Hi. I am Elizabeth and I am an ex-Scientologist. I was involved with the COS for a period of about five years.
I first became interested as a teenager. I was very young and naive and the guy I had a crush on was a Scientologist. In my twisted teenage-girl brain, I thought if I bought the books and went to the classes, he would like me more. Plus, the only other Scienos I had ever heard of were celebrities and this was in the times that people actually liked Tom Cruise.
Being so popular in Hollywood gave it a cool, glamorous image. (Way OT: I now believe people should not make major life decisions until they are at least twenty-seven and are basing them on real life experience and not on what they think is cool and glamorous and freaks out their parents.)
The first book I read was a copy of "Dianetics" that he had given me. I have to admit I was genuinely fascinated by it and it seemed to make perfect sense at the time. The early books and courses make it seem like a practical religion that is actually concerned with helping you to become a better person. They set the perfect trap-especially for a young and inexperienced person with a not so happy home life.
I progressed from reading about the tech to taking Dianetics "extension" or "home study" courses over the Internet. Because I knew my parents would not approve, I started lying to them and telling them I was at the library doing homework. Knowing my parents did not approve and I had to sneak around actually made the whole thing more appealing to me somehow.
Although this continued for some time, I did not get really seriously involved until I moved away from home. There was'nt a real org where I'm from but when I got to the city (I will retain my anonymity by not naming which one), there was a large org with real courses and staff and services.
My first trip to the org was a disappointment to say the least. Looking back, that should have been the time to run away but for whatever reason I did'nt. I did not experience any of the "lovebombing" that is supposed to come with these kinds of groups.
In fact, when I walked in the door, the receptionist's first words to me were "What do you want?" Everyone was very suspicious and paranoid and unfriendly right off the bat. The only time I was shown any "love" was when I was prepared to pay money for books and services.
Incredibly, in spite of all of this, I continued to show up for services. I was given the "personality test", sold a stack of LRH material, signed up for a course (don't even remember what it was now), and lined up with a roomate who was renting a room in her house when they learned I was staying in a hotel. (I have since noticed that it is normal for Scienos to live together in groups.)
After completing my first course, I was asked by the instructor to write an essay on how this course had improved my life. I replied very honestly that I had just now completed it and had not used any of the tech in my life yet. He then escorted me to the office of a higher-up who pretty much informed me I would be writing it or else. This was my first inkling I might have gotten involved in something that was not such a great idea. Incredibly, however, I still stayed for some time.
It was while living with my former roommate that I really saw just how messed up these people really were. My rommate was not an evil person.
In fact, she was very trusting and always wanted to think the best of people, even the really rotten ones and she always had a drive to please the people around her. Sadly, these traits were what made her such an easy target for the religion.
My roommate had been on staff and in the Sea Org. At first, she would talk about what a wonderful experience being on staff was. But then, when she would talk about why she had wanted out, these awful stories would come out and the truth would become more horrific as I lived there.
She would talk with pride about how she and her ex-husband would work for days without sleep to help "clear the planet" and how she was put in solitary confinement for days when she became ill. While on the ship, she became pregnant and suffered from horrible morning sickness. The Sea Org staff convinced her she was sick because her baby was an evil thetan and convinced her to have an abortion.
When she and her husband finally had enough of slaving for the Sea Org, they "blew" and he was branded an "SP" and she got stuck with the freeloader debt for not completing her "billion-year" contract. Because her husband was now an SP, she had to disconnect from him so she was forced to divorce him. She had been forced to disconnect from her family because they had disagreed with her involvement in Scientology. She lived alone in a rented house and worked three jobs to try to pay this enormous debt.
This was a woman who started life happily married with a home and a family and a career she had once loved. She was not a better person because of Scientology. Scientology had ruined her life. Seeing her story is what finally made me get out.
I was finally kicked out of the house because she decided to sell it to pay her freeloader debt. The last I heard she was back on staff.
Being kicked out was a lucky break for me. I was able to get my own place and start over. At the time I left, I was also being hounded to join staff. I am thankful I never did. And I am thankful my story is so brief!