Author Topic: Over Seven Years Later…  (Read 299 times)

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Disillusioned

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Over Seven Years Later…
« on: December 16, 2019, 09:34:28 PM »
+4
I thought it would be nice to check in with ya’ll and post an update. I cannot stress what a relief it is to have this experience so far behind me now. It took several years, but I’m no longer preoccupied with Molyneux, FDR, and cults.

It is honestly hard to describe how difficult the process of recovery has been, which is likely part of the reason it’s taken me so long to post this update. Coming out of a cult has a lot of parallels of going in to a cult. It happens over time, gradually, and a lot of it is unconscious.

I was what is called a walkaway, which means that I left the cult without realizing that I was brainwashed. This is very common, and I think partially explains why so many people drift in and out of cults. I was in this state for somewhere between one and two years.

Separating myself from the group was a big step toward realizing what happened to me, but I didn’t see the whole picture yet. I felt like I was just moving on from a group that no longer was serving me. One of the promises of FDR was that following their principles would lead to a happy life. I realized the people in that group were not any happier or smarter or better than I was, so I stopped looking to them for answers.

Because the group had already isolated me, I was left with almost zero social support. The group caused me to reject my friends, family, and society as a whole. I was not literally on my own, because somehow my marriage survived joining and walking away from a cult.

I also kept in touch with a handful of people from the group who were either tolerant or ignorant of my budding dissent (At that point, I wasn’t critical of the group or the doctrine. I wasn’t even really critical of Molyneux, so dissent is a strong word here.), or who were walkaways or critics themselves. I was unemployed, trying to make money freelance copywriting online, but my partner managed to keep a job and keep us afloat.

I became more and more depressed in that period of time. I even started having symptoms of agoraphobia. I had social phobias from the group that caused me to assume the worst in everyone I encountered. Because I was assuming the worst of everyone around me, it made me think that everyone who saw me was thinking similar bad/paranoid thoughts.

All of this escalated and at some point I had to face my unhappiness. So, I finally asked myself the question: If I knew everything I know now, would I have still joined FDR and defoo’d? If nothing else, at that point, I had to admit that my goal in defooing had failed.

The whole time I struggled with guilt and missing my family and friends. I questioned my choices many times, and in some ways it was a huge relief to be able to take all of those concerns seriously, finally. I was very excited to reconnect with family and friends, and even validate a lot of the red flags and concerns that I had along the way.

Of course, all of that comes with so much fear and adjustment and grief. My stepdad and childhood pet died, and my only living grandparent’s, as well as a couple of close family friends’, quality of life had severely diminished while I was away. I am so grateful for the time I had left with them when I did come back, but I’m very sad that they were often in so much pain.

I decided to give myself a week to make sure that I wasn’t making another life changing decision impulsively. I was terrified and excited. I had to admit that I made a huge mistake that caused everyone a lot of pain. But I also had the ability to relieve a lot of that pain and suffering. I also had to somehow explain the last four years to myself and to them.

And I had to let my partner know that I was not just walking away from FDR, but now criticizing and questioning the doctrine of the group, along with our decision to defoo. And I wanted to reintroduce into our lives a bunch of people who we decided were too toxic and abusive to be around and reason with. Friggin’ yikes.

I happen to be married to an absolute gem of a human, and although she didn’t feel the same way, she wanted me to do whatever I wanted or needed to be happy. When I brought up the cult concerns, and it was clear that we were not on the same page, I believed, and expressed that our relationship was strong enough to endure these changes. We had a lot of confidence in our communication skills and love and respect for each other, but we knew it was going to be challenging.

During that week, I did a lot of journaling and research on cults and Molyneux and FDR. I reached out to other people I knew who had reconnected with their families, and I was referred to this website and forum. I remember it clicking pretty quickly and permanently that I had been in a cult. However, I was now left with the tasks of figuring out how the hell that happened to me, try to separate out any good I could take away from the absolute tragedy, apologize and try to explain to my loved ones what happened, figure out how to arm myself from this ever happening again, regain trust in myself and others, and literally rebuild my identity and entire life. Hello? No wonder it took so long.

After the week was up, I bit the bullet and contacted my family. They were all thrilled to hear from me. I apologized, and tried to summarize everything. I was welcomed back with open arms, and they had way fewer questions than I expected. This was a big relief because I didn’t have many answers, but it also left me alone to ask and answer all my own questions.

I’m super lucky and grateful to everyone in my family for all of their support and understanding through the process, but I have never been more isolated in some ways during that time. I was truly on my own to figure out the world and who I was. I now find incredible security and strength in this knowledge, but in the early days, I can’t even describe how lost, isolated, and afraid I was.

