Our Savior’s Church Pastor Minimalized a Family Death

How Pastor Jacob Aranza, Senior Pastor of Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, Louisiana, treated me as his staff member when my grandmother died, was beyond terrible.

The story of how Master’s Commission treated it’s staff members in relation to family and vacation was terrible and there is much more to it than what I’ve started to write. How Pastor Daniel Jones, Senior Pastor of Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, Louisiana, treated me as his staff member when my grandmother died, was beyond terrible.

After a long summer of depression, burn-out from overwork and little sleep, and suicidal thoughts, I contemplated quitting Master’s Commission for good and heading back to California to live near my family. I found it difficult to view my life outside of Master’s Commission: I had no degree, no career, little professional skills, and no assets or savings. I also had little identity outside the group.

Pastor Daniel Jones got a hold of me after that summer and offered me a job with him. I’d be his wife’s personal ministry assistant, and would have nothing to do with Master’s Commission. He was appalled when he found out Nathan was only paying me $150 a month, and he offered me $500 a month. He said it’d be mostly part-time and I could do any ministry I wanted.

It was a dream come true for me, at the time. I had wanted to be a missionary for years, and had liked working with the women’s ministry.

None of what he promised came true, except that I made $500 a month and that I was his wife’s assistant. The $500 a month wasn’t fair compensation for the full-time hours I pulled at his house, and for being on call every weekend day and night of the week. I was his wife’s assistant, but what I mainly did was home-school their middle son, clean their house, do laundry, and clean their entire house after every major dinner or holiday party they had at their house. So, I was a live-in slave, as I affectionately call it.

Fast forward to October of 2004. My mom’s mother got really sick and ended up in the ICU. My parents paid for my flight home (of course, my paycheck couldn’t cover even part of a flight home) and I grabbed the next one (after asking permission, to which I want to throw up over how stupid I was to do that).

I spent the next day or two at the ICU with my mom, dad, brother and sister. I was filled with a terrible amount of guilt, because I’d rarely seen my grandma over the past few years. I worked in a cult. I wasn’t allowed much time off for the holidays to see my family and never a vacation.

My grandma passed away that weekend. It was awful. I was so sad, and my mother just lost her own mother. We had a funeral to plan, and after that was done, we had to take care of bills, her condo, and all the other paperwork type of stuff that you just don’t think of (when you’re young) and don’t realize you have to do so suddenly after a sudden death.

To top it all off, we’re a very close family and I just felt terrible that my mom was grieving. All I wanted to do was to be there for her, but after the funeral, there was this looming feeling that I had to call Pastor Daniel  to see when I had to come back.

I called.

I explained that I needed to help my mom take care of my grandma’s condo, deal with her mail and bills, and all the other stuff I had no idea was such a big job. I told him Daniel Jones that I couldn’t leave my mom alone here without my help while she was grieving over her mom. I had to help her. I was a grown woman, and it was just right for me to stay to help her. I wanted a week there to stay with my mom.

After that week, I also wanted to go to a long-time friend’s wedding. It was on a weekend in nearby Texas. He had been in Master’s Commission with me, and we had developed such a great friendship. Actually, he was the kind of person everyone loved. He was always laughing and joking and making people feel great about themselves.

Pastor Daniel  said no to me staying to help my mom and he said no to me attending the wedding of a long-time friend.

Like a robot, I headed back to the airport. I was heartbroken. I felt like a horrible daughter. I felt trapped.

My years of friendships and everything my life was all about was in Louisiana. I couldn’t just tell the senior pastor to eff off and stay in California and jeopardize every friendship and relationship I’d come to love. I knew what happened to those kind of people. I knew what awful things were said about them. I knew the Scarlet Letter they wore for life after they did something like that.

Looking back, of course I feel disgusted with myself. I should’ve been stronger. I should’ve left Our Savior’s Church at that moment. I should’ve woken up from the brainwashing. I should’ve shooken off the pixy dust that was covering my eyes making me walk under Daniel Jones’s spell.

I should’ve put my mother first, and I should’ve put my friend’s wedding first.

