Tag Archives: cult

Forgiveness and Gratitude (and a New WOW!)

It’s been a deep dive into the topic of forgiveness these past two weeks, which has spurred reflection on some of the low-lights of my life story.

Remarkably, when I look over my shoulder, where there used to be painful stings, there are instead wellsprings of gratitude.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been WRONGED.

Yes, used and abused. Baited and switched!  Misled and taken advantage of, too.

There could be a host of sad country songs written about the girl who was 100 pounds in kindergarten, whose dad died when she was 10, who gave her all to a church cult, married a man she hardly knew, became alcohol dependent, and then left him 14 years later to enter uncharted territory.

Can you cue the wailing?

Except, all there is, for me, is gratitude.

That 100-pound little girl learned to develop more than a pretty face to survive.

My dad’s death gave me the gift of appreciating the fragility of life and the importance of saying “I love you” as if it could be the last time you see a loved one’s face or hear their voice.

The cult, while trying its darnedest to warp my faith in Spirit and destroy my trust in people, still gave me some of the best friends a girl could ever have.  They will be with me forever, as the sad and angry memories fade into nothingness.

My marriage?  We made it to Sarasota – together!  I think we are both grateful for the journey that got us here. Plus, there’s no doubt Duane Viola will be my friend for life.  He loved me and jumped through a million hoops set up by the church to help me escape.  I’ll be forever grateful for the years we were partners in life.

Finally escaping the dullness of an alcohol-soaked life and the strength it took to become truly sober led me to today’s clear-eyed focus, and a desire to live-life fully.  (I am eternally grateful that the many falls and near misses didn’t “off” me prematurely – and I am grateful for the forgiveness offered to me by many who I offended with my slurry behavior.)

And then making a break to chart a new course as a single woman at age-54?

Well, that story is being written as I type these words today.  But I think Rascal Flatts said it best:

I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through

I couldn’t see how every sign pointed straight to you
That every long lost dream lead me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms

This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
Yes it did

I think about the years I spent just passing through
I’d like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You’ve been there you understand
It’s all part of a grander plan that is coming true

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
And others who broke my heart they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know it’s true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

And now I’m just rolling home
Into my lover’s arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

That God blessed the broken road
Ooh, ooh
That led me straight to you

Yes, wounded.  But, yes, healed.  And I wouldn’t trade a thing that led me to this lovely, holy space in this life.  

Friends, I hope you can say the same.

Here’s an exhortation to take us from the word FORGIVENESS to a new word to end the month of January 2018:

May we each know with CLARITY our next step forward!

Sending you bunches of love and gratitude for the connection we share.



Share This:

Thoughts on Troublemaker: Leah Remini’s Book on Scientology

There was a difference between Leah Remini’s  20/20 interview – full of sass, humor and sarcasm –  and her later appearance on Good Morning America.

She looked like she’d been crying.  And I get it.

Even a decade after leaving a cult, I still have nightmares, flashbacks, tears and torments about my time at the church.

Except for rubbing shoulders with celebrities, I could relate to every component of her book:  Friends “reporting” on my missteps or faults “for my own good”; having every injustice performed against me twisted to somehow become MY fault; being demoted and put out to pasture in ministry for daring to ask questions; being the target of smear campaigns against my character and “spirituality” for leaving…

Oh, and keeping the ugly truths from your closest confidants and your spouse – because you don’t want THEM to question their faith or lose devotion to the church.  And trying to make sense of it all, somehow, in your mind – because leaving is simply impossible to imagine.

She tried to effect change from within and found it to be a losing proposition.  I, too, was a similar troublemaker – and nearly lost my mind in the process.

My heart goes out to Leah; her break with Scientology is still fresh.  My heart swells with joy for her, too, and her new opportunity to live life unchained by the scrutiny of a toxic faith.  Upon leaving, she likely freed up (at least) an extra 15 hours in her week that she can now use to love on her daughter and husband, enjoy a vacation, or simply do NOTHING.

Least of all, work on herself.

Oh, she eventually will. But with a whole different, happy spin on growing as a human being.  It will be an exercise in love, not in fear.

We who leave got there in the first place because we wanted to fulfill our purpose in life; we wanted to be a part of the huge master plan and live a meaningful life.  The predators jumped all over that propensity and sucked the time, finances and joy of living from us.

That terrifying line to cross; to declare “This is over.  I’m done.  I’m leaving” was way harder than quitting drinking or smoking.  Because quitting the church was labeled as quitting God and your calling – and if you quit your very purpose in life, where do you go from there?

I was touched by Leah’s mantra:  Look at Nicole Kidman.  She left and she didn’t die.  She didn’t lose her career.  She’s okay.  I can relate to this kind of self-talk; it was necessary to fight the indoctrinations that predicted doom and destruction for all who exit the fold.

I was also touched by her disarming honesty about her own faults.  An admitted loudmouth, troublemaker, rude girl – she preempted the smear campaign with her own admissions of lack.

How does such a smart-ass like her (and like me) end up getting sucked into such a thing?

The Achilles heal is often the need to feel important or special.  To matter.  To belong.  These are not crazy afflictions; they are quite common.  For Leah, she was raised in Scientology; I respect her bravery and am so glad for her chutzpah.  Who knows how many other people will be emboldened by her public decision?

What are red flags?  The two biggest indicators (in retrospect) are the inability to question and the directive to avoid all negative press or people who have left.

If something is real, can’t it withstand scrutiny?

So yes, I devoured her book and boy did it bring back memories.  I wish I could thank her in person and give her a hug.  I am rooting for her to realize her dreams; for her to flourish in her career and personal life.

Leah, the best is yet to come.



Share This: