Recovery Issues and What to Expect
If you've had exit-counseling, you have had a concentrated time to discuss and reflect upon your involvement in a high demand, abusive group, your personal problems that affected your vulnerabilities and your spiritual issues. But you also need to realize that, for some, it has been somewhat like chipping off at an iceberg. Your "recovery" rate and level is highly dependent upon a variety of factors: the number of years spent in a cultic environment, the destructiveness of your specific group ala doctrine and practice, your level of involvement within the cultic milieu, your emotional health prior to group/relationship involvement, and strength of relationship to family and friends outside of the group, among others. Because of exit-counseling you learned how the group manipulated your "self" and squeezed you into their mold or their "clone." How motivated are you to continue to find your true self with all of its goals and aspirations? How patient are you to allow this process to take the time needed to be an "inside out" recovery?
Here are a few reminders to help you along the way:
- Don't expect family and friends to totally "understand" your experience. It was your experience, not theirs.
- Continue to explain what happened to you in the best ways you can.
- Don't be surprised if, after a while, people remind you that you need to "move on" with your life ... or "forget what lies behind" ... or think you are obsessing on your experience. Try to explain the nature of trauma ---that the continual review of the experience helps you "process" it and give meaning to it, and you would appreciate their patience with you.
- Join a support group or network of friends who have gone through similar cultic experiences as yourself to continue in understanding what happened to you, and hear the uplifting stories of others who have grown through their group exodus.
- Expect numerous "ups and downs." Just when you think you've gotten a handle on it all, you may have some moody, confused times of wondering why you left, or why this happened to you, or how can you ever get past this experience.1 This is very normal and typical. Everyone has up and down days and weeks. Look at the overall "graph of growth and resolve."
- Enjoy reading books regarding: 1) other people's experiences in an exploitive, abusive group and education on such groups or 2) about nothing that has to do with abusive groups, just topics you want to explore for a change like gardening, poetry, history, or whatever would help you feel like a valuable living human.
- Schedule additional counseling/consultation with someone knowledgeable about survivors from exploitive, deceptive groups and their particular issues if you need continued help in sorting out any emotional trauma, or if you run into some obstacles. Like surgery is to the body, healing takes time afterwards. Just don't panic. You have not lost all that you once gained. Recovery takes time!
- Continue to confront those cognitive lies that may periodically rear their ugly head. Write them down, then challenge the irrationality of the inherent errors. Review your thinking bit by bit, if necessary. (See: Where Do the Feelings Go?) Continue to "deprogram" the land mines that might still remain in your mind as the thoughts (lies) surface in your thinking.
- Get involved in activities you've always dreamed of, or take an evening class of interest at your local community college. Life is to be enjoyed not endured -- something totalistic groups usually don't teach! Surround yourself with fun, positive, enjoyable activities and people!
- Be tolerant of parental or spousal concerns that you might return to the group. Assure them you will not. Assure them that your concern is for your friends inside the group, reminding yourself that you need to heal and have some strength and resolve before you can be of any real help to others. Remember, you are first accountable for yourself.
- Remind yourself daily that you are a special, uniquely created individual whom God loves.
- Realize the value of what you've learned about life from your experience; help others grow.
~Adapted from an article sent to Exit & Support Network™
NOTE: See our Booklist for helpful books.
Footnote by ESN: