The flight to Florida was an overnight flight, and at six o'clock in the morning, I was on a van headed over the Courtney Campbell Causeway into Clearwater. I gazed out at the crystalline, blue waters of the bay and felt a sense of peace.
Clearwater is a sort of mecca for Scientologists. The complex of buildings in downtown Clearwater is known to Scientologists as the Flag Land Base, or "Flag" for short, because when Hubbard's Flagship came ashore, this was their permanent headquarters.
The main building in the complex is the former Jack Tar Hotel, whose red roof rising several stories into the air towers over nearby buildings and is a visible landmark in Clearwater.
I was assigned a room in the hotel, and taken through all the preliminary interviews before I could begin my "NOTS" (New Era Dianetics for OTs) auditing.
Finally, I was assigned an auditor named Jill, and we began the first session.
To my dismay, I was told we were going to be auditing more entities, called "body thetans" in Scientology. Hubbard had "discovered" that there was a category of body thetans, or entities, which did not respond to OT3 auditing, and needed further auditing to get rid of them.
The sessions did not go well at all. I just couldn't seem to make any progress.
I began to be alarmed as the auditing hours passed by, at a cost of approximately $800 per hour, and we weren't making any progress.
I began to complain to the C/S, and was then given a series of "reviews" which were supposed to remedy the problem.
Meanwhile, when I was not in session, I volunteered to work in the juice bar in the dining room, making up exotic fruit shakes for other guests who would come into the lounge between sessions to relax.
I had arrived in Clearwater in November of 1979. We struggled through the auditing until late January of 1980. Nothing was going well.
When the auditor told me to close my eyes and be out of my head and look around, I simply told her that I couldn't see anything. I wasn't able to "exteriorize." I kept saying, "The tech's not working." Like the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, this was the one thing you were never supposed to say about Hubbard's "tech."
I felt terribly guilty about the money. As the $16,000 dwindled away, I became more and more desperate.
Finally, I began to break down. I began to have terrible nightmares at night. Several times, I woke up screaming, and woke up other guests in the hotel. I was not taking care of my personal hygiene and was looking more and more unkempt each day.
I went to one of my friends in the Guardian's Office, Hugh Wilhere, and I told him something to the effect that I wished I could go back to the beginning and start all over again.
He took that to mean that I was possibly suicidal.
At about that time, the woman from Switzerland committed suicide by jumping from the breakwater near the Org (Flag). The story appeared in the local newspaper when it was discovered that she was a Scientologist, and it caused a public relations problem for Scientology, whose relations with the community of Clearwater were mostly hostile at the time, anyway.
It was known to the Guardian's Office that I was not doing well, and they apparently feared that I might become another embarrassment and public relations problem for them in Clearwater.
I was told to stay in my room. A guard was posted outside my room around the clock. My meals were brought to my room. I questioned nothing. I thought that perhaps they were going to send me to Hubbard ("over the rainbow") to have my "case" straightened out.
Finally, one night, three Guardian's Office staff members, including my auditor, came into my room and told me I was to leave Florida.
I realized what that meant. I was being "offloaded." I tearfully begged them to change their minds, but to no avail. I felt betrayed and angry. I had given my life to Scientology, and now they were just going to get rid of me?
Nevertheless, the next morning I was taken in a Scientology van to the airport and told to pick any destination outside of Florida. I made a hurried call to my parents to see if they were at home, and told them which flight I would be arriving on.
The guard came with me on the plane. I don't remember much about the flight. I was in a state of shock.
I was also worried. Not only was I being exiled, but I was leaving an upper level "unflat," or unfinished, and according to Scientology lore that meant that I could die within a matter of days.
When I arrived at the airport, my guard disappeared. I looked around the airport, and eventually my father appeared, seeming kind of awkward and not knowing what to say to me. The prodigal daughter returning home once again.
We drove to my parents' suburban Madison, Wisconsin, home. I stared out the window at the February snow falling softly outside, and I felt the same kind of shock I had experienced many years earlier after Bill's death.
What to do now? At first, it was a matter of just hanging on to my sanity. The anxiety was intense, and finally one night my parents drove me to the emergency room of the downtown hospital. I tried to explain about Scientology, but of course I was still speaking in the Scientologese language, and the doctor probably thought that it was just schizophrenic ravings. But I wasn't hospitalized. I was sent home with a prescription for ativan, a tranquilizer.
Surprisingly, I found that the tranquilizers gave me some relief. I would ration them carefully, taking them only when the anxiety reached an unbearable level.
I felt as if my mind was coming apart. To try to make some sense out of something, I remember working on a large jigsaw puzzle of a German castle in my parents' living room. It seemed to be therapeutic. By putting together the pieces of the puzzle, I was somehow trying to hold the fragments of my mind in some similar order.
On my mother's insistence, I agreed to see a social worker at a nearby mental health clinic. I wouldn't see a psychiatrist, because that was strictly forbidden in Scientology, but I couldn't remember having read anything about social workers, so I compromised.
The social worker tried to understand what I had been through, but he obviously had no frame of reference for my experience. I felt frustrated.
When I left Clearwater, I had been given a freeloader's debt to pay off of about $8000, so I had a pressing need to begin making some sort of money.
I got a job as a waitress at a restaurant near my parents' home. My mother would have to drive me back and forth to work. The tranquilizers would help me get through the shift.
I was still experiencing extremely high levels of anxiety. I tried for several weeks just to walk around my parents' block, but each time I would get about a third of the way and have to turn back. I was just too frightened to make it all the way around the block. It took me about a year to master that small task.
At one point, I became suicidal, and had to be hospitalized for several days, but again the psychiatrist in charge just didn't understand the implications of my having spent twelve years in the cult of Scientology, and I couldn't explain it to him.
I felt as if I had come from another planet, and was trying to explain my experience to everyone, but no one understood, and I was very much frustrated and discouraged.
I kept writing letters to Flag, asking them to take me back, but each response tactfully informed me that they didn't want me back.
I began to get angry. I believe that my anger saved me.
After a year in my parents' house, I had gotten a small efficiency apartment not far from them.
One night, as I sat in my apartment, I contemplated making a phone call to a lawyer in Boston who was active in the movement against Scientology. His name was Michael Flynn.
Calling Mr. Flynn was a big step for me because I knew it would be considered a "suppressive act" by Scientology, and my soul would be damned for possibly trillions of years into the future. That was the way I was still thinking.
So there was a battle in my mind. The anger on the one hand, and the Scientology programming on the other.
Finally, the anger won out. I called Michael Flynn. At first he was suspicious of me on the phone, but he agreed to send me some things to read about Scientology. I agreed to read them, although I knew this would be another suppressive act on my part.
I started to read books about cults, other cults. I wasn't ready to read about Scientology, but I was willing to read about other groups. I went to the library and checked out some books. I also went to a Christian bookstore and discovered that they had a section on cults.
I quit my job as a waitress and began to read full time, from eight in the morning until late at night every day.
I was reading one book written by the mother of a girl in a group called the Children of God. Something in that book struck me and it was the similarity between that cult and Scientology.
I kept reading.
The packet from Michael Flynn arrived and I did start to read some articles that were critical of Hubbard and Scientology.
One document outlined the many fictions that Hubbard had told us about his past and past accomplishments. This document impressed me the most, because it meant that Hubbard was a liar. The man I had believed in so strongly for so many years had lied to me.
This was the first chink in my armor.
The more I read, the more anxious I became.
I began to feel suicidal. One day, I remember driving around Madison, trying to decide how to take my life. Finally, I stopped at a pay phone and called the hospital. I explained my situation the best I could.
They were very helpful. There was a priest in the hospital, they said, who knew about cults. Could I come over and talk with him?
I drove to the hospital. I met with Father Steve Smith, and to my great surprise, he understood everything that I was telling him. He realized that I was at a point of crisis and needed help.
He drove me to the home of a couple who had lost a son to the Moonies. They agreed to keep me there overnight and help me through my crisis. I remember this woman just holding me that night, trying to calm my frightened soul. I slept peacefully that night and returned to my apartment the next day.
Father Smith continued to meet with me, and also introduced me to a professor at the University named Vern Visick who was also knowledgeable about cults. For the next several weeks, these two men became my link to sanity and I met with them often. Vern, especially, quickly became a friend and helped me through some difficult days.
One day, when I was in the Christian bookstore, I picked up a book about Christianity out of curiousity. Perhaps something from my distant past at my grandmother's house in South Dakota triggered an old memory. I took the book home and read it. It was a book by Hal Lindsey called "The Late Great Planet Earth." In the book, he talked about Jesus.
That night, as I stood in my bedroom, I knew I had to make a choice. It was either Jesus or L. Ron Hubbard. They couldn't both be God.
For whatever reason, I chose Jesus, and at that moment something miraculous happened. I snapped out of the hypnosis. It was amazing. I simply woke up, standing there in the room. The image of a light bulb came into my mind.
Suddenly I knew without a doubt that I had been hypnotized for twelve years. And I knew that Scientology was wrong. I had been duped.
It was the Fourth of July. I walked outside and sat on a stone wall near my apartment, thinking. The only emotion I could feel was anger. I just couldn't believe what had happened to me.
Finally, I was "out." I knew there would be no turning back. I would never go back to Scientology.
I had essentially deprogrammed myself, by reading. I told Vern and Father Smith about my decision, and they were delighted. I didn't really tell my parents. I didn't know if they would understand or believe me.
But I was truly out of Scientology. After twelve long years, I was finally free. And I have never looked back.