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My sister and I were talking about what it took us to recover from our time in the SO and start building stable and meaningfull lives. Based on this and my own experiences, I put together a draft of a things from our own experiences most heavily, augmented by observations with others. I guess, over the last 5 years, I have worked with about 40 different ex SO in varying capacities.
Please review and comment on anything you see faulty or missing, you are welcome to use any of it in any way without credit if it has value to you.
Again, it is a draft, so forgive typos, repeditive comments, etc.
Safe House/Recovery support for Ex Sea Org
We have long been playing with the idea of creating a “halfway house” or some other type of support for people leaving Scientology’s sea org.
As we have ourselves spent significant portions of our lives in the Sea Org and having left with varying levels of support or the lack thereof, and then having accomplished different levels of success, there are many things we have found from both our experience and observation that are relatively common in people both leaving and routed or thrown out. These factors, depending on the way they are interpreted or embraced, can become huge assets, or huge liabilities in building ones new life.
The thing we consider most important to keep in mind with people leaving the Sea Org is that, right or wrong, they believed and bought in with their mind, heart and soul, that they were dedicating their lives to saving the future of humanity. That holds true for the vast majority of people in and out. Naturally on coming out, some tend to continue on in the same context, blaming themselves for having not lived up to the expectations, but self destructively continuing to support Scientology. The polar opposite is also common, where everything about it is rejected, the subject is hated, a feeling that ones life and family was stolen, a significant part of their lives is dedicated to thoughts of this or disseminating facts and stories that show how bad it was.
The best path might just be dead center. Realizing that there may have been some pretty screwed up things that happened, but also understanding that many personal gains were had from the experiences. Do some really serious honest self analysis and with others to start getting a working understanding of what skill sets are strong, or exceptional, and what areas need work and education, developing a plan to balance out basic essential survival skills and chart a future course in life that takes advantage of real strengths.
When leaving, we tend find ourselves deeply impacted by one or more of the following:
1. Poor physical health. This can come from any of several different factors ranging from:
• Chronic sleep deprivation, either from not having time to sleep through poor sleeping quarters with up to a dozen people sleeping in a small room, through the stress of that environment making it difficult to relax and unwind … something that can continue for years after leaving the Sea Org.
• Poor nutrition from poor quality food … often devoid of adequate fresh or live fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and oils, and good proteins. Years ago SO diet seemed to manifest more in overweight and chronically tired/fatigued people, today there are more gaunt and malnourished fatigued people, though unsure why the change. This can also include damage or stress to the adrenal and immune system from too much caffeine or sugar (cokes, coffee, candy bars, etc) being eaten to keep functioning and moving. Personally, one of my “tricks” to keep functioning when our food allocation was perhaps a dollar a day per person, was to mix up a small bowl of non dairy coffee whitener, with some sugar and a teaspoon or two of instant or ground coffee (no matter how little food we had, they always had coffee)… quite disgusting, but kept me going, who knows what I did to myself as a teenager using this as a major source of calories for months at a time.
• Poor or non existent medical care, lack of exercise, neglected or non existent dental care, back problems from sitting in poor quality (non ergonomic) chairs and work stations for 12 + hours per day, 7 days per week, for many years (may be more common with auditors and senior management).
2. Poor to non existent Financial/Logistical/Familial relationships:
• Thousands of people were recruited into the Sea Org either as teenagers, or as children of adults, many hundreds if not a thousand or more have been in for 20-30 years, or longer … it is the only life they know.
• Most have been paid no more than $50 a week for decades. When I first joined compensation was only a few hundred dollars per year.
• There is no retirement, no savings, no credit history. As “Clergy” Scientology has SO staff opt out of the Social Security program due to cost, there is nothing paid in for long term retirement. Many have never had a bank account, checking account or credit card. Some don’t know how to drive and/or have no drivers license. This seems more true as or current with phenomenally tight rains on current staff movement and incomes. Food was provided so many if not most don’t know home economics basics such as how to cost effectively grocery shop, set up a basic kitchen and food plan. Many have never bought their own car, or insurance, nor have a working knowledge of what is a good choice in vehicle for their budding new life.
• Many don’t have much street smarts, and every ex SO member I have talked to has stories about being severely or devastatingly conned after coming out … taken advantage of in jobs, sold a lemon of a car at too high a price … ripped of on the sale of something or an investment if they were lucky enough to have some money from an inheritance, etc. I have heard stories about them being buried in debt from credit cards or loan sharks with impossible, if not illegal interest rates.
