot of information out there yet. But as I started to look, I realized that there were ex-Scientologist message boards out there. So I went through them and found that my old friend from marketing at the Int Base, Jeff Hawkins, was out and about. I was so excited to speak to someone who I’d known from our days in marketing! I reached out to him, and we started talking regularly.
From Jeff, I learned how to write a resume based on experience, but not focusing on exactly where I’d gained that experience. It worked! I got my first job as a part-time salesperson at Bath & Body Works for the holiday season, this was just a couple of months after I’d left Scientology, so I was pretty excited that someone would hire me.
A month later, I got another job at Starbucks, as a Shift Supervisor. Plus, I had started volunteering a few times a week at Lakeland Regional Medical Center in their gift shop. My mom had told me to volunteer at the hospital as a way to get to know people and the community. Boy, did that ever work out, as you’ll soon see.
After volunteering for a few months, the Director of Retail Services asked me if I wanted to run the coffee shops in the hospital. What? Another paying gig? Yes please!
Pretty soon, I was doing that close to full-time, so I had to give up my Starbucks gig and my Bath & Body Works gig. But I’ll always be grateful to the people who gave me a chance—they helped me in ways they’ll never know.
So there I was, working at Starbucks, when my life changed in the most wonderful way possible. I met Tom Hill.
He walked up one day, bought a hazelnut latte, and the rest is history. We’ve been married for more than seven years now, and we have a wonderful life together. I’ll have to tell that story in more detail in another blog post, because it’s definitely worthy of one.
Looking back at all of this, it’s amazing how things align in life when you make the right decision for yourself. In my case, it was the decision to be free and live again.
After I met Tom, everything just snowballed. I worked at the hospital for a few years, then got a job at Chico’s, became a successful manager, was recruited by Dressbarn, have had some great, successful years there, and now I’m able to focus on my dream of writing full-time.
There IS life after Scientology. A GREAT life.
To look at where I am now and realize how far I’ve come in just 12 years, I’m incredibly grateful. It just shows that no matter how bad the situation, you can survive it. More than that, you can THRIVE.
Luckily, I had a soft place to land, with my wonderful family. Others aren’t so lucky. I know of many stories where people have left Scientology and have had nowhere to go, and nobody to help them.
Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. For anyone out there who is thinking of leaving Scientology, just know that there is a wonderful life waiting for you on the other side. And if you need help after you leave, you now have something I didn’t have: The Aftermath Foundation. Their entire purpose is to help those who want to leave Scientology and the Sea Org, but have no system of support to rely on. They provide that support.
Here’s a link to their website: AFTERMATH FOUNDATION
I know, I know, Scientologists “in good standing” aren’t supposed to read anything that would be negative towards Scientology. But I know there are those of you who are out there, looking. Please know that we are here for you, that we care, and that we want to help.
There IS a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s bright, it’s beautiful, and it’s glorious. I promise.