Sunday, January 11, 2015

4 years

Almost exactly 4 years ago today Pnina sent me the Foibles of Abba article. I don't know if I will ever forget how I felt upon reading it. It was a life-defining moment.  It was a moment where time seemed to stand still as I was caught in an odd introspection considering where I came from, re-adjusting the lens through which I viewed all of my experiences.  With the shock wave of uncertainty that followed, I had no idea what my future would hold. Those moments do not fade easily from memory.

Four years seems so long and so short a time for the changes in my life. As my anger has ebbed. I am embarrassed by this blog. I even took parts of it down for a while.  I thought having some of the posts up was giving people the idea that I am someone I'm not. Many posts are things I would never usually think about or say.  I'm usually a pretty trusting and optimistic person, and when I read back, I cringe at the person I painted myself to be.  It was the worst of myself. It was opposite of the Pollyanna life that most people put up on the internet. Some people made sure to put me down for the things posted here. I didn't want to care, and I didn't want to be hurt by what people were saying, but I was. This blog was far too integral to my healing and my mindset at the time. I couldn't separate what people were saying from my self-esteem. I guess it just took me a while to learn a few lessons that seem so simple now:
1) Never read the comments
2) Fighting on the internet will never change anyone's mind
3) Most people don't care about the truth, they care about protecting their interests.

That means I really have nothing left to post. I'm not in touch with anyone in the Family anymore. I have no knowledge of what they are up to. I deleted anyone I thought still had a part in it. Until recently, I have not given it much thought at all. It's just no longer a part of my life. It's part of my past, and I am finally ready to leave it behind. Truthfully, I hope nothing bad happens to people.  I feel bad for the kids when they get older and realize what all of this was. There is nothing else I can do but leave the blog up for them. In case some youth comes looking for information about Abba and the Elders, and how the Family started, they can look here.

I remember the Foibles Article seemed unreal to me at first. I realized immediately that I had been deceived. I've known my whole life that I had a shitty childhood, so that was no surprise. I still remember chatting my with PCP about going to therapy and him saying "do you think you were abused?" I laughed at him and said "I've known that forever, but I still need to go to therapy for a while about this whole thing." My memories weren't PTSD latent and coming through in waves that seemed hallucinatory. My memories were clear and I knew what they were. I just finally had a way to understand WHY.  When I told my husband and he found Rick Ross and the Jack Hickman forum, and I stayed up all night reading how many other people were hurt... that's when the enormity of the Family and the wrongs finally struck home. Because as shitty as my parents and immediate family were, I really wasn't alone. There were other people and the fact is, the abuse spanned decades.  Even the people trolling and basically agitating the posters told me that people were still invested in keeping the secrets of the past a secret. It meant that there WAS a seedy underbelly. If the accusations were baseless, people wouldn't feel the need to respond. They would laugh and shrug it off. You wouldn't get the heated denials found on Rick Ross, and now some of the blog comments.

I'm thankful for Rick Ross, but I fucking HATED the anonymity of it. It only helped to strengthen the paranoia. Oh the paranoia. I absolutely do NOT miss being paranoid. It's such a scary lens in which to view others. Its so unnatural. It made me feel crazy on more than one occasion. I was also terrible at it. I'm sure not everyone I spoke with was who they said they were. I'd be surprised if they were. Then the blogs started. After the blogs started, the internet bullying seemed to hit a spike, but I noticed that youth looking for answers were no longer being pulled in.  Rick Ross is barely used anymore because it was becoming more and more difficult to pretend to be someone you weren't. I think the blogs brought that about. We started naming names and people knew who we were, so you couldn't totally discredit it all.

For that reason, But Seriously will stay up. For public record on the Abenseur Family, or Shoresh Yishai, or the 13th Tribe. What do you call yourselves now?  The-50th-order-of-the-tribe-of-Israel-once-removed-under-kingly-leadership-until-the-prophet-names-the-Abba? Wait, it's not a prophet, its a kid that sees a Maggid and old men will dream dreams, to confirm his vision, right? Anyway, this is here for you guys. For whoever needs it. I'm sorry there is nothing else I could do. Religious freedom is still a protected right in this country and your parents have the right to raise you into any form of belief that does not break the laws under which you are protected, or they are able to raise you into beliefs that actually do break laws that protect your personal freedoms as long as they were smart and savvy enough to hide your abuses and keep you quiet. I'm saying this, because that's what happened to me.

This year has been a great one for personal growth for me. My Family-related panic attacks are gone. I haven't had one in a long time. I'm not afraid of running into someone's grandma, or traveling to Augusta to go shopping, or talking about my odd religious knowledge or practices. I used to be really sketchy when people asked where I was from. Little things would cause pangs of anxiety like, I might say the wrong thing. When you grow up your whole life in a secret society that trains you to lie about the truth of your life, AND you're a terrible liar... you carry a lot of anxiety about anything that comes close to letting the cat out of the bag.

