I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. Mostly, I’ve been thinking that I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for love. Not the “love bombing” I got in the cult, but real, actual, glorious LOVE.
Twelve years ago I felt trapped and hopeless. I didn’t know what my future would hold. But I knew one thing and that’s what made me take the leap into the unknown: I knew my family loved me.
It’s more frightening than you can possibly imagine to break free from 20 years of mental conditioning, 20 years living in a world you thought was real. Imagine if you found out, right now, that everything you know about life is a total lie. How easy would it be to confront that and deal with it?
Of course it wasn’t easy to leave scientology. It was a long process. I’d tried to leave two or three times before, but only halfheartedly. I was always talked into coming back. When I finally made the decision, it was thanks to one person: my mother.
My Mother’s Love
For about a year prior to my leaving, my mom would call at least once a week to check on me. That’s because I somehow had access to a phone that wasn’t set up to go automatically through the switchboard; every other phone on the base was set up that way, so all calls could be monitored. Since our marketing offices were in a completely different building than the rest of the base, the powers-that-be may not have realized that our phone was “off the grid”. Or maybe they thought it wouldn’t matter because there was “no way” I’d do something so “unethical” as to try to contact my family without their knowledge. Dummies.
I gave my mother the phone number and she’d call me on the down-low, as often as possible, when everyone else was at a meal. I never mentioned to her that I had doubts about scientology—I didn’t even realize I had doubts at the time. Our calls were light and breezy, neither one of us wanting to push too hard. At the end of every call, she’d say “I love you very much”. I’d tell her I loved her too. It seemed perfunctory at the time, but it had a profound effect on me.
With every call, I’d get more and more “homesick”. I started to remember that someone out there actually did love me. I don’t think I ever heard those words in all the years I was in the sea org. “I love you” just wasn’t said. I mean, that was namby-pamby, weakling talk.
The more my mom would call, the more layers would peel away. I started to see that what I was doing wasn’t making the world a better place. I realized that I missed feeling loved. Within a year of those calls, I was out, heading for my real home.
I’ll never be able to repay my mother for what she did for me. When I tell her now, she just brushes it off (I mean, she’s 93, so she pretty much brushes everything off). But I know she hears me, and I’m glad she knows how much I love her.
My Family’s Love
OK, so I was out of scientology—now what? I had to figure out how to rebuild my life. I had no idea what to do next. What I DID have was love and support from my family.
That love was unconditional. Never once did any of my immediate family members make me feel like I was an idiot loser who wasted 20 years of her life in a cult—I was busy enough doing that to myself. To counteract my self-loathing, they surrounded me with love, kindness, acceptance, and total joy that I was back with them.
You already know how my older brother and sister-in-law took care of me when I escaped, and my grand tour of the country in a big rig. Well, when I returned, I had my younger brother and his family there for me, as well as my sister and her family, and of course my parents. Everyone was super careful not to be overbearing, but they were there for anything I needed, even if it was just to sit around with my nephews and watch a silly movie.
That concept of being there for someone, even when they don’t know what they need from you, is the epitome of love in my book.
Over the course of a few months, as I built up my physical and emotional strength, I started to feel like I could make a go of it. It didn’t hurt that everyone in my family would tell me how smart I was, how I could do anything I set my mind to, and how this was my time to shine. Who gets lucky enough to have a family like that? This gal, that’s who.
Everything I’ve achieved in the years since has directly sprung from the base of unconditional love my family provided. I have no doubt about it. That’s some powerful stuff.
My Friends’ Love
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the love of the many, many friends I’ve made these past 10 years. I must say, I’ve done a really good job of picking loving friends. Maybe that’s because after what I’ve been through, I clearly know the difference between a kind, loving person and a person who just wants something from me.
My friends have been there through my toughest times. They’ve always supported me no matter what was going on. I’m sure, over the years, I haven’t always been the peachiest person to be around, what with all the mental gyrations I’ve been going through. You wouldn’t know it from talking to my friends, however; they’ve never been anything but wonderful to me.
When my father died a few years ago, my friends showed up at the memorial service when I honestly didn’t expect it. I mean, we hadn’t been friends for that long. I broke down when I saw them. “Well of course we’re here. That’s what friends do for each other,” was their response.
