THINKING OF LEAVING A CULT?
You were looking for your sanity, serenity, and recovery, with in Al-Anon Family Groups. You entered the Program for recovery from the affects of alcoholism in a family member, friend or loved one. You were lost and confused, a victim of abuse, very vulnerable! You came looking for help and hope. You trusted the Program and the Fellowship. Attracted to the love you were shown. Believe the promotion given to you. How did you end up in a cult!
HOW DID YOU END UP IN A CULT?
Because the term is a pejorative one, no one sees themselves as a "Cult Member"!
Most cults start their induction by trying to stop both individualistic and critical thinking;
The process is actually remarkably similar from cult to cult. One thing to realize is that the indoctrination is typically a series of small steps. No one goes from rational person to brainwashed devotee overnight; instead, they're gently led through the process, one step at a time, each step being not very far from the old step, so it doesn't seem like a big change. Of course, once you take enough steps you're a mile from where you started.
Cult recruiters never give you the hard sell right off the bat. After all, if the pitch were, "Come be a part of our group, have it control most to all aspects of your life, possibly cut off ties with those you can't recruit into the group, and make the group the focal point of your life until you die," then most of us would run the other way screaming. So instead, a potential recruit is invited to a workshop, a poetry reading, a "party", a performance, or some other seemingly innocuous event. (As in "Come to our meeting, it is the true Al-Anon program!)
At the event, cult members shower the potential recruit with attention and praise. Psychologists call this "love-bombing". The cult people are trying to create a positive association in your mind between attending the event and having a good feeling. So when you're invited to the next event, you'll be more likely to accept because of the good feeling they instilled in you on your first visit.
The love-bombing might continue for a while.
"Those first months, all my new friends... were unusually kind to me… Little did I realize, that within a short time, I would cave in to their pressure..."
"You really got it right as you explained how warm and friendly everyone can seem when they’re in recruitment mode…"
The recruitment process is exactly that, a process, new members are recruited step-by-step. Cult membership has been likened to a marriage, with the initial seduction, increasing commitment, falling in love, and fully committing.
The relationship becomes one-way after the recruit is assimilated into the cult. A healthy relationship, or network, is two-way where accountability and truth are present.
A cult will use "love bombing" as a means of recruiting people. Love bombing is an all-pervasive expression of caring for the individual and others. It sounds like the Christian concept of love. It is not the same. In a cult the love stops when the individual is being corrected. This is not so with Christian love. Love bombing also becomes a tool to keep people in the cult. The thought of losing the powerful sense of being loved by the group can dissuade the doubter from leaving.
WHY IS IT SO HARD TO LEAVE A CULT?
Cults generally don’t just let people go. It’s one of the confirming signs that the group was unhealthy.
A cult will use several techniques or tactics to get you to stay in the cult. A cult needs you to stay for a variety of reasons. From emotional to financial.
The members and leaders of the group at first will try convince you to stay with logic. Quote the sayings and practices of the group that support their position. They will twist the words and intent of the program in proving their beliefs. That only they, the Sponsors and group leaders, know what if best for you and all concerned.
When you persist in your understanding of your Higher Power or of a true spiritual program, they will start trying to discredit your beliefs. And they will make you a symbol of a person that is of a sick mind and spirit. With a sick Higher Power.
Clearly people with such attitudes, and who take such actions, have a sick mind. And listen to a sick Higher Power!
A logical, and healthy thinking person knows, only God knows what is best for all concerned. And only God knows God's Will.
One sign that a group is a cult, is the difficulty in leaving the group. Difficulty, not only from the effects of the brainwashing tactics. But also the guilt of leaving, that will be used against you by the current members, and the leaders of the cult. The guilt of destroying the relationships that have been formed within the group. They will make you feel guilty for the harm that your actions will cause the leaders, and the group as a whole. Try to use the guilt of not following the will of their Higher Power against you. Their Higher Power who would want you to say within the cult.
Clearly it is the cults "will" to control you, not the will of a loving Higher Power.
Your Higher Power, will be a source of strength, love, and hope in your life. And will help you in your quest to leave the cult, and thus find your sanity and serenity.
