Well, a significant milestone came and went. There was no fanfare, no celebration. And that’s as it should be.
Five years ago, on April 16th, 2005, I left the Int Base, the Sea Org, and the Church of Scientology forever. With my possessions piled into my car, and a $500 check in my pocket (my “severance pay” after dedicating 35 years of my life), I headed up the California coast to find a new life.
Like any exodus from Scientology, no matter how seemingly abrupt, it was in reality a long process. It began while I was still at the Int Base. I became increasingly aware of the “cognitive dissonance” in my life. Cognitive dissonance means attempting to hold two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time, in my case, my idea of what I thought a “Scientology environment” should be like, and the nightmare world I observed around me at the Int Base. It culminated in my decision to refuse to go back on post or the go to the RPF, but to insist on offload.
My “exit” continued long after I had physically left. In those first few weeks, I still thought of myself as a loyal Church member. I fully intended to do my “A to E” and get back in the Church’s good graces. But gradually, as I decompressed, got enough sleep, went for long walks, and began tentatively exploring the internet, I started peeling off the onion layers of cognitive dissonance. After a few months, I made the decision that I would never, never go back.
By October, I was willing to start reaching out, and began posting under my own name on the XSO chat group. I began connecting to old friends, and attended an Ex-Sea Org reunion in Las Vegas. There followed, really, years of talking, writing, thinking, trying to make sense of my Scientology experience. I tried several times to write something about my experience, but my thoughts were still too chaotic, too confused.
Finally, in April 2008, fully three years after I’d left, I felt it was time. I began writing Counterfeit Dreams, and publishing it chapter by chapter as an online blog. I felt strongly that I could never tell just part of the story. I had to tell the whole story or nothing. It took me four months to complete. I was, at last, willing to tell my story, and gave my first media interview that August, to the Portland Mercury. There was a lot of anger in that interview, probably too much. But it was a start.
Sometimes I’m asked why I didn’t start speaking out immediately, as soon as I left. All I can say is, I wasn’t ready yet. As Marty told CNN, everyone leaving goes through a period of decompression, of thinking, talking, discussing, reflecting. Everyone has their own journey out of Scientology.
If I had known the life that awaited to me outside the Sea Org, I would have left many years before I did, frankly. When you’re inside, the world outside the Sea Org is painted as scary, daunting and desolate. Miscavige used to regale us with stories of people who had left and ended up homeless, or in menial, poverty-level jobs. I found out, after I left, that these stories were fabrications.
For me, I have been able to create a great life. I live in a big house on the side of a mountain, with an awesome view of downtown Portland. I have my own freelance graphic design business, a longtime dream. It brings me a good income while allowing me the freedom to set my own schedule, get enough sleep, and paint in my large art studio. I have a wonderful family (including two wonderful grandkids), a great group of friends, and plenty of time to explore both Portland’s night life and its wilderness trails. The myth of a large, hostile, aberrated and threatening world outside Scientology is just that – a myth.
And I also have time to try to help others find out that there is Life After Scientology.