When I returned, Daniel  didn’t feel any remorse for telling me to leave my mom behind grieving. There was barely a word spoken about it. In fact, we just went back to work and every day I laundered his dirty underwear and washed his dirty coffee cups, I began to resent the fact that I’d come back for something so unimportant and something that I was over-qualified to do.

Grief and Other Hideous Effects

Every morning I go to the French doors at the back of my house and I look upon the wide expanse of desert that surrounds me. I look down at the patio, and I don’t see Ella so my gaze runs out to the East, where my mom and I set a cat trap with salmon. I lost my cat two weeks ago, and although I know her likely destiny was prey to a California desert predator, I keep looking for her to show up.

Grief does funny things to people. It’s an emotion that I didn’t clearly recognize I was going through the years after leaving the cult I was involved in. Some people said they thought I felt rejected and that was why I became depressed. Of course there was rejection upon leaving.  Upon disagreeing with the senior pastor, he cut me off from communication (like he’d done to so many others in his past). Why?  He became disappointed in me because I was unwilling to come back to Louisiana and I was unwilling to live my life according to his rules. Fragments of conversation trickle down the chain of command there in Louisiana, where eavesdroppers at household conversations and bystanders at after-church discussions mix truth with lies with assumptions about why people leave the church. Eventually, the game of telephone dilutes any truth of why anyone left and people are left to their own assumptions mixed with he-said, she-said which is never generous to the person who leaves the “place of blessing” or “out of the anointing” or “House of God.” Negative assumptions breed rejection, and what I felt was rejection from people I’d grown close to for much of the history of my young adult life.

More powerfully than rejection, though, was the grief I experienced from an amalgamation of losing my friends, people I considered close (like family), and discarding and deconstructing the teachings I now disagreed with.

During a journey of grieving and depression, I allowed myself to be expressive, angry, searching and honest.

I began to grieve and mourn the loss of people I’d considered friends for many years of my life, and I began to grieve the loss of what I thought was my “faith” and what turned out to be a need for people’s approval. As I began to intersect the faith I’d been taught in the cult with the faith I’d felt in my heart was right my entire life, I began to see a great chasm that needed to be reconciled. So, I set out to find my own truth—the things I believed about love, people, dreams—without placing pressure on myself to meet someone else’s approval.

I felt that to become a blank slate was something that would help me ascertain what my own beliefs were, as opposed to what I was taught in the cult.

I deconstructed the idea of Christianity completely.

I took it all apart, piece-by-piece and was left with a sort of artists table with a clean canvas and materials to construct with. I had paints of all colors and tones, magazine cut-outs, fragments of books I’d read, pictures I’d seen, people I’d known, and experiences I’d had. With a clean slate in front of me, I took my old materials and examined them. I turned them to the right and the left and looked at them from the back, and the front with a critical eye. I read from experts in the field of religion, feminism, humanitarianism, literature. I compared them with human beings in history and the present time who were models of exceptional citizenship, who treated people fairly and respectfully.

Many of my old materials needed to be discarded. They came from a long line of historical violence, a present day close-minded manner and an anti-intellectual path that I no longer wanted to walk on.

As I felt more liberated, I acted more liberated.

The years of grief were mixed with years of feeling buoyant, vibrant.

There were years I’d sit at a writing desk and feel like a dried out old pen, because I was worried what the people from my past would think. How would they judge me? What gossip sessions would occur because of what I was about to write? What prayers of concern would go up to God from them on behalf of my soul, because I was now changed from the Lisa they knew? I had no voice to speak—only fear, yet I had words that were jamming up in my head and twisting like pretzels to get out. When I would begin to write, the nightmares would come. The mornings I’d wake up with fear that they were real. I was back there. The women were coming for me—ensuring I didn’t escape.

Grief isn’t something you navigate out of like short river boat ride. Grief is complex and misunderstood: the outer shell of humans experiencing it often not showing signs and other times causing people to fall apart, lose their ability to reason and calculate and concentrate.

Grief can also be like a painting:

grey,

black and hazy,

with a few strokes

of white

and blue

lighting up

the picture.

“Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to

be…Grief is different.

Grief has no difference.

Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden

apprehensions that weaken the knees

and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.”

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

2012 in Review (Fuck that shit)

This year has been both very, very shitty and very, very productive. Like life, 2012 has been a dichotomy for me—nothing is ever perfect and one minute I felt like I was celebrating the higher points of my career and then being brought down by a wave of grief or anxiety. This post feels a bit dismal, but I’ve done quite a bit of celebrating over the great things that have happened this year and to be honest, some really incredible things have happened for me. I feel I’ve been successful in many ways and I’ve even had some great successes in writing lately that I’m very proud of.

But, as you know, I’m the type of person whose biggest flaw is her honesty and authenticity. So, I don’t want to write a flowery/happy post when I just really don’t feel all that great with some of the things that were heavy to deal with. I have chosen to share some of the darker times of the year here, though, in part because it may help you understand certain choices I’ve made throughout the year and also why I’ve slowed down from blogging.

The Worst of 2012

Anxiety
I have never felt more anxious, and paralyzed by it, than this year. I’m not sure I can explain the way it makes me feel to people who aren’t troubled by it, but anxiety can be a difficult feeling to deal with. I have been so open while writing this blog and I think knowing what I’ve actually shared with the world (and most importantly, that people keep reading it) really has put me into a panicked state.

Top that with the amount of arguments and confrontation I’ve had with friends and family and the amount of friendships I’ve lost, and the anxiety just grows. It feels like no matter what I say, someone is going to take it personally, or be offended, or judge me harshly. I’ve had fights with people who I thought cared about me greatly and have come to find out that many of them wanted me to live my life on their terms. It’s painful to feel that people may not quite love you as much when you are who you truly are.

I’ve learned a bit of balance in all of this, and certainly have learned to be a bit more diplomatic when I care about someone. It’s far better to preserve some friendships than it is to be right—whether it’s over politics or religion. Of course I’ve also learned how to rein in the private side of my life some, to the point where I feel a bit safer saying things online. I can either stop blogging or I can keep working on finding boundaries that work well for me.

Blogging is such an interesting hobby/job. Readers respond most to a blogger’s vulnerability and unique voice; but it’s those qualities that also get the blogger in trouble with trolls and hateful people. As much as you may feel you understand what it’s like to be trolled, unless you have a well-established blog I can’t say you truly understand what some of us go through. Unfortunately, there is no one way to deal with this issue and it seems everywhere I look, writers and bloggers and even journalists are openly talking about the harsh critics online. There was a solid year where I woke up to comments and emails that made me cry every single day. I happened upon a talk Lindy West (writer at Jezebel.com) was giving where she talked about this very thing. Lindy is chubby, and Jezebel encourages their writers to post photos of themselves occasionally. As Lindy talked about the amount of hate mail and hateful comments she gets (and reads), I started realizing there are some people who understand how I feel. Despite non-blogger’s advice to not read the comments, we find ourselves reading them. We have to moderate them, actually, so we can’t just ignore our comments or emails. For some time, I decided to close comments down completely and stop answering email. If you haven’t received a response during this year, and many of you deserved one, I’m sorry. I simply stopped reading some of my emails because I was being barraged by the same thing every day, and very little of it was good.

About my blog:
I feel like I’ve neglected this blog quite a bit and that’s partly due to the things I’m going to write about below, but it’s also because of the amount of hate mail and the overwhelmingly stressful job it’s been to read through emails and comments of people who just really detest me. I needed a serious break and to be honest, I feel like this some extra hateful stalkers have imagined me to be famous and have really gone all out to try to get to me. The sad thing is, it really did get to me and I needed some space in order to feel safe. I didn’t even feel safe, as a few of them made me feel like I was being stalked and harassed anytime I went online. I felt that way, because I was. There seemed to be an irrepressible group of people who were blasting me at once. Of course, they were different groups of people and yes, I had picked fights with their cults or with their political viewpoints or their religious beliefs, but damnit, a girl needs a breather sometimes.

