Adventures in Recovery ~ Sending Out An SOS

Adventures in Recovery ~ Sending Out An SOS December 2, 2010

by Calulu

A few days ago I got an SOS call from work. Rosie called with that most dire of all emergencies, they were out of toilet paper. Where’s Mr. Whipple when you need him?

Since we’re an artsy bunch we’re not the most practical and we tend to run out of things or have massive fail on things practical. During my fundamentalist years I used to beat myself up internally about my lack of domestic ability and interest. Now I realize I’m simply hard wired very differently than the perfect wives and housekeepers I knew at church. And that’s okay.

Took me a long time to realize it didn’t matter a hill of beans to the universe if I was practical or impractical or if my living room was cluttered with art supplies or pristine.

Back to the tale of no tush paper. I laughed when Rosie called, picked up my purse and stopped by the local grocery store before dropping the rolls off at work. I didn’t mind at all. Answering SOS calls is something I’m good at.

But it made me think back to those days at Possum Creek Fellowship, back to my leaving. Before I left you could pick up the phone, put in a yell for help, an SOS, to a dear sister or brother and usually count on someone stepping up to meet your need. I remember once in particular when my husband had to be hospitalized suddenly I called up a friend at church and she took my kids for a few days until the crisis passed. Later people brought meals for us so I didn’t have to care for my husband and worry about cooking at the same time.

After I left I couldn’t escape the judgment and torment those same brothers and sisters felt compelled to heap on me. I knew better than to ever ask for help. And if I didn’t know better I had an encounter right after switching churches that showed me all too well that there would be no more help at all.

I’d had another in a series of asthma attacks that escalated into anaphlactic shock. I’d shoved my epipen into my thigh and high tailed it to the local ER. I was laying on that narrow gurney, getting an IV of various medications to open my air ways and a whopping dose of Ativan to turn off the panic attack. I used to get terrible panic attacks when I had more serious asthma attacks because of the adrenaline that floods your body during the attack. The hospital doctor had told me I could leave in an hour or so if my improvement continued but I would have to call someone to drive me home. I would not be allowed to drive with that much tranquilizer floating in my blood.

As I lay there gasping for breath and waiting for the tranks to take effect someone parted the curtain dividing me from the rest of the other poor sad saps stuck in the ER and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ It was Diane, someone I knew well from PCCF, roomed with on conferences, taken care of each others kids. A good friend. I asked Diane what she was doing there and she told me she was dropping off something to another church member here in the ER but was on her way home now. I asked Diane if she would give me a ride home since she had to pass my home on her way to hers. She looked at me as if I had two heads and one of those heads had Ebola and the other was riddled with Syphilis. She then told me that her husband had instructed her never to speak to me again because I was apostate. She oh so piously spouted that scripture about how believers should not be unequally yoked and departed.

Diane had seen my name on the white board in the ER listening all the patients and what curtain they lurked behind.

The staff ended up calling my teenagers to come drive their woozy momma home.

When you’re all enmeshed with your flavor of koolaid church you are taught to believe that outsiders and non-believers would not help you. They’re too busy with their own self-focused sinful pursuits to ever help a Christian brother or sister. You could only trust those in the body of Christ from your own church. No outsiders.

When I was reading Carolyn Jessop’s book, “Escape” I saw that the FLDS also teaches that outsiders cannot be trusted. She also had to learn, like myself, like many others, that’s not true, that people our churches look down upon as ‘sinful’ can be as loving and helpful as those that once helped us from inside the church.

Leaving that safety net at the church of those that will bail your biscuits out of the fire to the great unknown is one of the scariest things about leaving. You leave your entire support system, people you can talk to when you’re struggling, friends, advice givers, you name it. Most families don’t understand while you’re going through this, they think, big deal, so you left your church, if they are unbelievers. If you’re unfortunate enough to leave behind family members in the movement then you have more built in tormenters who will not help you.

Eventually you manage to make a few friends and rebuild that network of people who appreciate you for who you are, that don’t measure you by how long your hair is or how many offspring you manage to push out. They love you for you. That’s when you start to heal and realize that life outside the cult walls isn’t nearly as bad as you’d been taught.

I made the decision after I left PCCF that I would help and extend mercy whenever asked and for me that was the right decision. Helping others with no expectations or feeling pressured to do so feels pretty darn good. I now have plenty of pals I know would bring me toilet paper if I called up asking for it.

Strangely enough one of the new things happening in my life is that I’ve been contacted by many of the ladies currently leaving PCCF. The church is coming apart at the seams, it’s not splitting, it’s evaporating. They are asking, very tearfully most of the time, how you recover from the pain of leaving the only community you’ve ever known. I sigh and tell them that it’s not an easy task.