I lost trust in myself, and my ability to judge reality and others. I had to admit to myself that I was fully conned, and that meant I was connable. Educating myself helped me understand how it happened, but it didn’t help the stress-induced chronic illness and severe depression. I became preoccupied with cults and Molyneux (again).

I also wanted to start rebuilding my life, and came to realize I didn’t want to be an ancap entrepreneur martyr starving artist, and get a regular job again. But now I had a big gap in my resume, and the few interviews I did get didn’t go especially well due to above-mentioned life crisis. I didn’t want to tell people (especially prospective employers) that I was in a cult. That whole stigma was very difficult to cope with. All the rejection was also adding to my depression, and elongating the resume gap.

Although my wife and I were doing our best to be patient, open, respectful, and all that good stuff, our conversations about cults and our shared history were putting a massive strain on our relationship. I questioned if she had a role to play in my indoctrination. I was angry that when I had doubts, and even used the word cult, and outlined reasons that I think FDR fits the criteria of a cult, and brought these doubts to her, I relied on her judgment over my own. I did this a number of times.

This was at the heart of my vulnerability, I think, and how I ended up in the cult. There are questions in life that I don’t have the answers to. When someone I trusted and admired said they had those answers (which happened to be emotionally validating to a lot of my preexisting beliefs and complaints about the world), I wanted to believe it more than almost anything else. When I thought I found holes in the doctrine, my own wife, and all my new friends were happy to confidently explain away those questions and concerns. When I was younger and dependent on group-think, I would assume I was in the wrong and accept what they were telling me.

As painful as all of this was, I believed that I was going to get through the other side stronger. I realized that as an adult, I was allowed to stand my ground and disagree. I’m not sure exactly how to articulate this, but I felt incredibly alone when it hit me that the only person who could ever represent me (my thoughts and beliefs) is me. I had to sort of relearn how to have a disagreement with my wife and everyone else (as was sometimes demonstrated on this forum ;)).

After some time, she validated that I did accurately identify FDR as a cult, but because they happened so long ago, neither of us could exactly recall how the conversation went and why we both ended up disregarding those concerns. She also maintains that she had a different experience than me, which has always been difficult to reconcile, but I give her the benefit of the doubt here. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, and it’s not that relevant to me as long as my experience isn’t denied.

My dad helped me get a few months of therapy which was helpful, although the therapist was not very educated about cults or cult survivors. One big lesson I got from her was that I needed to take a break from cult awareness activism. She made a great analogy comparing me to a wounded warrior who won’t stop fighting long enough to heal. I needed to get off the battlefield for a while.

And at last, I got a job. The routine and distraction was good for me. It helped keep my mind focused on something other than what had happened to me. I think it also helped that my boss and coworker didn’t know for a while, so for several hours a day, it was as if I was a normal person. Taking a break from cult-related stuff also helped my marriage. We could focus our conversation and energy on stuff we enjoyed together and agreed on.

Then I got the opportunity to participate in a Showtime docuseries to tell my story. My whole family, except my wife, agreed to be on camera and talk about our run-in with Freedomain Radio and Stefan Molyneux. Enough time passed to where I felt comfortable discussing what happened, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to help educate others. I hoped that I could show people that this kind of thing can happen to normal, intelligent people. I’m pretty happy with how it came out, but wish it could have been longer and more in-depth. It’s very sad and difficult for me to watch. I also cringe now being associated so publicly with Molyneux considering what the group has advocated since I left.

Tension between my wife and I escalated to the point where we almost separated. This was a horrible time, but ultimately we have ended up in a much better place. I hadn’t fully realized how much my fear and resentment was affecting our relationship until it was almost too late. I had to make a decision if I wanted to make a true effort to trust again or if it would be better to move on. I decided to trust that she wouldn’t try to override my perspective, and that if she did, I had to trust that I would be able to hold my own. So far, so good.

Life is pretty good now. I have a therapist and take antidepressants, which have made a huge difference in my life. I almost said life is stable, but that would be an outright lie. Nothing normal seems to happen to me. I forgot to mention in here that after I got health insurance with my job, I found out I have a large tumor in my face. Fortunately, it’s not cancer, and it’s not growing, so it can stay put as long as it doesn’t cause me any problems, like cutting off my airway. They don’t want to cut it out because it’s not causing any serious problems, and there’s an 80% chance that removing it would damage my facial nerves and cause problems with my speech.

Earlier this year, my wife came out as transgender. Although the transition is very stressful, overall it has been a wonderful thing for both of us. I’ve seen a massive difference in her happiness. Her insomnia immediately went in remission when she started hormone therapy. I always suspected something was going on with her, but I assumed it was depression. Interestingly, I recall reading that the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be recruited into a cult than cisgender and heterosexual people. I can think of three people I knew from FDR who have come out as transgender.