I have been openly talking about things for a few years, but this year is the first that I don't have anxiety or an emotional response about it. My heart rate doesn't hike, my face stays the same color, I don't start sweating. That's a pretty big deal for me.  It's peaceful. It feels good to be done with secrecy. I can really look back at how poisonous secrecy was for my life and how many ways it affected me. I can talk to my family about things openly now. My extended family are not worried about talking to me anymore. That's apparently something they were always worried about. They had no idea how indoctrinated we were in this religious "thing" my parents were into and they were afraid of hurting us or just not being able to tolerate the bullshit. So for the first time in years, I can have a real relationship with my sisters and my family.  Knowing anything about my family, this is pretty fucking amazing. I spent my whole life being told that I couldn't have a relationship with people I was related to because they wouldn't understand "who I was." Whatever that means. Thanks Mom and Dad--not a part of my current or future definition of "family," FYI.

I also seem to have regained my life and let live mentality. Actually, I don't think I can say "regained." The religious experiences of others were at the least "other" and at the worst "inferior," so that I had a ton of unconscious judgment about the ways in which other people worshipped or found meaning in their lives.  I find now that it doesn't matter to me. This actually applies to the Family as well. The Family was clearly not for me. It didn't help affirm a life mission for me, it didn't offer me a place that I felt that I belonged, it did not help me deal with mortality, it did not offer a sense of purpose. Those are the things I perceive people get from their own religious or spiritual experiences.
But, when the house of cards fell down, I didn't cling to any of it. There's this weird feeling I have about the Family that I know will never pass. I KNOW there are bad guys hiding in the leadership and amongst the rank and file. I also KNOW there are good people trying to live a good life and do good things. That's not easily reconciled, but if not for the good acts that the Family promoted, they would have had no followers in the long term.

I think I went atheist for a while because it made sense to me in a rational way. I felt as if there were a deity somehow in charge of life and good vs. evil then they seriously let me down.  I could not have continued to hold onto that belief in the face of the reality of my life.  Now, I'd say I'm agnostic. I still believe that my experiences with the Family have soured me. I don't believe I could walk into any congregation and find meaning again. Yet, I still find myself being grateful for the connecting life strings that seem to tie us all together as humans, the circumstances of coincidence that seem anything but, the answer to a question that never made it past your lips arriving at just the moment that you needed it. Maybe it is a universal consciousness, maybe it just a life spark, or just how energy circles the universe. I don't know. But I do get a feeling I can't shake once in a while, and I know its this other thing. Not having the answers to that is okay with me. I don't need this feeling to have a name. At least I no longer need to deny it's there in order to feel normal.

Of course there's my parents in all of this. Thinking about them makes me wonder how people could have a saying that says to "forgive and forget."  I can never forget.  The forgive part is also a little strange to me. This seems too big for forgiveness. Over the years I can only apply a little understanding to how and why they made the choices they made.  I still think that they were adults that were culpable for abuses they engaged in, and the abuses they ignored. Neither came from great family circumstances. Neither had anything like a good support systems. Both wanted desperately to belong to something. Both got a tremendously good feeling from being a part of something exclusive and that they had a life calling. I can remember in 1997 after the first "Youth" retreat, and the revival of family meetings and the "sign up or you're out for good" calling came out. Both of them were pissed. In a few meetings it was made clear that the parents were done. They were old hat. They had their kids and they sent them to the retreats and they were done. Thank you very much for playing, now run along while the big kids handle the little obstacle of saving the world from judgment.

For these two people who struggled with and yet clung to this Family to feel as though their life was over and to be cast aside, it devastated them.  I think that's why by 2004, they were out. They had stopped having a relationship with their brothers and sisters, they rejected so many things, and now weren't even being rewarded for it. They were never even close to inner circle, but despite hanging onto the doctrine, they were pissed. Talk about Daddy issues. Rejected again. I can't imagine spending my life the way they did, only to be pushed aside.

I think of them in their 30's, not too far off my age, dealing with having a daughter come home from people you wanted desperately to belong to, someone in a position of prominence, someone you came to rely on for childcare... to hear that she was assaulted. I have no idea what was said to them. I know the incident made my Mom crazy, because it brought up her own assaults that she never dealt with. I don't think she believed my sister. I think she honestly would rather believe she lied. If she lied, then she wouldn't have to deal with her assault, and how she didn't get help, and how her family glossed over what happened to her. It was a totally different time. I know this intellectually. It still pisses me off. But in the effort to understand, I can actually see it from their perspective. I know I would have made other choices, but I know where they were, and they were vulnerable.