Maybe it’s safe to say that I’ve become afraid of my own blog. It hasn’t been a very safe place for me—and if I were a bit better at the business side of things I would probably hire someone to weed through emails and comments and help me sort through the hard ones. I write exposes and piss off a lot of people off, yet this blog is also a place where I’ve been incredibly candid and talked about falling in love, losing my job, and what it feels like to be depressed.

I can officially say this: sometimes I have no idea what to do with my own blog. It’s such a mixture of thoughts and subjects and it’s sometimes driven heavily by those of you who have continued to read (and things you email me). It’s a lot of fucking work, but as hard as it is (and I believe many bloggers feel this way), it is something I’ve grown to love. I love connecting with so many of you who contribute back to my life and I love feeling like I’m helping some people regain the strength and courage to live their lives freely again. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Which leads me to my job. I haven’t blogged a lot this year because there’s simply no way to keep up on top of what I do for my day job. After losing my job in 2011, the highest priority of mine was to get working again. With losing your job, as many of you know, comes a lot of debt. Work was where I needed to shift all my energy and on top of all that, I was actually fortunate enough to land a pretty fantastic job at a great company. Just today I was doing an interview with a private investigator (for a friend’s job) and when asked where I worked, the guy said, “Whoa, nice.” That’s a pretty standard response in my community who know a) how hard it is to land a job there and b) how great a company it is.
Fortunately, what started as a four month contract position has turned into a twenty-four month contract. I’m now in a really good place but none of this came easy. In fact, this winter break was the first time in a very long time where I finally felt my creative energy coming back. My company works on very high-profile, confidential projects. Everyone works long, hard hours and it’s safe to say we’re all really invested in the work we do. This comes at a cost for people like me who are writing books and blogging at night, but it’s the price I have to pay to be an artist. (Side note: I’m not a fan of being a “starving artist”. I have good taste and I like really nice things, so I’m not at all happy getting by on pennies and scraps for some romantic notion of suffering or to claim moral superiority. Actually, as you and I both know, many of the “starving artists” are just trust fund babies who do have money but pretend not to. Those of us who have been in difficult places financially know the real pain of dealing with hard times.)

Where this blog is going?
Can I start by saying I don’t know?

I’d like to continue blogging about everyday life, but it’s clear from my Google rankings and various reports that most people come here for information on cults and spiritual abuse. So, there’s that. These resources are clearly important for people and I hope to improve them with time as I can.

If things go well and I figure out how to integrate a new content management system on my site and my site mapping is successful, then in 2013 I should have a whole section devoted just to cults and religion news, including my own research (which has been on-going on top of everything else I do-yeah, I work nonstop, actually) and survivor stories. I’ve been working with some really great survivor groups and definitely want to highlight their stories. It’s also important to make their stories, and facts about their groups, more accessible. Usually the groups we all go up against have hundreds of thousands of dollars to devote to marketing, so the stories of survivors can easily be hidden and this means they’re silenced.

But, let’s face it, I can only write about this topic so much before I need to get back to what this blog really started as—a memoir blog. So, in the spirit of memoir, I will continue to blog about my life and write essays about things that are important to me. I’ve also started writing about my writing process and personal lessons I’ve learned on my website because there are quite a few people who reach out to me about writing and the process.

So, without further ado, I present to you the worst of 2012.

 

My Health
(Disclaimer: This post is about ovaries and lady parts.)

A few months ago, I discovered I have PCOS. Actually, my endocrinologist discovered it through a series of exams and blood work, but you get the idea. PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. From the internet, “Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in which a woman has an imbalance of female sex hormones. This may lead to menstrual cycle changes, cysts in the ovaries, trouble getting pregnant, and other health changes.” (Source: PubMed Health)

In essence, PCOS contributes to weight gain and can prevent weight loss, but it also causes extremely painful periods which feel like a knife is jabbing you in the ovaries (in my case, just one side) every month. This picture illustrates (warning: that picture is gross) why it feels that way. A woman with PCOS grows cysts and sometimes they rupture.

My worst symptoms aren’t pleasant. I sometimes feel like I’m going through menopause—I can break out into a sweat on a 45 degree morning faster than anyone I know. It’s a bit awkward and it’s also really uncomfortable. I did happen to find a great endocrinologist a few months ago, and since starting treatment I do feel a bit better. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m dying when I have my periods anymore, but many of my other symptoms persist.