I just added the last two things because it’s actually cool in a way that the cult experience is now just one of a handful of weird things that I’ve been through in the last 15 or so years. I’m sure I will encounter more over the next 15 and beyond.

I would consider myself a modern liberal, and I’m fairly involved with politics now, as I was before joining the cult. I’m still an atheist, and I’m now more convinced by determinist arguments. I’m very happy to have learned so much about a lot of different philosophical and political topics that I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to, even if it was through a cult.

In my ideal world, I’d be an anarchist still, but I’ve come to see that as unrealistic and an oversimplified view of the world. I’m much more humble in my opinions, I hope. I truly understand how narrow my perspective is in this huge world. I also understand how flawed our minds and memories can be.

It has been so wild to watch Molyneux’s transition from freemarket capitalist to trumper and all the other unexpected twists and turns he made over the years. I saw clips of him in the Roger Stone Netflix documentary. It’s been such a nightmare coming out of this cult, and then watching half of the U.S. be indoctrinated by Trump with Molyneux’s help. I found that very triggering, and still do at times.

I’ve been able to hold down my full-time account manager job for over five years now. My wife found a great full-time creative job photo editing, and is now running her whole department after three years there. We also have separate and shared friends. An old friend from high school brought me into a girls night group that meets about once a month that really made a huge difference in my life. I also recently started playing dungeons and dragons with her and another group of awesome people regularly.

My relationship with my family is really good. My brother and I are very close and get along great. My dad can get on my dang nerves, but our boundaries are much better than they used to be and we both put effort in to the relationship and understanding and being patient with each other. He brought me on a trip to Washington to visit my cousin and aunt who moved up there. We spent almost a week together and only got in a couple minor little spats. It was a great time and we got to talk a lot.

My brother, dad, my brother’s wife, and I all went on a week-long trip together to Hawaii. That was also really nice. There was one fight the first travel day, which I mostly blame on stress, and other than that, we all had a great time together. We also started a tradition of going to brunch together on Christmas Day the year I came back, and we’ve done it every year since. It’s something we all really look forward to.

My relationship with my mom is also good. We’re both very prone to just appreciate and focus on the good, and maybe sweep the uncomfortable stuff under the rug. Our differences are mostly because of religious beliefs, and that is very touchy territory. When my wife came out as transgender, it reintroduced a lot of old issues we had from before Molyneux complicated things.

We have a regular monthly family game day and meal together, and we always have a great time. We also enjoy ballet and theatre together, and we spend pretty much every holiday together. We have our differences, and I do my best to educate as much as I can. However, I appreciate more than ever that our time together is precious so I accept her where she is, and celebrate any steps she makes in the right direction.

My wife speaks to my family and hers, but is not close to any of them. She keeps her distance. It makes me sad, but it’s a compromise I’m willing to make. She has very high standards for people. She made an effort to be around them early on, didn’t enjoy it, and hasn’t made much of an effort since. I wish everyone would get along, but I’m happy that my life is pretty full of really great people who love and appreciate me.

I think that just about covers it. If you read all of that, thank you. Thank you, Q.E., and everyone here who has contributed to this forum over the years. I hope all of you are doing well and have heard back from your loved ones, or will soon.

TLDR; It gets better, but it takes a really long time. Also, life is really weird.
“I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
― Richard Feynman

Elucidated

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Re: Over Seven Years Later…
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2019, 12:28:42 PM »
+3
Wow - thanks so much for sharing your story. I hope your life continues to go from strength to strength.

Marc Moïni

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Re: Over Seven Years Later…
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2019, 10:22:50 AM »
+1
Thanks for sharing your story, it helps others protect themselves from those who exploit people's vulnerabilities.
I'm glad you have found enough peace to look back at your path, and gain perspective, and then also make changes that bring you more satisfaction in life.
I wish you more and more peace and love in the years to come :)
lessons from my journey out of confusion and despair:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEy_JSW_saSvsiG6wFnB8DeYUzT26-bA6

Disillusioned

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Re: Over Seven Years Later…
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2019, 04:17:07 PM »
0
Wow - thanks so much for sharing your story. I hope your life continues to go from strength to strength.

Thank you. <3
“I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
― Richard Feynman

Disillusioned

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Re: Over Seven Years Later…
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2019, 04:17:43 PM »
0
Thanks for sharing your story, it helps others protect themselves from those who exploit people's vulnerabilities.
I'm glad you have found enough peace to look back at your path, and gain perspective, and then also make changes that bring you more satisfaction in life.
I wish you more and more peace and love in the years to come :)

Thanks so much, Marc. :)
“I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
― Richard Feynman