I also think it's why we moved away from the D's and the abusers within 2 years. I also think its probably why we moved in the B's, a family I have no memory of until we were suddenly moving to Central NY to live with them. The dad was an Elder, my parents couldn't make waves by asking too many questions, and that family was already dealing with a "problem daughter."  My sister and I both remember that Dad giving my Dad some training on how to deal with insolence. I remember my Dad punching my sister for the first time when we moved in with them. Force was how you dealt with it. Something to do with the proper respect being shown to head of household and blah blah blah. My Dad did like to feel that he was in control. Having smart-mouthed kids that were not obedient was something he could never stomach. And Mom, well, Mom knew she couldn't hit us, but she was a good manipulator. She was long before we moved in with the B's. With Dad's new-found "confidence" she was able to put her skills to new use. We definitely were scared straight for a while. We were probably the best behaved kids ever. Fear of a beating can do that to you.

That's where I'm at. I know the what's, and I'm only beginning to guess at the how's and why's. But in reality, the Abenseur Family was SO MUCH of what happened to my family in the long run that I cannot separate the two. And my parents had so many chances to change their minds and their actions. They couldn't, and wouldn't after too long. I recall one starting and stopping therapy multiples times, unable to deal with it when they actually started to talk about the hard stuff. I remember the other never agreeing to go, probably petrified of having to talk about the truth. Mental illness is a terrible thing. I can give you first hand accounts of how the people that really need the help the most, will not accept it.  So there's a part of me that is feeling like I need to forgive them. I need to forgive them for me. I need to let this go. There's another part of me that thinks, how can you forgive people that refuse to change? Isn't that like saying that what they did was okay?

This is my conclusion:
I don't like what happened. It sickens and disgusts me. I know as an adult that I would NEVER make the same decisions. I also know that I was made stronger by my own circumstances. I know my entire childhood wasn't a piece of shit, or I wouldn't be who I am today. I know that I have good character traits in my life that came from the support and teaching of my parents, some of them even from the Family. I know all of this. I can see all of this. But the good will never erase the bad. I will never condone what happened to me at the hands of Kevin and Maureen, or the various people I was forced to interact with while a member of the Family. I will never forget. Please do not ever assume that any forgiveness on my part would make what you did to us and other people okay. It will never be okay. Just because you were nice to me for a while, or did something altruistic as it concerned dealing with the Troubled Girls that we were... it doesn't make it okay to lie to people, manipulate, or indoctrinate someone into a way of thinking to keep you from having to deal with the demons of your past. No good can erase that bad. None. I don't think you can conveniently say "I repent" at some future date and think that your wrongs will be erased, because they won't.

I hope you all use George and David as a cautionary tale. Shit, you should use John as the same. As an organization, you did not protect the innocent. You protected the guilty, and because of that gross negligence, you have allowed other innocents to be hurt.  We have seen the sins of the father passed to the sons already, with Lev and David both in jail. Will the next generation share the same fate? When will it end.

I know I will think about this for many years to come. It will be the thought I have that will have no answer, and it will be the one I think on the most. But I will sleep well at night knowing that my abuse did not extend to another generation. I made the difficult choice. I am living another path. It's the right one. It was hard and embarrassing and at times disorienting. But it was also affirming. I know who I am. I know exactly how much I can and cannot take. I know where the line in the sand is, and I know what side I am on. I will never have to wonder if I did the right thing.

I am a person who was abused. I am a person who was in a cult. I am also a person who made a new life. I'm not a survivor, or a victim. I'm just me. I am profoundly happy with that.

Cheers to 4 years of being free.




5 comments:

  1. Now that you "don't have anxiety or an emotional response about it" I hope that you will be willing to speak with me now. Your email is not working anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous, not sure who you could be. There have been a few people I didn't want to speak to about all this. Can you be more specific?

    ReplyDelete
  3. i am asking you if you are now open to speaking to those people today?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Still vague. I hope this clarifies. I still don't want to speak with the nasty, compassion less ghost writer guy, and I still don't want to talk to the guy that was trying to compile all the teachings. Does that help? Cause neither of those people presented themselves in ways that were forthright, trusting, or in line with anything I would want to be a part of. So, are you a part of that group?

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  5. Has it really been 4 years? Tempus fugit!

    I just wanted to thank you for creating this blog. When your journey started, it had already been 3 years for me.

    I can tell this blog has helped you a lot, but I have to say, it also helped me a lot too. There were so many things I had pent up inside with no outlet, no one who would really understand. RickRoss had turned into a witch hunt, and it seemed like your blog came around at just the right time.

    I don't visit here as much as I used to (heck, I'm only reading your "latest" post 2 months late), but I still have it bookmarked, and it's nice to know when I'm feeling like no one could possibly understand, that I can read some stuff here and remember there are people who actually do.

    ~ resu

    ReplyDelete