There’s also the disparaging part about possible infertility. To be honest, after speaking with a lot of women who have PCOS, it seems like PCOS might not be a complete roadblock to having kids, but it requires a lot of work, medication and weight loss. There’s a whole cocktail of pills a woman with PCOS has to try for months and then of course, this seems to work after awhile with some people.

I’ve never tried to have kids, though, so I really don’t know how much of an issue this will be for me when I do decide to start a family. Or if I do decide to start one.  It could turn out to be a non-issue or it could become very complicated. My mom keeps telling me that women in my family haven’t had a single issue having kids, but PCOS does have a genetic component to it, so perhaps since the women in my family all had children at a younger age than me, their symptoms hadn’t hit yet. Either way, I’m 32 now and just a few years ago, I told myself I would start having kids somewhere between 32 and 35 (after the publication of my first book, of course). I read so much about women my age pushing back the age to have kids until we no longer can have kids and I know that’s what is happening with me. A lot of women are getting married later, or never really finding a suitable partner, and we’re often focused on our careers, social lives, and traveling until we finally realize it’s too late or almost too late. I have come to the realization that I have to start trying to have kids in the near future if I do want to have them without a lot of medical intervention and possible complications, especially in light of my reproductive issues. I may not become pregnant as easily as younger women who don’t have PCOS. Sure, some women have children around or after the age of 38, but if you think it’s easy to do, you’re mistaken.

Like many women in my shoes, I’m not married to anyone, although I have mixed emotions on this subject. On the one hand, many people give the impression that they’re happily married when I know this certainly isn’t the case in many relationships. Despite knowing that many people are in loveless marriages with partners who don’t give them enough attention, I sometimes envy the façade. As one friend asked the other day, “Is your idea of happiness mutual love?” I think in many ways it is, because I have everything else in life. On the other hand, I feel a bit like Edith from Downton Abbey. She tries and tries, but can’t seem to find luck with men. While her sisters are in love and becoming mothers, she is [SPOILER ALERT] jilted at the altar and then later courted by a man she realizes is married to someone else. Some people have all the luck; others just don’t.

Whether you know it or believe it, everyone has a few offers on the table. Someone has a crush on you and wants to be with you, even if you’re too insecure to believe it. Isn’t that sort of the nature of love, though? We want what we can’t have and we want those who play hard to get or who act uninterested (in many cases, they act uninterested because they aren’t interested).

So, I guess I want what I can’t have or what I haven’t had. That “I’ve fallen in love with my best friend” feeling (or maybe, I have fallen in love with my best friend. I don’t kiss and tell…yet). I want to get cozy and settle down with someone who makes me feel comfortable in my own shoes, so I don’t have to put on a big show and starve myself and spend a shit ton of money looking a certain way. You know, falling in love with someone like your best friend: someone who who sees you for who you are and can see right through you but doesn’t care too much if you’re kind of weird and moody. Or someone you can snore in front of. I don’t know. Things. Like that. Someone you can have fun with, who makes you laugh and knows that you are kick ass enough to accomplish the stuff that you dream about doing.

There are rare moments in life when you can connect with someone like this. I do know a few people who have this, or some relationships that have developed into this, but I don’t always feel understood by many people so I’m kind of unsure if it’s a realistic thing to hope for. I have kind of an odd temperament: moody sometimes, often depressed, and other times really happy. Outspoken, polite but not a charmer, and not afraid to stand up to someone who treats others with disrespect. You know, that’s not really the “perfect” girl for many, but I’m happy with who I am.

It’s rare to get involved with someone where things are both physical and just…comfortable. Those rare moments and rare connections are what I look for in a relationship, and no, they don’t come around very often. So, I haven’t “settled” down because I really didn’t want to live with someone who didn’t make me feel great.

 

I’ve written about freezing my eggs and using a sperm donor to have a baby, but to be honest, the closer I get to “that age”, I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to be a single mom. Or want to…As I get closer to my “deadline”, I feel okay with it all. While my life certainly isn’t the same as everyone else’s, it isn’t a bad life. I quite like it. Sure, I’d love to spend holidays pushing a stroller around Disneyland, but on the other hand, my life is much better than I anticipated it would ever be at the moment and I don’t want it to change.

