My Journey From the Depths of Despair
(Testimony by survivor of Garner Ted Armstrong's false teachings)
I have probably been depressed my whole life. My mom was Catholic and my Dad couldn't of cared less about God. My Dad was a control freak, still is, and he treated me as his "whipping boy." When he had a hard day at the office and needed some way to relieve some stress, not to worry, I was always at home for him to dump all of his stress and the crap of the day on. Mom enabled a lot of stuff but it was Dad who brought on the emotional, spiritual and even physical abuse. I was sexually abused when I was about six years of age by the babysitter. I developed a peptic ulcer by the time I was 12 years old . By the time I left my parents house (I don't say "my" house because I never felt at ease there), I lived in constant fear of my dad and he knew that and he used that fear. But when I did leave my "family of origin," I was a text book case in toxic shame. My spirit was split and I suffered an emotional breakdown a few years after I was married.
Enter Garner Ted Armstrong at this time. Boy, was I a prime candidate for a cult! I was searching at the time for some kind of meaning, some role model, someone and somebody to feel connected to or accepted by. Armstrong spoke with such confidence and I was so trusting and I wanted "black and white" answers to hang my life on. I needed a purpose to keep on living and doing the "Word of God" was the greatest thing that I could dedicate my whole life to. I was on the Church of God International tape list and after a few months I had boxes of sermon tapes by GTA. I used to listen to him for hours every day. I'm not kidding. I am a janitor and I can listen to my Walkman all day if I want. I listened to GTA everyday at work. I could hear up to 5 or 6 tapes during my shift. It didn't stop there. I listened to him at home, cutting the lawn, washing the car, diving around, while I was shopping at the grocery store. All I listened to or read was the Bible, world news and Armstrong. I had allowed Armstrong to pretty much take up residence in my mind.
During this time I started to really become depressed. Without realizing what I was doing or why I was doing it, I started to self medicate with alcohol and different psychiatric drugs.
I met GTA on two occasions and spoke to him on the phone. We corresponded through the mail. I wasn't a member of the GTA cult because the [Canadian] group of the CGI met downtown and that was too far for me to go every Saturday.
My wife hated my drinking and she knew I was in trouble. Also, she couldn't stand GTA. One morning she handed me a newspaper and she didn't say a thing. She knew how much I respected GTA and she knew that I would be hurt by the news article in front of me. She didn't gloat. The story that was highlighted was about GTA and a masseuse in Tyler, Texas and a lawsuit. I could not, would not, believe that GTA did the deeds that he was being accused of. But one very sad day in my life, I watched one of these trashy, daytime news type talk shows and they played the Video that the masseuse from Tyler had secretly taken of GTA. I tell you, as I sat there in my TV room, watching this tape of GTA doing his perverted acts and going after a woman who was not his wife, I broke down and cried. I felt like an absolute fool. Everything spun out of control for me mentally and spiritually. I started getting myself drunk every day until I hit bottom one night--Halloween night to be exact--and I verbally abused my wife of ten years and my two precious daughters, ages two and 6 months at the time (what a hero). I was in a drunken rage and had become everything I hated and never wanted to be. All I could hear coming out of my mouth that night was my own dad. Only I was worst than my dad--I was a drunk!
The morning after that terrible incident I blacked out and couldn't remember the entire evening before. My wife gave it to me with both barrels and I haven't told anyone this, not even my wife, but after finding out what I had done the night before to the people that I loved the most, if my wife had called the marriage off, I had already decided to kill myself. I asked my wife "if she wanted me to leave for the sake of the kids" and if she had said yes, I was completely resigned to the fact that I had decided to kill myself. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out how I was going to commit suicide. But when I asked my loving wife if she wanted me to leave she said something that I will never forget--ever. She said, "The girls and I love you." That was the turning point for me. I went to get help for my drinking and drug abuse and I started getting good Christian counseling. I joined an addiction support group called Living Clear and was properly diagnosed with clinical depression. I finally started getting the help that I needed and slowly I started to feel comfortable in my own skin. I also started the process of opening old wounds and painful issues from my past and learned why I was the way I was. There was a lot of pain and tons of anger during this time but it was all for my own good and mental health. The recovery process had started.
That was four years ago. I'm still in recovery. I am still de-programming the "parent tapes" in my mind and I am still learning how to walk with Jesus Christ everyday. He has been there my whole life--knocking and waiting and praying for me. He was with me when I totaled my car and was arrested for drunken driving. He saved my life that night. Jesus has always been there just waiting for me to say "Yes" to Him and His loving guidance.
I still can't get my brain around what motivates people like GTA and his Dad (Herbert W. Armstrong). They can't believe in God and do the things they do. They can't believe anything that they preach or write. They can't believe in God.1
I started a more natural healthy diet and life style. I use herbs to ease my moods and to help me sleep. I also am trying to eat more raw veggies and trying to stay away from foods that are harmful (alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars, etc.). I feel that the Lord is urging me to take better care of my earthly temple and that holiness does include taking care of the body. I'm believing God for total health and spiritual healing. Recently, God has used ESN in that healing process. Don't ever forget the fact that there are former members in the ESN who are making a positive difference in the lives of a lot of hurting people.
I've read so many testimonies and personal letters from exiters in recovery and their words have really helped me. Others have been open and honest and vulnerable with me, so that I could begin to be honest and open with myself. That's recovery.
That's my journey in a nutshell. Sorry this story is so long. It feels good to tell you about it and think how far I've come, by the grace of God. I don't drink, my wife and I are tighter than ever, and I'm a better father to my girls because of my experiences. The memories of my childhood don't have a sting anymore.
Thank you for caring about me and thank you for praying for me. May God bless you with His peace.
Your Brother in Christ,
By Robert (first name used with permission)
April 8, 2002
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." ~Matthew 11:28
Update: Garner Ted Armstrong died of pneumonia at age 73 in a Tyler, Texas hospital on September 15, 2003. His group today is known as Intercontinental Church of God. The Church of God International, located in Tyler, Texas, continues to teach and proclaim the dogma of Herbert W. Armstrong. Their TV program is called "Armor of God."
Footnote by ESN: