Keep finding ways to empower yourself. Educate yourself and see how strong your mind is. Speak your truth and validate your integrity.
When I could no longer deny the doubts I felt about the teachings, I went to the elders of the group with a set of questions. I knew that they would answer them using the Bible according to their interpretation. Instead of accepting their answers as usual, I decided to do my own research. I never stopped asking questions and educating myself. Continuing to educate myself and going beyond the books and publications of the group helped make me feel stronger. In fact, I was. For the first time, I was able to stand on my own two feet with knowledge that I had acquired on my own, which had much more substance than just accepting what I had been told.
Ask questions. Educate yourself. At first you may feel overwhelmed with the information you find, but gradually you will feel stronger in making your own choices about the information you consume.
Some people leaving a high control group feel more comfortable leaving quietly. They fear losing relationships with family and friends, so they may choose to move to another location and quietly begin their lives anew. For me, coming clean was very helpful. I decided to tell my family that I no longer believed the teachings of the group.
This was very hard. It resulted in a large rift in my family. However, it was important to me because it helped me begin my life with a renewed sense of honesty and integrity. I had grown accustomed to not telling the truth about my feelings and beliefs because I feared what people in the group would think of me. Allowing myself to speak my truth to my closest family was hard, but it provided me with the clean start I needed.
Nurturing Friendships and Loving Myself
Because I had a job and was in college when I left the group, I knew plenty of people who were not members of the organization I left. However, because of restrictions on friendships with people who are not members, I was not close with any of them. I knew I had to make deeper friendships.
I started with a small group of people who seemed trustworthy and made an effort to spend time with them, meeting for meals, and going to campus events together. I went out of my way to make sure our paths crossed so that these friendships could blossom, and they did. I was often afraid that they would not accept me because I felt young and naïve compared to them. But I learned that accepting myself is more important than whether others accept me. The more I loved myself, the more my new friendships bloomed.
After being out of the group for years, it was clear to me that I needed someone to talk to about what I had been through. An unbiased, neutral listening ear helped to undo messages I learned that told me I was a bad person for no longer being a part of the group.
Being in therapy helped me to discover that I am a good person, and that I am worthy of success and happiness. It also helped me learn to distinguish my own voice from the voice of the group, which made me feel stronger about my decision making skills, and as a person who is capable of making a valuable contribution to the world.
Listening to the Stories of Others
When I first left the group, I was fearful of hearing stories of other people who had left. I thought their stories would make me feel bitter and angry. I was afraid of “being one of them.” So I isolated myself from others who had been in a similar situation as mine, not realizing the amount of courage and strength these people had exhibited in making this hard decision.
Joining a group of former members and learning about their journeys helped me to realize that I was not alone.
Nurture friendships with people who have a similar experience as you so you know you are not alone. In time you will feel stronger and realize you are worthy of the life you truly want.