Do I even want to give up my sleep? What about the hours upon hours of free time I have on weekends and evenings to write, or watch TV, or have sex when I want to? Let’s be honest, people with children are often miserable because they suck the life out of you. They are cute, but they are selfish little pricks who wear people out. According to the Hallmark channel, having a daughter is the most magical thing that can happen to a woman. Apparently motherhood turns you into this supernatural creature who cries over every moment. I think I’m fairly happy with my moodiness at the moment and don’t want to become vulnerable, so maybe I’ll skip the kid-having thing.

All kidding aside, I think I have finally come to the place where I’m happy with my situation in life—unmarried by choice and childless by choice. Oh, it took forever to get here, but I’ve made it.

 

Friends and Family
I’m not really “new” to my city anymore, but it hasn’t been the easiest place to make friends. I do have some good friends here who come visit me even when I’m moody and want to be left alone. I like them even though they are a couple and they’re in love and cute and stuff.

As for older friendships, it still hurts to know some friendships change, especially when you need those friends. It is a fact of life, of course. All of our interests change and who we see on a daily basis changes, too. Or little fights turn into monstrosities that no one wants to work through. I miss a lot of those people, or at least what we used to have.

I also moved away from all the friends I made in college. I hated the city I lived in then, but the people were some of the best people I’ve ever met. I miss them more than anyone, because they were there for me during the very hardest times of my recovery from the cult. They also made me laugh more than anyone. We partied and we had great conversation. But more than anything, when I needed them, they were there for me at the drop of a hat.

I don’t have that now. I feel pretty lonely most of the time. Without my family and a few individuals, I would probably spend most of my time crying because of it. It’s certainly been one of the hardest things about this year—and one of the few things I openly discuss. It is what it is, and when I feel sad I try to do something I enjoy; something that makes me happy. It still doesn’t change the fact that I feel incredibly alone and wonder if I’ll always feel this way.

I’ve also had a hard time reaching out to others to get to know people. I was pretty gun-shy about talking to people and trusting them and I felt pretty insecure for the past few years. I’m not entirely sure what happened (whether it was health related or otherwise) but I plummeted into a pretty dark place. I feel like I’m climbing out of it rather slowly and it feels nice to see the sun again. It’s taken nearly the entire year to get to know some people at work, and even still, my place of work is filled with very serious people so we don’t really hang out outside of our jobs.

I won’t expand on this too much, but it’s also been a really tough year for my family. Add that to everything else and I’m just not feeling up to being too open and vulnerable, because life has forced me to be quite vulnerable already. I feel the need for some quiet time alone to sort of retreat from the stresses of life.

 

Reality Shows/Producers

I’m not entirely sure I want to delve into this subject yet but here’s how I summarized it on Facebook:

As some of you remember, I spent months interviewing with and filming for a ‘reality TV show’ that may or may not have ever existed. There was a production company and we were working on getting the show on a major network. The network wasn’t known for reality TV though, so I should have known better. I should’ve never done interviews in the first place and NEVER should’ve done any video interviews without a contract. (Please learn from my mistakes.)

But, until that point, I never had any experience with production companies or TV contracts. I knew nothing about the business or about how they work. I suspected these producers was dishonest but just assumed that was “show biz”.

I’ve written some posts about it here and here.

If you are approached by a production company in the future, I highly recommend you do your research on the company, trust your instincts fully, and never grant a single interview until you have a written contract if you feel you have a marketable story. Under no circumstances should you give away your ideas. You owe nothing to them.

Unfortunately, some companies aren’t honest.

How was your year? What were some of your highlights (it’s okay to share the great things that happened) or low times? What are you looking forward to in 2013? Do you make resolutions? If so, what are they? 

