Thank you for letting me tell a little bit of my story. As I type these words, I am aware that more than anything I want you to read them. If you read them, perhaps they will be real, and perhaps I’ll be real, and this realness will serve as a road going forward into the complete unknown.
For twenty-three years I lived in explicit submission to a guru. I took a vow of obedience to him, pledging to bring all my major life decisions to him and follow his guidance. I lived with and or near him, worked for his businesses, and in all aspects of my world tried to please him.
I brought many talents to this “noble work.” I had graduate degrees. I wrote music, sang and played the drums. I was also openly gay. By the time I left the Sufis, just two months ago, I had left my talents behind; they had been squashed, my energy depleted. I had also married a woman and had a child. Now I know that I had — as Alexandra Stein describes in Terror Love and Brainwashing— completely dissociated.
My wife had bravely — and surreptitiously — laid the groundwork for our exit. Neither one of us knew she was doing this. First, she quietly kept her deepest secrets to herself. I, on the other hand, told them. She wanted to keep some material items safe from the collective need. I, however, fought her to give them all away. We paid thousands of dollars to the community in material goods, and gave them all our time.
The most valuable thing I gave away, however, was all myself, my creativity, my sexuality, my personhood. As a gifted musician, I was in a band with the guru (a word which I refuse to capitalize.) He was not a gifted musician. I was aware every time he had trouble keeping tempo, every time he improvised with the same riff ad nauseum. I knew when he was out of key or when he couldn’t correctly count. Every time I had this awareness, I made a conscious decision to suppress my own knowledge, feeling and awareness. I made the guru the one who was right.
In order to maintain my delusion, I embraced all-out hypocrisy. While insisting that our group was not exclusive or superior, I judged all outsiders as less-than: less devoted, less political, less honest and less real. I cut off relationships with my friends and family. I stopped voting and I didn’t vaccinate my daughter. My thinking became magical, myth-based rather than scientific, thoughtful, open.
When social distancing started in March, my wife and I found ourselves with some space: we were sharing a house with my mother and our 18 years old daughter. The guru pushed against my early decision to social distance, but I had been reading the news and I knew that I should stay at home to make sure that my 88 year old mother didn’t get the virus.
It was at this point that I found my breaking point. For the first time in over two decades, I was able to think to myself, “Wait a minute. Guru, I am going to trust my own decision over the pressure you’re putting on me. I am going to put my mother before your pleasure.”
Then the dam broke.
In two short months I have been able to acknowledge my complex PTSD symptoms based on having lived in a cult under the tyranny of a traumatizing narcissist. I have been able to hear the stories of sexual and other abuse from other ex members. I have acknowledged, anew, my sexual orientation and been honest with my wife and family.
I have so much to tell, and so much to unravel, and so much to explore. I am so happy to be a human being again, and I am so excited to meet other actual human beings.
God willing, I’ll be able to keep telling you the story as it unfolds.