My thirtieth birthday came and went without much fuss because everyone forgot about it. Everyone except Anton. I should have been grateful for that at least seeing that I’d forgotten his, only months before. Not having a big hoopla for your birthday when you’re an adult shouldn’t be a huge deal, but awkward, sad birthdays…
How do you escape a cult?
Not everyone sticks it out in a cult. The really honest, smart ones leave! And when they do, they become public enemy number one. The mere thought of wanting to associate with these defectors on any level is enough to send a shiver of holy terror down a cult member’s spine. It’s an unwritten code: if you leave, you are a lost soul with a one-way ticket to the dark side.
Most defectors of the cult of Alon fell into two categories:
Not cult material
Either they were simply not community material; meaning they didn’t have what it takes to live within the hallowed sanctum of Alon. And to be in close and holy proximity to like-minded servants of The Most High (i.e. God). When these people left the cult, they were sent packing. We’d give them a fond farewell and a blessing and the leaders heaved a sigh of relief as they waved them goodbye.
Basically, if you want to leave a cult then you should just not fit the mold. Don’t work hard, don’t be obedient, and don’t give the slightest hint that you may be a useful asset. Before you know it, you’ll simply be asked to leave. Cults don’t like sponges, cults like to be the sponges.
But it’s hard to go against the grain because deep down most of us aim to please and so we try our hardest and fit the mold. It’s a rare breed that’s completely at ease simply being the odd one out. Or at least that’s the case within a cult-like social structure.
Perfect cult material
Perhaps you were indeed community material. A person of many and lucrative talents. Someone with a dazzling smile and a knack for small talk. Most likely you’d have nimble fingers and a fast metabolism. In essence, you were a good-looking cult ambassador with high energy and the natural tendency to work like a dog.
So you fitted in well. You gave your life to Jesus and you prayed the most eloquent prayers. But then one day, something sets you off and you just can’t swallow the bullshit anymore and start speaking your mind.
The cult leaders would try to snuff this critical thinking out and at first, you might fall for their tactics. There would probably be a period of deep remorse and anguish on your part that you ever questioned your destiny as a member of this sacred group. You would be wracked with guilt for being a rebellious follower.
But then, your fuse would once more grow short and the whole painful process would start again until one day you would simply say, “Screw it.” and quit. Or, if you were really out of hand they might give you the boot. Either way, there’s pretty much no turning back. And good for you.
But you would know that as you walked away the entire community of brainwashed and spineless cult followers would be saying the most awful things about you. Tutting at the waste of talent and the inevitable misery that would now befall you all the remaining days of your godforsaken life.
I’ve witnessed people leaving a cult
I have seen many people leave. Or at least, I’ve borne witness to the aftermath. Because some people literally ran away in the dead of night. Either on foot, making a brave dash through the forest or by car, if that was a possibility. Some people were there one day and gone the next. Vanished, as if into thin air. When this happened, you’d only speak about it in hushed tones.
Other cult defectors bravely left in broad daylight, moving trucks laden with all traces of their existence. We’d say goodbye pretending that everything was hunky dory. But they knew we thought they were failures and the terrible thing is, they probably believed it too – at least for a time.
In rare cases, these cult escapees would keep in touch with our cult leaders. Living in a sort of middle ground of uncertainty. They’d even come to visit Alon on occasion. As if they doubted their decision. Doubted their instincts. But in retrospect, our leaders would only encourage this kind of fuzzy middle ground if there was something to be gained from fostering a relationship. Usually, it had to do with business.
Some people make a clean break from cults and others slowly pull away. But neither method is easy or painless. Escaping a cult leaves you with a sense of deep loneliness. It’s confusing and jarring and you feel as though you have stepped onto a new and unfamiliar planet as you try to assimilate to “normal life” again.
Some cult escapees make it their life’s mission to set other cult members free
These people were the devil incarnate. Evil. Possessed by the spirit of Jezebel. Satan’s servants sent to destroy the precious work of God that was Alon. Persecutors.
Their tactics were to reach out to members of Alon via SMS, email or phone calls. Any means necessary to help the blind sheep see the truth and walk away from our lives of subservience and captivity. Whatever it took to help their friends escape a cult.
Newspapers and magazines were tipped off. Articles and research journals were published. And we were on high alert. Members were told that under no uncertain terms should we entertain these lies. Stay off social media. Don’t read any articles. And don’t ever open any line of communication with these monsters.
At one point some of ‘these monsters’ were actively trying to expose the truth that Alon was an abusive religious group. A fanatical cult. ‘THEY’ got in touch with a young woman who had left Alon shortly after getting married. And together they tried to reach out to many of us in a last-ditch effort to save their friends. ‘SHE’ was a wayward woman and a Jezebel incarnate, according to our leaders.
But actually, she was a young girl who knew her own mind and who had stood up for herself. And that’s a brave thing to do when you’ve been broken.
It was ‘HER’ sms that got me into a world of trouble.: How do you escape a cult?
I don’t Regret Living in a Cult
If you’re reading this then first of all I want to say a big THANK YOU! Thanks for stopping by even if you don’t read another word of this post, I still appreciate that you took the time to check things out on this little corner of the web.
No Regrets, Sort of
But what I really wanted to say was that I DON’T REGRET MY TIME SPENT IN A CULT! I didn’t always feel this way. For a long time I felt like twenty years of my life had just disappeared into a mad vacuum of religious zeal and that I had nothing to show for it besides a marriage in tatters and my two beautiful boys. But over time these feelings have changed and now I just see it as a bizarre chunk of my journey on this planet. A necessary part of my story.
And while I have come to terms with what happened to me while living in a cult I have to live with the things that I have said and done, the people I have mistreated (and none more so than my very own children) while under the influence of a warped dogma at Alon. I recognise that there are flaws in my character that allowed me to become a tool for unkindness. I can be haughty, I can be stuck up, I can be fanatical, I can be judgmental, selfish, narrow-minded and a whole long list of other things. And all these little chinks can be infiltrated by what I choose. I can choose to ignore my flaws and blame the world for my misfortunes or I can choose to look at them and look out for them and get them patched up as best I can, but it will never be perfect and I am accepting that now. I am a magnificently flawed human being! It’s not an incredibly insightful or original revelation but it’s good to keep reminding myself of this.
And yet I am writing this weird book-like blog and I sometimes cringe because the words that spill out from my keyboard sound so pitiful – but that is only one part of it and for the sake of getting the point across it seems like this part is necessary. I was hoping I could somehow flit over that stuff and not seem like a victim but a story unfolds in its own way as if it has a life of its own and the characters spring onto the page in ways I would never have imagined, even though I have already seen the entire plot in real time. So weird but so true.
Lessons of a Lifetime
The point is though, that I am content with who I am, this person I greet every day in the mirror, this person I observe in past, spend time with in the present and try to prepare for the future. I have learned lessons that some people take whole lifetimes to learn and it’s not because I am any more special or wise than the next person but simply because I have been afforded this unique, intense chapter in my life where I had to run to keep up and I was forced to adapt or die and to learn stamina and to do hard things (as Glennon Doyle would say) and to lose all my freedom so that I understand in such a poignant way that it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you as long as you are being true to yourself. I say that it doesn’t matter but I do still care, I just know that I should care most about what I think.
Many people go through a crucible of some sort in the journey of their lives that molds and shapes their characters for the better. The process is painful and feels like it may kill you but in hindsight you can look back and say it made you stronger (cue Kelly Clarkson, baby!).