 

Walking Away From Spiritual Abuse

Walking Away From Spiritual Abuse

The most difficult phase of a spiritually abusive experience is usually the exit process. This is where victims of spiritual abuse usually suffer the greatest losses. Walking away from friends and possibly even family members when exiting a religious group is never an easy process. What makes it even more difficult is when these relationships are damaged or destroyed due to the tendency of spiritually abusive leaders to blacklist and demonize members who leave the church or group.
Many people never leave their spiritually abusive church or group due to the fear of losing a large portion of their life that they have invested into the group. Most of the people who contemplate leaving a spiritually abusive environment have seen an unhealthy pattern of what happens when someone exits the group: Loss of relationships, loss of time and money invested, loss of their reputation, and even fears of losing their relationship with God and being turned over to the devil. These fears are very real, and pose a hurdle for most people who want to leave a spiritually abusive group. Many victims of spiritual abuse wonder what will become of their lives if they decide to escape their spiritually abusive church or group. They have most likely been taught that if they leave the group it is equal to leaving God. They don’t know if they can cope in the real world without the help and support of their church group.
The question then becomes: Should I leave my abusive church? That question can only be answered by you. There will most likely be losses involved. However, you have to decide which is worse – suffering the losses, or continuing to suffer from the spiritual abuse? Let me use an analogy to help you see your situation from a different perspective. Let’s say you were taken prisoner of war in a foreign country. In the prison you become removed from old family members and friends, and develop new relationships with your fellow prisoners and even some of your captors. You spend 10 years in the prison, and then are offered a way of escape. You are then faced with the same decision: Do you leave the relationships made in the abusive environment, which may be very dear to you, to go back to your old friends and family members? The next question becomes, will your your old friends and family members even remember you or want you in their lives again? Are you willing to suffer the grief of leaving friends and possibly even family members behind in the abusive environment after you escape? These are hard questions to answer, but only you can make this decision.
As far as “leaving God’s will” goes, I personally believe that this is the biggest hoax that is used by spiritual abusers. Most spiritually abusive groups create a codependent dynamic in the group that causes followers to become emotionally and spiritually dependent on the group in an inordinate way. The tactics that are used to create this dynamic usually include fear, guilt, shame, manipulation, and brainwashing. Verses of scripture are twisted and used to make members fear losing their salvation if they exit the group without the leader’s permission. It takes a lot of willpower and inner strength to cross the hurdles of these fears and leave the spiritually abusive group.
Members who do end up deciding to leave spiritually abusive groups are usually blacklisted and demonized by the leader, being cut off from association with the group’s members. This becomes another huge hurdle to cross when trying to determine if it is best for your emotional and spiritual health to leave the group. Most members who leave these groups suffer great heartache and grief due to the lost relationships that were left behind in the group. This grief is usually the most painful part of leaving a spiritually abusive group, and can even be the cause of depression in members who leave the groups. This grieving process is not exclusive to leaving a spiritually abusive group, but is common whenever leaving a group of loved ones in a traumatic fashion such as a divorce or death of loved ones. The grief becomes multiplied when you lose more than one relationship at once. Some have even likened it to losing your entire extended family in an airplane crash.
I am not trying to tell you about the grief and loss you will suffer when leaving a spiritually abusive group or church in order to scare you into staying. Personally, I believe it is always best to leave any type of abusive situation if at all possible. You won’t be able to heal and recover from the abuse until you get away from it. However, it may cause you more grief and heartache in the short run to be able to experience a healthy emotional and spiritual life in the long run. If you decide to leave your spiritually abusive church or group, you will find the resources on this website of great value in your recovery process.
It is possible to recover from spiritual abuse. It doesn’t happen overnight, and the recovery process can last a lifetime. There are a handful of books available on the subject of spiritual abuse, but very few if any that provide methods of recovery and healing from it. I have found the best way to recover from spiritual abuse is to find a group of people that can relate to your experience such as the members of the church abuse forum on this website. When you can share your hurts and pains in a safe environment with others who can understand and are sensitive to what you have been through, it can help the recovery process along tremendously.
I hope that you find the resources on this website helpful in your journey through the process of recovery from spiritual abuse.

The above article was quoted in it’s entirety from: http://www.churchabuse.com/articles/spiritual_abuse_articles/healing_spiritual_abuse_001.html