• Because of the protected SO environment and policy, exSO are generally not aware of their basic human, legal, employee and civil rights. This makes them easy targets for predatory and opportunistic type people that exist in the world, both Scientologist and non.
• Because of current Scientology policies, many Sea Org members have lost the most basic foundation and support structure of our civilized world … family. If their family is still in Scientology, they are often forced to disconnect. If the family was not involved, the now exstaffer has often burned the relationships with criminally wrong “PTS” handlings, or the person themselves, feeling guilt for having deserted his family is reluctant to go back.
3. Self destructive and disempowering belief systems. Being stripped of a personal identity and sense of personal self worth.
This is perhaps the worst, most destructive and hard to recover from; the most lasting powerful way to screw a person up is mentally program themselves to continue screwing themselves up. I believe many of these messages are communicated with the express intention of making staffers afraid to leave: This can manifest itself in many beliefs that might include the following:
• The individual is nothing, the group is everything.
• Anyone leaving the Sea Org is a degraded being.
• Anyone Leaving the International base is a SP.
• Because I left, I will pull something bad in like being hit by a car or dying of cancer.
• Knowing “in your gut” that you are a screw up, something bad will happen to you, you will never amount to much, etc. which, if lodged in the subconscious, will become a self fulfilling prophecy.
• Because I couldn’t cut it in the Sea Org they only thing I will do with the rest of my life is flip burgers at McDonalds … no one else will want you. I have personally been told this and had dozens of others tell me they were given this exact line.
• In leaving Scientology I am condemning myself and future generations to damnation, denying myself and my family and perhaps humanity the only real hope mankind has of salvation.
• In various forms … Wogs (non scientologists) are all bad, you can’t trust them, they are all on psych drugs, they are all unethical, criminal, etc.
• Subtle degradation and derogatory humor at all other religions and people involved in them … essentially communicating that they are all stupid or trapped or sucked in when Scientologists are the only ones free.
• A subtle or overt belief that doctors and health care practitioners and all medications are bad.
• A subtle or overt belief that all wog education is worthless, and formal education has little to no value.
• A subtle or overt belief that LRH discovered and wrote about everything worth discovering and necessary in life, and everything else is “off source” and is either not worth studying or researching.
• A subtle or overt belief or arrogance about everything in the Sea Org or Scientology being the best, closing ones eyes to observing what else is out there.
• A subtle or overt belief that everything in the “outside world” is screwed up or bad or wrong reducing someone’s ability to observe and look for the good in people and things.
• A manic or unrealistic concept of time, including a distorted understanding of how much time things really take and correct estimation of effort to achieve goals. I found this happens a lot on the Sea Org, and while there is truth and workability to tough goals and schedules, etc. it becomes difficult and creates failed purposes trying to live this way in the outside world, and creates failures and upsets if not managed properly.
As recovery and reorientation into society really involves making the person aware as an individual, his true status and condition and “health” in different aspects of his life, learning enough to understand their real strengths and weaknesses. Almost always the person is behind the 8ball; financially, health wise, socially, professionally, education, resume, etc. Almost always the Sea Org experience has resulted in hyper development of some skills and abilities and atrophying of others. The only real way to effectively play the game of life with necessary catch up is to really evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, create goals and dreams that utilize the strengths, and focus and develop the weak areas. This creates a rounded skill and knowledge set that allow for a stable foundation for ongoing success and growth in life. As importantly, if the person has lost a sense of self, they may no longer know what they like or enjoy, much less a concept of what they want to achieve in life, or “what they want to be when they grow up”.
As this is really dependant upon the person themselves, and it is likely they will have no idea when they first come out, the path might be something like this:
1. Decompress, good food, rest, light exercise like walking, peace and quiet in a safe, clean environment. Country or small town might be better for this than hustle and bustle noisy city.
2. As with any friendship or relationship, ground rules must be discussed and established. Our primary request is on confidentiality, we would mutually agree upon certain protocol in communication and confidentiality so that the guest is able to contact and get back in touch with people and their family, but not make it known in any way to the Church of Scientology our involvement or support of this type of activity. Phone can easily be done with a $20 device on the internet like Magic Jack which essentially creates an un tracable call and personal phone number and voice mail that the guest can start using to create stable contact points for themselves in their new life.