When my brother died recently, my friends were right there. I was overcome with the love and support I received—and the food, oh the food! I ate really well that week.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tell my friends how much I love them, but I hope they know how much they mean to me. Now that I’m entering a whole new phase of my life by starting my own business, it’s even more clear what a strong foundation of love can do. I feel confident that my future will be brighter than ever.
My Husband’s Love
Now for the mushy part, My true love story. My Tom.
Throughout my years in scientology, I always thought I’d eventually find someone to share my life with. Someone who could be a true partner. Someone who knew all my secrets and loved me anyway. I never found that in the sea org, though some did, and thankfully they’re out now and have wonderful lives.
Once I got out of scientology, I was so focused on getting my own life back on track that I had no interest in meeting a man, nor any intention to do so. There was no time for that, I thought.
Then one day this sweet, kind soul walked up to me in the Starbucks coffee shop at the Lakeland Regional Medical Center. “I think I’ll have a hazelnut latte,” he said. I made it, he said it was delicious, then he left. And my whole life changed from that point forward.
It’s funny how that works, right? One minute, you’re just going along living your life, and the next, everything is different.
Tom is a fairly shy individual—completely unlike me. He’s also very by-the-book and not much of a risk-taker—also, completely unlike me. Yet we just clicked.
I remember when I knew for sure he was the one. We had been dating for a few weeks, and I was still living at my parents’ house, since this was only two years after I’d left scientology and I was still in rebuilding mode. It was the first night we’d spent together (I know, Tom, TMI…) and I hadn’t called my parents to let them know I wouldn’t be home, and they knew I was seeing Tom but they hadn’t met him yet.
The next day, Tom and I were driving around in my car and my cell phone rang. It was my mom, calling to find out where I was and telling me how worried she was that I’d been kidnapped or something. She said she didn’t want to lose me again. I realized at that point how stupid I’d been—of course she would think that!
I apologized over and over, and told her I’d be home shortly. Tom asked me what was going on and I told him that my parents were worried about where I was. He had no idea about my time in scientology or any of that, but without skipping a beat, he said, “Well, then, we should go see them right now.”
If I hadn’t realized I loved him before, I knew it at that moment. So off we went to mom and dad’s house.
To preface this, I need you to know that my mom is the most undemonstrative person you will ever meet. She’s loving but not touchy-feely—particularly with someone she doesn’t know.
So Tom and I walked in the front door and I announced, “We’re here!” My mom got up from her chair, walked over to tom and THREW HER ARMS around him. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT? I was in utter shock. I couldn’t believe it.
To say the meeting went well was an understatement. I couldn’t figure out what just happened, so I asked her later when we were alone. “Mom, why were you so happy to see Tom? You’ve never met him before.” Her answer: “I prayed for him. And here he is.”
Now, as you can imagine, I’m not a very religious person based on what I’ve been through. But that was a beautiful moment of pure love, I can tell you.
The rest of the story? We moved in together a few months later, got married in 2011, and have been happy ever since. I can’t believe how lucky I am that he loves me so much, but I’ll definitely take it. He supports me in everything I want to do, and he’s always there no matter what. He’s my happily ever after in a world where there are so few of those.
Love is Everything
When you read all my posts on this blog and everything I’ve been through, I know it may seem unbelievable that I could come out of that with my head on straight. People are always telling me how strong I am. Sure, okay, I’m strong. But there’s no way I’d be this strong if it weren’t for love.
Whenever anything happens in my life these days, good or bad, I choose to look at it from the viewpoint of love, and things always work out. Love, in all its forms, is what makes us strong. Thanks to the many people in my life who love me, I’ve come to realize that love truly is the solution.
So do me a favor: Spread some love around today.
4 thoughts on “The secret to thriving after scientology: LOVE.”
Love this! I don’t know if you have read any of Brene Brown’s work but I really enjoy (ok, that isn’t exactly the right word…she makes me think and work and lean into my life). Her blog post today is also about love. Here’s the link if you’d like to read it.
It’s funny you should mention Brene Brown — her post today is EXACTLY what inspired this!
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AWESOME!! I love synchronous moments!
Well, apparently I posted twice…double the love my friend!
Anne, love this! Love you!
I don’t know if you are familiar with Brene Brown. She has written some work that has made me think, feel and be a better human being. I appreciate her work, greatly. Her blog today was also about love. Perhaps there is a message in this for me. 🙂
Here is the link if you would like to see what she had to say.