Welcome to the rest of your life – it is yours and no one else’s to control. You have started on the course toward building or rebuilding your future and will soon be able to take your place in society as a strong and confident human being.
Before this can happen though, it is important to realize that this is not an immediate process. A lot of hard work and determination on your part is needed and first you must be certain just how much harm you have experienced from the cult.
This will depend on the teachings and behavior of the sect, your length of time as a member and your individual reaction to the experiences. Many former members of harmful cults suffer from on-going anger and fear issues as a result of what they have been through. Anger at the damage caused by the cult and the lost opportunities in life due to restrictions placed on them by the beliefs of the group. Also fear of the future brought about by many hours of brain-washing during cultic Church services or other ceremonies.
Ex members will try to stop fearing that “God is going to get us” but this fear has probably been so engrained that it may take some years to escape from. These problems are described in more detail in the next chapter.
As well as the issues mentioned above, you may feel very lonely and isolated as a former cult member if your friends and possibly family are still in the group. Contact is likely not to be allowed between you and them as mentioned earlier.
Here again is a vitally important place for your cult survivor support group. Members of it know how it feels and will be able to help you deal with the rollercoaster ride of emotions you are likely to experience.
If other members have left the group along with you then there is nothing wrong with trying to help each other, after all, you are dealing with the same issues. You will be able to support each other into the future as you all gain or regain the freedom Australians so greatly value.
There is a trap here though for the unwary, such a group of ex-cult members can go from being an unofficial support group to being one which breeds anger, hatred and a desire for vengeance. While such feelings are totally understandable, they will not help any of us gain the lives we want and have a basic human right to enjoy. Your group in such cases may degenerate into a hate and anger session and the opportunity for mutual support is lost. While it is helpful to talk through your experiences, preoccupation with what was done to you within the cult only causes anger and magnifies harm already caused.
Be aware that many people who leave groups think it will be really easy to bring their cult down, and in fact most of the cults around the world, by simply setting up a website and phoning a politician. Please understand the relationship between governments and cults is a tough one. No western government will tread hard on the freedom of religion. And governments have been struggling with religion since the Roman Empire(which lost).
As I look back at my own case in order to write about it, I see that I experienced some years of anger. That problem is largely behind me now but I still struggle almost every day with the fear issue.
I don’t know how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t been in WCG for all of those years and continued time wasting thinking about it isn’t at all helpful. Even if I live to say the age of 80, 31 years of cultic experience is still an enormous part of a human life. If I look at my case from purely a physical human point of view, then the bulk of my life so far has been not much more than a waste of time.
Let me share though how I have come to terms with what happened to me and how I find the strength to get out of bed each day. Over the years I have often talked with former Worldwide members like me and have seen some trying to deal with the troubles discussed above. Some have not succeeded and are no longer with us.
It is not my intention to preach any particular belief system here however I will briefly cover what helped me find a strong sense of purpose in what’s left of my life. I will never again join any religious organization however I have become a very spiritual person and look forward to participating in a meditation group every week. I have an unshakable view that there is certainly life after this human existence.
Looking at my former cultic life from this view, what’s 31 years when compared with eternity? Not much is it and in the mean time, if I can use my own experiences to help others as I am trying to do here, then it all seems worthwhile after all.
You are free now but what will you do with your freedom? It is extremely important to handle your new free life with great maturity. As stated right at the start of this book, some people become members of other cults or rejoin the one they left because they find that the new freedom is just too daunting. It is easier to let someone else tell them what to do again. Or they risk taking up alcohol or drugs after leaving a harmful cult. This occurs when people do not seek support and are not fully aware of how much damage the sect has actually caused.
Alcohol and other drugs may give short-term relief and may help you temporarily to forget the cultic life you were a part of but in the long term, they will only add to your troubles. Also such drugs make it much harder to think clearly and therefore harder to recover.
Especially in the case of second generation members, prolonged abuse of one sort or another within the cult will actually damage a person’s ability to become fully mature. In this situation, a member may leave a cult at say the age of 35 but only have the maturity of say about an 18 or 20 year old. This can result in such a person wanting to try all of the things he or she “missed out on” during all of those years in the religious group.
This could mean going to night-clubs, seeing what it is like to get drunk, or having a puff of that funny cigarette. Such experiences alone may not do much harm but without maturity, alcohol addiction or a downward spiral of drug-dependence may follow. Obviously then, the new freedom so highly treasured could be very destructive, perhaps even more than the cult itself. This is the reason then why your freedom, while being precious, must be used very, very carefully. Perhaps it is a little like water, that is, you can swim in it, go fishing or sailing on it and have a great time with it but you can also drown in it.
In my case, I had no idea at all how to use all of this sudden new freedom outside the cult and soon found out what it felt like to get rotten drunk for the first time. WCG didn’t ban alcohol in any way and in fact, alcoholism was a problem within the sect. It did of course preach that drunkenness was sinful though and I had never been seriously intoxicated until after leaving the cult.
I even tried one of those funny smelling and illegal cigarettes and was not well as a result for three days. I must have taken a much larger drag than was necessary and therefore received a huge dose.
Friends and family members may try to help you at this time in your life and accept that they are doing their best here. If though they have never been in a cult or some other brain-washing organization, then they will have no real idea what you are dealing with. Try to be understanding as they attempt to make life better for you but do not expect them to totally identify with your issues.
My friends who never had anything to do with cults have always been there for me and I have had one or two interesting chats with my extended family members about life in WCG however they can’t quite understand how strange life was for my parents and I.
People have gone on to rebuild their lives after dreadful experiences such as concentration camps, gang-rape and other horrible events. You will as well if you take the support that is out there and be determined enough to take control of your future.
Try to avoid the victim tag as a preoccupation with that status is not helpful and leads to self-pity. You are a survivor, not a victim and it is time to show yourself and those around you what you can really do now that you are gaining charge of your destiny. The cult experience will not be the defining centrality of your existence going forward – it will be only a part of your life. Your goals, your spirituality and your future will define you.