3. Get your guest to doctors for any medical situation, dental, etc. Minimally for a detailed physical which they may not have had in decades. It is probable the majority of Sea Org members have significant dental situations and may not have been to the dentist in a decade or longer. This can be a daunting challenge; medical can be quite expensive, insurance is both expensive and generally does not allow for “pre-existing conditions”. I have found an alternative solution by meeting with my own doctors or friends with doctor friends, explaining what we are trying to do to help people, has resulted in over 50% agreeing to support and treat pro bono, at least initial and essential services. Those doctors and physicians I found most willing to help fell into two groups; immigrant Americans and Americans from poor or minority backgrounds that have achieved success and like to give; with the second being Christian professionals who exercise helping those in need as part of their faith. I have also found attorneys, an insurance agent and an accountant willing to help and mentor through basic issues. Five of the 7 people I spoke with were willing to help, but I had pre-existing relationships with them.
4. When ready, perhaps days or a couple of weeks, the guest will want to become active again, and start helping or contributing. Sea Org members tend to have a hyper developed concept of exchange, sometimes don’t feel comfortable being helped, or “getting something for free”. They tend to be very proud and like to feel self sufficient. The environment or host or mentor should have things set up so that their guest can help in some way “earn their keep”. This might be something like gardening, or cooking, or cleaning, or whatever. Most Sea Org members actually have considerable skill and competence in construction and renovation and enjoyed it, something as simple as painting a room can be very valuable to a host and satisfying to the guest. It is important that the Host be gentle in expectations and tasks, starting in a way that an honest mistake, error or accident does not have serious consequences or create upset on either side. The host is getting help with something, the guest is contributing, but most importunately the guest is learning and realizing that they can consistently do good things that are appreciated and are not denigrated or belittled, even if they make an honest mistake.
5. Simultaneously, the guest should have some form of mental stimulation or entertainment available of their own choice, reading books, helping kids with homework, writing a journal, watching movies and getting caught up in pop culture, researching things that interest them in a library or the internet. No expectations or controlled direction, they should be guided to start mentally reaching into the world, deciding for themselves, learning, opening their eyes in whatever ways interest them.
6. There will also probably be basic life and legal rudiments that need to be gotten resolved. As the church keeps its staffers passports and greencards locked up, unauthorized departure can mean they have no papers, passport, greencard, birth certificates, drivers license, social security cards, etc. with which to get on with their lives. During this time the guest may need help getting his life rudiments together, and these are essential to getting anything from a drivers license through bank accounts. Use the opportunity to get yourself any documents replaced or updated,
7. Within weeks to a month or two, they will probably have urges to start getting on with their lives, get a job, get a car, their own place, start moving forward. Take them with you on some of your daily activities, go to a bank, help them set up a bank account, grocery shopping, take the car to she shop, etc. Help them get familiar or refamiliarize themselves with the different parts to life. Sit down with them and go through the different things needed to get a car, license, insurance, etc. Same with getting a place to live. Discuss your guests goals and help educate them by your own experiences in similar things.
8. From there start evolving plans and goals, realize that it will take some time, months, even to fully evolve and flesh out a life plan. The plan starts with an overall goal, which may change and evolve over time, but it gives a direction to which incremental and accelerating progress can be made.
9. Wherever possible, once areas of interest are found, your guest should be introduced to mentors … people who have successfully achieved things they want for their lives, whether a successful marriage and family, through a profession or career through business and entrepreneurship.
We don’t know if there is a specific plan that can be formulated, like a checklist, or if this is something that will evolve organically with general outlines as above.
For myself, I set up a fairly ideal home to do this. Upstairs rooms are made up with private balconies and bathrooms, thick well insulated walls that make the room very quiet. Common areas, with the house located on a farm. A close friend is the president of the local school board, and will arrange for any children to be able to come in and attend class at no cost. I have a dentist, physician, insurance agent, attorney and other professionals that will provide assistance. I have a library with over two thousand books, tapes, reference books and encyclopedias, do it yourself manuals, bibles and all other major religious texts, movies, music, as well as many Scientology books, etc. Good high speed computer internet and communications for research and allowing the person to get back in touch.
Others have set up similar type things including forested land, plantations out of the USA, etc. etc.
The future is bright. Help is available.
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