STRONG

Woman with fist in the air

What does it mean to be strong? I’ve been working it over—a lot.

Am I strong because I survived a 20-year cult experience? Because I left with nothing and rebuilt my life from scratch? Because I continue to believe in the goodness of people despite the horrors I observed?

Maybe.

I was talking to my 94-year-old mother about it the other day. She said I’ve always been strong. I never thought about it that way, but maybe I have.

People ask me the same question all the time: “How the hell could you escape a cult and be this normal?” “Normal” may be an overstatement, but I am doing pretty well. It wasn’t easy. I had to go through a mental Armageddon to come out the other side. Yet, here I am.

I’ve been thinking about how I would tell my story so that I could help you move through whatever hell you’re in the middle of. I decided the best way is to take it in snippets, to answer the questions most people ask:

How did I get suckered into a cult?

What was my childhood like that made me want to join a cult as an adult?

What was living in a cult like?

What’s my “escape story”?

How did I turn my life around in such a short time?

Well, it’s quite the tale. Picture, if you will, a middle-aged woman timidly entering what she thinks is a strange new world, only to discover that this was reality all along. That’s what happens when you step out of the Twilight Zone.

I started my journey out of the darkness on August 3, 2007. The past 13 years have been, as I said, mental Armageddon. It’s been exciting, nightmarish, delightful, intriguing, scary as shit—all of it. I’ve seen the pinnacles of joy and the deep abyss of depression. I wasn’t able to deal with all the emotions until recently.

You know those stories of people being in 20-year comas, then suddenly coming out of the coma and having to learn everything all over again? Okay, there aren’t many 20-year coma stories, I’ll grant you, but that’s what it felt like for me. I had to learn how to get a job, establish credit, buy a car, find a place to live—all those things that adults learn in their 20s. I was in a cult in my 20s, 30s, and 40s. Fun.

Free of my coma, I’ve managed to build a wonderful life. I met and married the love of my life. Sappy, I know, and seemingly impossible for a 50-year-old ex-cultie, right? But hey, a girl has some skills, apparently. Tom is my rock. He loves me no matter what craziness I throw at him. Imagine being married to me—it can’t be easy. But he handles it with unimaginable grace.

I have the best friends anyone could ask for—really. They’re supportive, loving, and a hell of a lot of fun. Some of them I knew before I got into Scientology, and they waited patiently until I came to my senses, bless them. Most of them I made after I got out of Scientology. Whoever says you can’t make new, lifelong friends in your 50s, well, I beg to differ.

I’ve travelled to Europe and across the US, having some great adventures along the way. I’ve even flown first class a few times. Yes, I DESERVE it.

I’m all about living life to its fullest, because there were years when I thought I would never do the things I’m doing now.

That’s why I’m turning my story into a book. Working title: “From Scratch: How I Rebuilt My Life From the Ground Up, and How You Can, Too.”

I’m loving writing it. I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with you. If I can help just one person move through the darkness into the light, it will be totally worth it.

Let me know if this is something you’d want to read. And if there are any other questions you have for me, post them here. I’ll make sure I cover them.

5 thoughts on “STRONG

  1. Anne I would be interested in knowing how you have been treated by “friends “ you made while in the cult. Do you have any contact at all with any of them? If you do, how do you relate to them now?

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    1. Oooh! Good question! I’ll add that to the list. The short answer is, I have great friends who have also left the cult, but as far as speaking to anyone who was my friend before and is still in now, that’s impossible. I’m considered a “suppressive person” so they can’t talk to me.

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  2. Thinking of those who have a loved one in a cult. What is the best way to respond to that loved one while in a cult? And what kind of care needs to be offered when the loved one exits the cult? What kinds of care did you need in both situations?

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    1. Great questions, Aimee. I’ll cover this for sure. What I needed were love and acceptance, and that’s exactly what I received. Trying to explain to someone why they shouldn’t be in a cult does nothing. It simply proves to them that they’re right. The only thing that I see that works is continuing to communicate even if they don’t communicate back, and continuing to love them and let them know you’re there for them. no matter what. It’s a slower process than, say, pulling them out and trying to deprogram them, but it does work. Patience is probably the most important thing for someone who has a loved one in a cult, and patience is the hardest thing.

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