I wouldn’t wish that uncomfortable experience on anyone.

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  • Didi

    *holding back literal tears* how could someone be SO….UNChristlike. How could anyone be so mean!? Seriously, I don’t care if you are best friends or passing aquintances whether you are in the same church ot diametrically opposite religions – unless you have reason to believe this person would hurt you – YOU DONT LEAVE SOMEONE ALONE AT THE HOSPITAL IF THEY ASK YOU FOR HELP!!!!!! Oh my gosh – how….I am so so sorry that woman did such a shitty thing to you. Wow.

    I had many “shunning” experiances at my old church, but NOTHING like that – wow.

  • donna

    What do you expect from people who use terms like “equally and unequally yoked”? Are we animals? Reminds me of those work horses or oxen that are out there in the fields plowing along. There are no words as to how much I deteste these “good, pious Christians” who treat everyone outside their little circle like doo-doo. These are the same people who disguise their hatred and judgment about others by saying things like “love the sinner, hate the sin.” They might be the single reason why people leave Christianity with such disillusion and disgust.

  • I am currently part of a group of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who are helping to support others who have left the cult. The experience you describe is typical of what goes on in this organization, especially the likelihood that family members will still be in the group. Cults of this type can be spotted by a few factors from the outside and one of the biggest giveaways is the ‘us vs them’ meme, ‘Be no part of the world.’ No one considers they may leave the church one day so the love-bombing is effective and passed along. I’m pleased to hear that PCCS is disintegrating – we have hopes of the same result in Brooklyn!

    Peace and much respect to you!

  • Beth Nelson

    Thank you for posting this! I am also a member of the ex-Jehovah’s Witness groups. I posted this on one of our walls. It’s cold comfort to know other groups are going through the same thing, but as Timothy mentioned, we are hoping our voices will help expose these high control groups for what they are and bring them to a halt. Your recount is so parallel that if you just changed the religion the story would be the same. It’s funny that you mention the strangeness of the women contacting you. I too, and many others have seen this magnetism of those ostracized by loved ones and friends finding commonality and friendship by finding each other. There is almost something spiritual in that! It’s nice to meet another “apostate” who escaped the grips of a cult. You can have my TP anytime. 😉

  • I experienced the same thing when my parents were divorcing at my Southern Baptist church. Everyone who had professed to be such good Christians and my family in Christ, suddenly left me, pushed me away. I was a 13 year old struggling to deal with a difficult, nasty divorce without my support system. For three years I kept going, trying to reach out, wanting some support, and not getting any. I finally found it from a 16 year boy and his family that I met-not religious at all. They saved my life. They listened when I talked, let me come over, I even lived with them for a while when things got really bad at home, and they asked for nothing in return. I left that church. When I run into people from my old church, they act all friendly and act as if they didn’t abandon me in my moment of need. I can only return pleasantries while seething inside.

  • SporkeyO

    This kind of thing really burns me up. The Good Samaritan? Nobody’s ever heard of him? I mean, leaving out the fact that Samaritans were considered the lowest of the low and never expected to help anyone (much like those “sinners”), there’s at least THAT story in the Bible about helping people regardless of faith!

    Of course, if a person’s too busy combing the Bible for rules that the so-called sinners are breaking, I suppose someone might miss that. But really, all the other stories about helping people? Jesus’ sermon about the goats and the sheep?

    Must be some pretty thin Bibles.

  • Jenny Islander

    They replace the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Sheep and the Goats with poisonous lies such as Breaking the Lamb’s Leg. Yes, I’m sure that 99 percent of the people who teach that horrible story do so in good faith But somebody, somewhere, had to tell that lie to begin with–tell it to a congregation of people who were asking for bread and got stones. “I heard it straight from a shepherd in the Holy Land.” Jesus wept!

    Jesus is shown as a shepherd with a lamb across His shoulders because the lamb is tired and needs to have somebody else carry the weight for a while. Does anybody in QF ever allow a tired lamb to rest?

  • Margaret

    That is so heartbreaking. And so similar to what happened with our cult experience. As long as my parents were toeing the line, it was lovelovelove. And this was communal living as well. “Sharing in life”. When they started asking questions it became essentially “shut up, spawn of the devil.” Their very best friends stood up and publically shamed them in meetings, and they were kicked out with 4 kids, a car on it’s last legs, and $300.

    For the sake of oppenness, I should say here that most of you would categorize me as fundie and QF, because of my theological beliefs and the fact that I don’t use birth control, though I am not attached to any church that teaches this or into any particular “movement”.

    But this story broke my heart. It shouldn’t be. Such behavior is spiritual abuse, and I am so sorry you were treated this way. It is wrong, cultish, and a complete twisting of what we are called to be and do as Christians.