Addicted to Love:
The addiction that a cult becomes, can be as hard to over come as an addiction to alcohol or any other drug. One of the techniques use to keep members in the cult is the sharing of "love". Leaders will share their love with the new members to make them feel welcome and safe. Psychologists call this "love-bombing". Love bombing is a coordinated effort, usually under the direction of leadership, that involves long-term members' flooding recruits and newer members with flattery, verbal seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual touching, and lots of attention to their every remark. Love bombing - or the offer of instant companionship - is a deceptive ploy accounting for many successful recruitment drives. To attract the new members, to develop an attraction to the Program.
The object and result of love bombing is to get the endorphins and oxytocin flowing in the brain. The effect is pleasure high. That "love high" is as addictive as any drug or alcohol. You "need a meeting" daily to keep yourself on a high. You'll go through withdrawals without the daily group meeting. You'll have a mental and physical need, or addiction, for the love of the group and it's members. You are "hooked", have a "thirst", much as with any drug user, or alcoholic. The cult is now "the monkey on your back". So the cult knows and believes, correctly, you'll be back!
One of the tactics to create adherence to the group, is the "pairing" of members. The leaders will start to pair you with another member early on. Use several methods to get you in a relationship with another member. Either as a close loving friend or Sponsor. An advisor, or mentor, that you are devoted to. Or a pairing and/or marriage to another member. It is twice as hard to leave a cult, when your loved one is also a member. And they do not want you to leave, or leave with you. The loved one will also try and convince you to stay, with logic and guilt. Both of you have the addiction created by the love bombing. You both have the monkey on your back. Neither of you want to lose that high of the endorphins and oxytocin that the cult provides. You are addicted to each other, other members, and the group.
Even when you clearly see the damage the cult is doing to your life, and the lives of others. Even when you are in conscious contact with your Higher Power. And he has given you the knowledge of His will. It is, and will be, a very hard addiction to break.
You will need the support of friends and family to break the addiction. You'll will need to believe that your Higher Power wants for you to be happy, joyful and free. There is help and hope!
FIRST THINGS FIRST!
The first step may be the decision that you have to leave, for what ever reason. And that you are going to take steps leave. It always is difficult decision. One that is not usually a spur of the moment decision. Usually it is a process that take many steps over a period of time. Not often over one incident, or a statement from a member of the group. But it is often that one incident or statement can be the final straw. Many time those that detach from the group have been considering the separation for awhile. They have started to think for themselves. Not just hearing and believing the "word" the "will" of their Sponsor, or leaders. They have started to hear their own "Higher Power". And understand the difference between the will of the Sponsor or the Group. And the will of their own Higher Power. God's Will!
A light might suddenly turn on. An enlightenment that, what the Sponsor or Group preaches or suggest, is not what a spiritual program would suggest. That the actions of the Sponsor or Group is not inline with the stated Principles of the Al-Anon Program, as an example The Sponsor or Group has perverted the Program, to their own benefit. The Group or Cult is of utmost importance, not the recovery of the members.
Or it may be a gradual discovery that what is preached or suggested by the Sponsor or Group is a perversion of a spiritual program. It may take several moments of that light bulb going on, to enlighten ones mind. One may have to hear over and over again from family, loved ones, or Al-Anon members, that they are on the wrong path. Before it finally becomes clear they are on the wrong path. It may take many years of insanity and lack of serenity, before the decision is made. The decision to leave the Group they joined to find recovery. And seek recovery elsewhere. Hopefully in Al-Anon.
When one decides that their recovery is of utmost the importance. And decides that their Higher Power's Will is of utmost importance. The decision to take the first steps to leave, or detach, from the cult can be put in into action.
DETACHMENT WITH LOVE.
How do you detach from a group that you have many loving connections with? A question that has many different answers. Probably as many answers as those that have gone through the process. It is, many times, an individual experience. Each different, but each with many similarities. But almost always is a very difficult detachment.
When you've decided to leave or detach yourself from the control to the cult, you should seek out others that have already left the group. You can find them in many Al-Anon Meetings. Or someone who can get you in touch with a past member of the cult.
Those who have left the cult have shared how hard it can be. Shared the damage it has done to them and loved ones. Shared about the lasting effect it has had on their lives, and on others in their lives. It can be a very supportive sharing, that could be a very important step for your recovery. Someone who has "Been there before", can be a tremendous guide for you, in what you may be about to go through.
