As I’m editing (OK, rewriting) sections of my book, I’m taking out anecdotes that don’t really work. Instead of relinquishing them to the junk pile, I’m resurrecting them for this blog. Enjoy!
Picture it: Gilman Hot Springs, 1990-something. I was the Senior Magazine Editor for Scientology, working day and night on the latest URGENT magazine submission. This time, it’s an issue of the Freewinds magazine. What is the Freewinds, you ask? It’s only the most important ship in the universe!
Ok, not really. It’s the cruise ship where the super-highest-levels of Scientology are delivered. The ones that are supposed to make you “Cause Over Life”. Clearly they don’t, but I digress.
I’d just submitted the umpteenth version of the magazine to Miscavige for final approval. Why? Because he had to have his hands in EVERYTHING. It was the way he could “show” you how he was the “only one” who could do anything, and how you were worth nothing. That’s what sociopaths do.
Anyhoo, we had been working on the magazine day and night for a week. Every time I’d present something, Miscavige would tell me how terrible it was, what a horrible writer I was, and how he could just write it if I couldn’t.
We’d just gotten the most recent reject, and I’d been up all night working on the feature article, trying to get it right. I carefully researched and wrote it to make sure it had all the points in it that Miscavige specifically said he wanted. We printed it out, pasted it into the magazine dummy, and sent it up. And waited for the bomb to drop.
And waited. And waited. I was on pins and needles—nothing unusual, since that was an everyday occurrence—when Marketing Executive International came in (fancy title for the person in charge of all marketing in all organizations around the world).
He walked straight into my boss’ office, then called me in. As I entered, he simply said, “You’re off post.” Meaning, I was “relieved” of my Senior Magazine Editor position.
I didn’t even ask why. I knew it would be something having to do with Miscavige. I also knew that there was no fighting it: He was always right, we were always wrong.
Of course, I didn’t have to ask. I was told in detail about how my feature article was not only a piece of shit, it was SUPPRESSIVE. That’s right! I’d written something SO bad, SO evil, that putting it out would have suppressed Scientology expansion.
And more importantly, apparently I’d upset Miscavige so much, that they wanted to make sure I wasn’t around any more so he wouldn’t have to see me if he came into the marketing department.
Do I remember what I wrote? Of course not. I’m sure it was some hyperbolic nonsense. And I’d been in trouble before, lots of times. But this was different. Apparently, it was bad enough to have me sent to do hard labor.
Gerald, the Director of Inspections and Reports (the one in charge of punishment) came in to take me away. I was in a daze by this point, mostly from days of no sleep but also from not understanding what just happened. “You’re going on the decks,” he said. “I hope this will give you the opportunity to work out what you’ve done and come to your senses.”
“The decks” was a pleasant term compared to what it actually was. Gerald led me to an area away from the main buildings on the base: A little shack, behind a chain link fence, which couldn’t be seen from the main road. “You’ll be staying here for the time being,” he said.
I walked into my new “home”. It had nothing but a broken dresser and an old bed with a torn mattress, plus paper-thin walls, cracked floor, and a dingy window or two. Think Oliver Twist and you’ll have it about right. I was wearing my uniform, so Gerald said he’d have someone go to my berthing and bring me appropriate clothes for working outside, since that’s what I’d be doing for a while.
For the next month, I spent my days clearing brush and moving rocks under the watchful eye of a security guard, in the 100-degree heat of the California high desert. I ate whatever the guard would bring me after the rest of the crew had their meals. It wasn’t appetizing, but it was something.
If this sounds like I was in jail, well, it definitely felt that way. And it was all because I wrote an article that Miscavige “didn’t like.”
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention how once a day, I’d be hauled in and interrogated about my crimes. I mean, I had to have had them to have written such suppressive copy, right? The questions were of this nature:
“What are your crimes against COB (Miscavige)?”
“What are your crimes against LRH (Hubbard)?”
“What are your crimes against Scientology?”
On. And on. And on. For weeks.
If I didn’t come up with some sort of crime, I knew I’d be there forever. You know how on Dateline they’ll show hidden camera footage of forced confessions? I understand exactly how that works.
It took a few weeks, and I lost a lot of weight with all the back-breaking work, but I finally got out of jail—mostly because nobody else could put the magazines together so they had to get me back. Also because I was a good girl and didn’t make a fuss.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-off. These things happened all the time.
Is it any wonder that after I left Scientology, I couldn’t bring myself to write about anything for more than a decade? Every time I sat down at the keyboard, my hands would seize up. I’m not kidding—it’s as if they were protecting me from what I might experience if I were to write something “bad”.
After a while, though, I was able to start again. And once the floodgates opened, there was no closing them.
Now, my entire life is about writing. It’s my career. And it’s my joy.
And as a personal message to David Miscavige: You tried to tell me I couldn’t write. You tried to beat it out of me, mentally and physically. It didn’t work.
Good thing I’m not the vindictive type. But I am the honest type.
How ya like me now?