When my wife and I talk about leaving the cult we present two different dates. The first date was a few months before the restaurant closed down. That was her date and she attributes that date to their – no, his disgust – over us purchasing the van. Perhaps she is correct, although I find the timing of my departure from the role of General Manager to Restaurateur an interesting coincidence in regards to my falling from his grace. Considering I was no longer in a position to provide ongoing employment to every member of his family, what good was I too him?
But, I digress, because the date of departure that I reference occurred a few years later, although we no longer attended the cult services held in his basement – the final severing of relationship from the cult, for me, occurred over a fateful conversation a few years later. We still remained tangled with them, though not through our own means but by his relentless pursuit of us – of me, as his prize and his property.
When we transitioned back into a community church he phoned the pastor several times to ‘inform’ him of all of my misgivings. He contacted his followers on the island, informing them that they were to no longer have any contact with us under any circumstances. He then monitored our social media and any contact we had with people remotely connected to him in the community and beyond, in an attempt to control what was said and not said about him.
He even would find us in this valley city and confront us with questions around what we may have shared or told others about him and his family. In those days it was hard enough for my wife and I to even find language to talk with one another about what we had experienced, so because of that we did not say a word about this cult leader or his family to anyone else. In fact, my wife and I had made a commitment to one another that we would only talk well of him and his family – if pressed – in order to avoid any further conflict with him.
This continued for years, even after my ‘official’ exit date and continued longer, even though we were beginning to be contacted by others in the cult that wanted to understand how we were able to exit. They had heard such horrible stories about us from this cult leader but things were no longer adding up in their heads and they were beginning to question what was going on. We shared our story with a few people who, as far as we can tell, have been able to make a clean break of it all and in fact it has only been in the last few years that I can confidently talk about the cult experience I had – using such strong language. I can talk that way because I feel safe enough now – even if he were to begin his terrorizing once again the damage he would be able to do would be minimal as his foolishness would be exposed long before people in my life would begin to believe him.
But that departure – the first date that my wife subscribes to – created another clean slate place for us. In the beginning the time was consumed by our restaurant and the adoption process. It was if we had no time for anything else. But when the restaurant closed and we were now restarting as a family – in those moments I was realizing the chance we had once again to start over. It was a small enough place – this valley city – where you did get to know everyone as you walked downtown – but just big enough that people were not that wrapped up in each other’s lives that we could figure out how to start over again.
And start over we did.
We began attending the same church we had gone to years earlier but with some few faces in the mix, a new pastor and leadership team, and enough life experience to be welcoming to some weary travelers, such as we were. It was refreshing to be connected to a larger community once again and I now began the arduous process of rebuilding the broken relationships that was a result of my involvement in the cult over the last few years.
In the sanctity of these new beginnings I was beginning to think clearly again. My wife and I spoke to great lengths over where we were in our life and what it was that we wanted to do. Adoption was the answer. Even though we now had this financial hard place to recover from we did not want to disrupt or worse – shutdown the adoption process, so we were able to slow our lives down to a step-by-step process. First, I would pursue employment opportunities so we can keep paying the bills and continue walking through this adoption process. Once the adoption was complete then we would regroup and rethink life options.
Seemed good enough for me.
Next step was to set up a meeting with this couple to discuss what they needed and whether or not I could help them.