August 29, 1989
The following story of my life in Scientology is true. And it is not out of the ordinary. Many people I knew personally who were also in Scientology suffered similar outrages as mine -- some worse.
I was in Scientology for about four years. I was exposed to it in Connecticut. Recently out of college, with no career, and just having split from my long-time boyfriend, I was on my own and not very happy with my life. The Scientologists there appeared to be happy and fulfilled. They were also very friendly to me. At their Scientology Center, or Mission, as they are called, they gave me a mild sample of their counseling technique, called 'auditing', and I was hooked. It was a simple recall process, and what I remembered through it was my father's laughter -- something I hadn't heard since he died 15 years earlier. Somehow, this emotional experience convinced me that Scientology had all the answers to life.
The group in Connecticut split up shortly after I was exposed to it, and I made my way to Ithaca, NY, just as aimless and friendless as I was in Connecticut. Eventually I looked around for a Scientology group at nearby Cornell University, and was referred to one in Elmira, 45 minutes away. I soon moved there. It was in this Elmira group where I became deeply involved with the inner workings of Scientology's beliefs and its social structure. I think it's accurate to say that Scientology makes itself out to be a "helping" group, which attracts many people. Those who stay get sucked in by a multitude of mind control techniques that break down a person's free will. Of course the bottom line is you hand over your own power and believe that Scientology has the key to existence. And it quickly becomes a game of victims and masters, all down the line -- from the "Mission holder" (like the Executive Director) to the student. Scientology is a system of living that allows the fear and evil in people to rise to the surface and truly shine! Everyone in it becomes a mini-L. Ron Hubbard (maniacal founder of Scientology), with perverse power and money games mixed up with your psychological survival.
Our group in Elmira followed Hubbard's precisely laid-out game plan. It was pure paranoia. According to Scientology, you were either being suppressed, or worse, you were a suppressor. Every bad thing that happened to you happened because you had "postulated" it some time in the past. If your life in Scientology became too tough at times, the staff of our 'Mission' said you were trying to get sympathy by playing the 'victim'. Hubbard had a complete system of "ethics" set up, where if you stepped out of the arbitrary line, you had to pay -- one way or another.
"Ethics" was used to keep you in the group and keep you in line. The worst punishment to a brain-washed Scientologist is the threat of excommunication. So when the leader of our Scientology Mission said 'donate', we said How much? And it wasn't that simple. Money was obtained through the 'sale' of Scientology courses and counseling, at exorbitant fees. And it was never good enough to buy one course at a time, or as you needed it -- No-o-o. We were constantly being pushed to buy more and more -- with all the pressure of a professional sales pitch.
All told, I spent $60,000 on Scientology -- all of it pressured out of me. About $10,000 came from an insurance settlement, and the remaining $50,000 came from lending institutions. We were pressured to go to the banks and get the money all at once -- right then and there -- rather than make time payments to Scientology. Of course we were encouraged to lie to the loan officers as to the purpose of the loan, because they soon got wise to seeing 'Scientology courses' on the loan application.
At least nine people from the Elmira Mission have gone bankrupt or Chapter 13. Most of us worked several jobs at once to pay for the debt. I had a full time job from 8:30 to 4:30, then I would work as a waitress from 5 pm to closing. Any time off was spent at the Mission studying, counseling, passing out literature, trying to bring people in, being punished, going to the banks, etc. I had no life of my own outside of work and Scientology. When my mounting bills outstripped my income, I quit waitressing and joined a sales crew (still holding down my 9 to 5 job), where a lot of other Scientologists also worked to make more money. We traveled approximately four hours a day to urban areas to sell discount books door to door. So I worked approximately 70 hours a week.
All this still wasn't enough to cover my bills, as I was repeatedly being sent back to the banks to get more Scientology money. So my husband, who was a Scientology staff member (earning slave wages) would take a second job to help out, even though this was frowned upon by Mission staff. One morning he had gone out to cut lumber (without a partner), and he didn't show up for his Scientology job. They called me, and I was terrified that he might be lying dead under a fallen tree, or something. Just as I was leaving to search for him at his remote work site, in tears, I called the Mission just to check, and "Well, yes, he's here..." No one bothered to call me, and as he was being grilled later concerning his tardiness that day, the "ethics officers" told him he was lying about his watch stopping, and that I, his wife, was the real reason he screwed up. I was suppressing him by not being able to pay off my bills, and making him work outside the Mission. (His watch really had stopped.)
Another pressure point they used to keep people in line was their spouses. Scientology constantly threatened to split up couples. Since both parties of most couples were Scientologists, if either "messed up" (e.g., couldn't come up with more money, failed in their studies, etc.), it could threaten the marriage. If either one were excommunicated, then the other wasn't allowed to see the "fallen" one, or else both parties were kicked out. I was always being subtly threatened that if I didn't do what they said, I could lose my husband.
We were also discouraged from having children, which would take time and money away from Scientology. One time the Mission holder's wife jumped on me for not being on the pill (99% success rate). My husband was also told that I wouldn't make a fit mother yet. (Not until I had completed all my Scientology.) By the way, whenever we went home to our families for a visit (usually only once a year, at Christmas or Thanksgiving), we were watched suspiciously on our return for any signs of being polluted by the outside world.
I could go on and on. Paradoxically, the deeper I got into Scientology, the happier I told myself I was (especially after all I had invested), but the truth was that I was living in pure hell, and I could have admitted it then and there if I thought it was safe enough to do so. As I was breaking out of the cult, and deprogramming, it was hard in that I had to shake off the feelings of self-doubt, guilt and shame that it had instilled in me, and the fear that Scientology still had some mysterious voodoo power and could come and get me if it wanted to. I am still paying off the loans I took out for Scientology. I still have nightmares about those years. Bit by bit I am rebuilding my life and gradually planning a future.