I am now forty-something and have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. My story does not end with leaving the community of my childhood, although when I left I hoped to write a new story and forget where I came from. I had hoped that by leaving my circumstances that the pain I felt deep inside of me would mysteriously disappear. I had no idea that I had been a victim of what is now being recognized as religious and spiritual abuse. All of the pain and trauma of my childhood followed me into my new life as I attempted to navigate the real world, with very little education and very few social skills.
In an attempt to fit in, and to drown the pain I felt, I abused myself through alcohol, drugs, sex and food, not recognizing that it was a form of self-abuse. I was terrified of telling anyone where I came from or what I had experienced, out of fear that I would be institutionalized. I floundered in a world I had been told my entire life to fear, in the belief that everyone in the outside world worked for the devil and existed to drag my soul into hell. After several years of living on the edge of sanity and facing daily thoughts of suicide, I was introduced to self-help books by a roommate. That began the process of what I call self-therapy and took me on a road of self-discovery. In that journey I learned what it meant to make choices for myself and how choices have consequences. I had never been allowed to make choices as a child, and I had no idea that I played any role in the direction of my life. I was simply a pawn in God’s game.
As I discovered that my choices create my reality, I began to create a life that most people would envy. I married a wonderful man, owned a successful business, traveled the world and eventually had two perfect children. Yet underlying all of the success I was never completely happy and I could not pinpoint why.
Several years ago when the economy crashed I faced what many would recognize as a mid-life crisis, and what I now lovingly call my mid-life rebirth. I lost my business and my husband lost his work. We were over a million dollars in debt because of business failure and borrowing against our home to keep the business afloat. At one point we had spent all of our savings and maxed out all of our credit cards in the fight for survival. There was a time when we had only $17 dollars remaining and had no idea where any more money would come from to feed our family. We found ourselves in the throes of bankruptcy as the only way out of our dilemma and our home was forced into foreclosure. At that same time my children were both diagnosed with learning disorders and my marriage was failing. Everything I had built for myself was crashing down around me.
In the midst of my chaos I discovered the roots of why I had never been happy and I began to rebuild my life with this new understanding. I discovered that the fear-based beliefs of my childhood religion were a greater abuse than any physical or sexual abuse I endured. Much like emotional abuse, spiritual abuse affected me in a very deep an profound way that prevented me from finding true happiness. Only worse, because unlike emotional abuse, which affected my mind and heart, spiritual abuse also caused trauma to my soul and affected inner worth.
In discovering this form of abuse I have now been able to work through it and heal it. This awareness has spawned me to become an advocate for those who have been traumatized by spiritual abuse and to speak out about the abuses that are hidden within religious dogma. Polygamy is one of those abuses that I recognize as a crime against humanity and justified by religion. This understanding has also spurred me to write books about the deception of religion and to become a documentary filmmaker with a focus on spiritual abuse and recovery. In my research I have discovered, that the pain I felt after I left my religion and my attempt to adjust to the real world, is similar to others who have left cult-like religions. Drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution, teen pregnancy, poverty and suicide are common threads in nearly every story I have come across. While I am not anti-religion, I am not afraid to say it as I see it. It is time for our religions to evolve.
I now live a life that is filled with pure joy, true fulfillment and inner bliss. This is something I wish for everyone and I believe is truly possible for anyone who seeks it.