Another suggestion is to seek professional counseling at the start of your detachment. If you are not well physically, you would seek a medical doctor for help. If you are not well emotionally you should seek a counselor for help. If you are not well spiritually, seek a spiritual advisor. It would be wise to have someone independent to talk to during the detachment process. Someone you can continue to share your feelings with months or even years after you have detached.
Going to Al-Anon meetings that are listed on the Directory of Meetings on the Al-Anon website would also be of benefit. Speaking with members at those meetings, that have been affected by the cults. Can be a great pathway to take for recovery, from the affects of the groups.
This detachment is a process that you would want to do with sanity, serenity, spirituality and kindness. And with as much as possible a Detachment With Love.
The cult will not practice Detachment With Love.
The group or cult will not show you any love after it becomes clear you are leaving. They will practice all types of tactics to keep you within the cult. Or try to discredit you for leaving. They will withhold their love from you, as punishment. You will be shunned, defamed, and personally attacked. They can not let the other members see your logic for your leaving. As your sanity, and attitude, may lead to others in the groups adopting your beliefs. Which would lead to the end of the cult.
AL-ANON FAMILY GROUPS.
What can Al-Anon and it's Fellowship do to help?
Al-Anon Family Groups could more in conducting Conferences, Speaker Meetings, and Panels, regarding the De-Listed groups. Disseminate information that address the issues caused by the programs that do not adhere to the Principles of Al-Anon. And it's affects on Escapees, the Fellowship, and Al-Anon as a whole.
Al-Anon Family Groups could do much more in the area of educating it's members of the fellowship. Education on the recovery issues of those who are dealing with the effects of leaving such groups. How members may help in the recovery of Escapees. Ways to better accept such members, with kindness, back into the real loving program of A-Anon. Members that are not only dealing with the effects of an alcoholic in their lives. But also the lasting affects of the alcoholic behavior of the cult, in their lives. Such members should feel, they are not alone in their struggle for recovery. Perhaps more so that most members of the Fellowship of Al-Anon Family Groups. They are in need of the understanding, acceptance, love and kindness of Al-Anon Family Groups, and it's Fellowship.
In Al-Anon there are many types of meetings. Open and closed meetings. Mixed gender, Women's only and Men's only. Gay and Lesbian meetings. Beginners, and Old-Timers meetings. And meetings for teenagers.
But no "Escapees" meetings. No meeting for those that have left the groups that do not practice or adhere to the principles of Al-Anon Family Groups. No meetings that are design to address the recovery of these individuals. Such meetings that would offer the support that such members would need. And may best served by those who have experienced the effects of the cult. And experienced the difficulties of leaving such groups.
It seems, to us, that such a meeting would be of a great benefit in an Escapees recovery. And the continued growth in sanity and spirituality of members that have left, or are trying to leave the cults. And could be another way that Al-Anon Family Groups may address the needs of all it's members of the Fellowship. In a kind and loving way.
Some additional information links that may be of help.
WHY DO WOMEN JOIN CULTS?
BY CAROLINE ERVIN DEC 15, 2014
This podcast page link has many links to pages regarding women and cults.
STAGES IN LEAVING THE CULTIC SYSTEM - THE WITHDRAWAL PROCESS
How Do People Get Out of Religious Cults?
The link below is an article originally posted by the late Jan Groenveld of Cult Awareness Center in Australia.
COMING OUT OF CULTS
Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D.
This information is from the following sources: "Coming Out of Cults", by Margaret Thaler Singer, Psychology Today, Jan. 1979, P. 75; "Destructive Cults, Mind Control and Psychological Coercion", Positive Action Portland, Oregon, and "Fact Sheet", Cult Hot-Line and Clinic, New York City.
POST-CULT AFTER EFFECTS.
After exiting a cult, an individual may experience a period of intense and often conflicting emotions. She or he may feel relief to be out of the group, but also may feel grief over the loss of positive elements in the cult, such as friendships, a sense of belonging or the feeling of personal worth generated by the group's stated ideals or mission. The emotional upheaval of the period is often characterized by "post-cult trauma syndrome":
News, Intervention, Recovery
Cults101.org resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.
Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.
CultRecovery101.com assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice.