Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chapter Seventeen: Freedom


My wheels hissed against the asphalt as I drove north on 101, through Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks. It was a drive I’d made many times, going up to see Mom. It was after midnight, and there wasn’t much traffic. A light misty rain dusted my windshield, but a touch on the wiper every few minutes kept it clear.
Boxes and bags were piled high on the back seat. More boxes filled the trunk. The Accord felt heavy, slow. I had put as many of my belongings into the car as I could. The rest, including my furniture and boxes of books – most of them Scientology books – were in a storage facility in Beaumont, just over the hills from the Base.

Streetlights cast a yellowish glow, haloed in the mist. Bits of civilization drifted by: a car dealership, a gas station. I looked at it all with new eyes, curious eyes. Me, the newborn citizen of this world – the world outside Scientology. As I started up the long grade at Newbury Park, cars rushed past, their taillights glowing in the mist. Let them rush; I was in no hurry. I had the rest of my life.

It was Saturday, April 16th, 2005. That morning, I had woken up in my dormitory room in the Old Gilman House. I had spent ten weeks in the OGH Compound, weeding and clearing brush, and getting Security Checking, hour after hour, to clean up all my "critical feelings about David Miscavige" by finding my "crimes against Scientology."
At the beginning of April, Manu and Michela had arrived at OGH. They had been told they were being offloaded as well, out of the Sea Org. We began working together, and soon any animosity melted and we all became friends. Security had purchased an old fire engine and wanted to get it cleaned up and polished, so Manu, Michela and I worked on that, day after day. Evenings, the two women would frantically write up ethics conditions formulas, petitions, confessions. They were desperate to get reinstated to the Base. They encouraged me to join them, but I said no – I was not interested in going back. In my mind I was already gone. I spent the evenings reading, or sorting and repacking my belongings.

There were two other CMU staff at OGH, two of the artists, Carrie Cook and Jimmy Yeoh, also slated for offload. With Manu and Michela gone, I estimated there were only about eight people left in CMU – really a skeleton crew. And it wasn’t as if Miscavige’s winnowing process had left the cream. Jimmy and Carrie had been the best designers. The only designer left, Kerrie Francis, had been the worst and slowest designer. And with Manu and Michela gone, there was no one left who could competently write a marketing campaign. CMU had been decimated, it was no more.

But the morning of April 16th had not been like any other. The Security Guards were in a panic. Those who were slated for offload had to be gone, right now, today. One can only imagine what the "flap" was. Maybe Miscavige was on his way back to the Base.

I said goodbye to Manu and Michela. They said they might go to Italy, where they both had family. Jimmy Yeoh gave me his e-mail address.

Most of my possessions had been brought out to OGH and stacked in a spare room, but some of the larger items were still out at the Kirby Apartments. A Security Guard named Salvatore Meo took me out to Kirby in the Security truck and we got the rest of my things, including a big queen mattress and my desk. It took two trips to get everything. Then Sal drove me to a U-Haul place in San Jacinto where I rented a truck. I paid for it – of course. I drove it back to OGH, where we loaded up the truck with everything I owned. Anything I was going to need immediately, I packed into my car. The rest was going into temporary storage.

Sal and I drove the truck up through Lamb’s Canyon, over the hills to Beaumont, where we found a storage place. I paid for the space, then Sal and I unloaded everything and locked it up. We about to head back to the Base to get my car when Murphy phoned. Change of plans: I was not to come back to the Base. Murphy would meet us with my car.

We waited at a nearby Dennys, sipping coffee until Murphy showed up. Sal and I got into my car; Murphy took the truck back. Sal drove my car. It was dark by the time we entered the lobby of the Hollywood Guaranty Building on Hollywood Boulevard. We took the elevator to the 11th floor, where the Office of Special Affairs was. I was ushered into a conference room where there were a couple of OSA legal staff. There was a video camera at one end of the conference table, and a stack of documents. When they turned on the camera, Sal stood over to one side, out of camera range – having a uniformed guard standing behind me might look too much like "duress."

In my frame of mind, I simply signed whatever they put in front of me. Yes, I understand I have no rights, I can never sue the Church, I can never speak out against the Church, I can never reveal what went on at the Base, on and on. Yes, yes, whatever. Initial each page and sign the final page. Document after document, all recorded on video. It took hours.

Finally, we were finished. Sal handed me an envelope with a check in it. Five hundred dollars. This was my "severance pay."

Five hundred dollars? I had no idea what it cost to rent an apartment or buy food, but I knew five hundred dollars wouldn’t get me very far. It was a slap in the face. I had assumed, throughout my whole ten-week "offload" process, that the Church had some way of relocating staff they dismissed – even those who were "declared Suppressive." I had assumed there would be some kind of assistance in finding an apartment and a job, and sufficient severance pay to, at least, pay a deposit and first month’s rent on an apartment and living expenses for a month or so, until one could get a job.

It was not to be. I found myself walking back to my car with $500 in my hands. Fortunately I still had a bit of money left from Mom’s inheritance. Not much, but enough to live for – what? Four months? Six months? I had no idea what things cost.

I got in my car and just sat for a moment. I was parked on Vine Street, just north of Hollywood Boulevard, in a car crammed with my belongings. I was 58 years old, and at that moment, homeless. I had a modest bank account, and a check for $500 in my pocket.

I had no place to go. My brother, my only living relative, was still a Scientologist. As a Suppressive Person, I had been told by Murphy, under no uncertain terms, that I was forbidden to talk to him. The last I’d heard from Kim he was moving to Clearwater. I had no address or phone number for him. I had lost track of Gwennie – she had moved without a forwarding address. I hadn’t heard from her in four years. And after 35 years working for the Sea Org, my only friends were Sea Org Members. I knew no one on the "outside." So it was just me. Me and my car full of belongings, sitting on Vine Street in Hollywood.

At that moment, I realized I could literally drive anywhere and start a new life: down the coast, up the coast, out to Arizona. But I knew where I would go – Santa Barbara, where my mother had lived. It was a city I knew and loved. It was by the sea. And it was in the opposite direction to the Base.

I slipped a CD into the stereo, and turned it up: the Rolling Stones’ "Start Me Up." I pulled out into traffic.

Half an hour later, as I drove up the coast, I felt strangely disembodied, floating. The music had stopped, and I slid along silently, down the long hill into the lights of Camarillo, then through darkened farm country to the lights of Ventura and the Coast. On my left, the Pacific Ocean glimmered in the scattered moonlight. I wound between cliff and ocean, riding the edge of the continent, drifting.

It was well after midnight when I finally pulled in to Santa Barbara. I took the downtown exit and headed up State Street. I found a motel with a vacancy and checked in. It was $100 a night. There went a fifth of my severance pay, but I didn’t care. I was exhausted. It had been a long day.


Santa Barbara - my refuge

Sunday morning, I woke feeling refreshed. I went outside and smelled the fresh sea air. It really came home to me then – I was free, and I was on my own. It was exhilarating.

At the same time, I felt an underlying panic. I had no job, no home. I had to get busy. I went across the street to an IHOP for breakfast. On my way in, I grabbed a local paper. As I ate, I turned to the classified section, apartments to rent. I knew that was my first priority: I had to find a place to live.

Ironically, I found a place available right on Bath Street, about a block from where my mother had lived. I went over and saw it, but it turned out to be unavailable. I called a few more places, then walked down State Street, got a haircut, and went into Barnes & Noble to look for some books on job hunting.

I’d been out of the job market for 35 years. I had no idea how to look for a job, or even how to write a resume. I got two books, Idiots Guide to the Perfect Resume, and What Color is Your Parachute, a book about career changes. I figured that’s what I was doing – a career change.
I didn’t want to pay another $100 for the room, so looked into other motels. I found one a block down the street willing to charge me $55 a night for five nights – through Thursday. The motel was run by a nice guy named Chris, who gave me some advice on apartment hunting.

Over the next few days, I looked at dozens of apartments. I finally settled on a small studio apartment near downtown on East Victoria Street. It was just right for one person, and the rent was low. I put in an application.

Meanwhile I was studying like mad every night on my job hunting books. I was still, to some extent, operating in "Base mode." I felt guilty if I wasn’t doing something, producing something, every minute. I didn’t want to be "idle." I ate my meals fast and got back to work. I was frantic. I even felt guilty because I wasn’t studying Hubbard’s works every spare minute. I tried to listen to a Hubbard lecture one evening, but I couldn’t keep my attention on it – I felt too anxious.

Then one day I was hurrying down State Street to grab a quick lunch, and I happened to notice it was a beautiful, sunny day. People were walking up and down State Street, just enjoying the weather, the shops, the cafés. I kept walking, and ended up down at the beach, watching the waves roll in and the gulls wheel overhead. Hours later, I returned to my motel room. The world hadn’t ended, nothing had been destroyed. Maybe it was OK to just relax a bit.

State Street

One of the books I was reading, What Color is Your Parachute, talked about the importance of envisioning your ideal career. That choice drives everything – how you write your resume, where you look for jobs, how you act during interviews. I decided that what I really wanted, more than anything else, was to pursue a career in graphic design. It was what I was trained in and what I most enjoyed doing. One of my main disappointments in the Sea Org had been not being able to do design work. Sure, I could just desperately take any job – driving a fork lift at Costco or "flipping burgers at McDonalds" as Miscavige liked to say. But why? I had some time; I wasn’t destitute yet. I would find a job in graphic arts.

I secured the Victoria Street apartment on Wednesday, picking up the key and paying the deposit and first month’s rent. Then I called U-Haul and arranged for a truck on Thursday. It was a long, long drive back out to Beaumont, 180 miles, filling up repeatedly on diesel fuel and agonizing over every dollar. I paid the storage fees, then loaded everything – single handed – into the back of the U-Haul and drove back to the Victoria Street Apartment. A couple of young guys who lived next door helped me unload. It was another long day and an exhausting one.

Friday and Saturday I devoted to setting up the apartment. I unpacked everything, then went to Sears and got everything I needed – bedding, pillows, shower curtain, iron, trash can. Then I went furniture shopping and found a cheap bed frame, a chair for the desk and some shelving from Home Depot. I set up the apartment, putting framed family pictures all over the walls. At least I would be surrounded by family in picture form. I had one picture of Cathy I’d managed to smuggle out by hiding it under another picture. I framed it and put it on the wall as well.

Jeff's house

Then – food. I hadn’t cooked my own meals in 35 years, and had no idea where to start. I found myself in Vons, meticulously inspecting prices and package labels. I just sort of got what I felt like eating and seemed easy to prepare. And I got what I thought I’d need for the kitchen – pots, pans, knives, silverware, dishes.

I remembered that Mom had mentioned once that my Dad’s old business partner, Merv Corning, lived somewhere in the area. I looked him up and called him out of the blue. He lived in Solvang, about half an hour north of Santa Barbara. Sunday I went out and saw him and his wife Tula. We hadn’t seen each other since I was about 12, but we spent a lovely afternoon together and he told me some very funny stories about my Dad. Merv was a very talented painter and he showed me his studio. It was nice – it was some kind of connection to family.

With the apartment handled, I concentrated on finding a job. I got my phone connected, and got a DSL line hooked up. I still had my laptop computer, the one I’d ordered when I was at the PAC Ranch. They’d erased all of my photos, but it still worked well. I got that hooked up and running so I could do internet job hunting. I ordered a printer/fax/scanner from Dell, and got a two-drawer file cabinet. I also got a big presentation binder for my "portfolio." I went through everything I had managed to take out with me – old Advance Magazines, promotion, books – and found enough of my old design, illustration and cartoon work to use. Surprisingly, it didn’t look too dated. I got it all copied at Kinkos and inserted into the binder.

I wrote a resume using a format that emphasized skills rather than work history. My Idiots book informed me that it was an acceptable format. I disguised my Scientology history as best I could, putting things like Bridge Publications and new Era Publications. Then I got the resume and some business cards printed at Kinkos.

I went through all of the online job sites I could find and posted my resume, and searched the sites for any graphic design jobs. I applied to every one I found, either by e-mail or regular mail. I created a file of every ad agency, newspaper, and magazine in the area, and started cranking out letters.

In my resume, I put that I was proficient in InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. And I did have some familiarity, but not nearly enough. I invested in the Adobe Creative Suite and installed it on my computer. Then every night I would read manuals and drill on the programs. After a few weeks of this, I was pretty much up to speed.

I started noticing a change in my health. I was sleeping all night every night – eight and even nine hours. I was eating well. And I was finding time to relax. I started feeling a lot better and a lot healthier. And with that, I felt some sanity returning.

I found my old friend Jerry, from the Canyon days. He had his own video production company in Burbank, and I went down one Sunday and spent the day with him. He was glad to hear I was finally out of the Sea Org. Jerry himself had been out of Scientology for 30 years. He had nothing good to say about it. Despite everything I had been through, I still considered myself a Scientologist, and as almost a knee-jerk reaction, I defended Scientology and tried to get him to see it in a positive light.

I didn’t consider myself done with Scientology. I fully planned to do my "A to E" steps and get the SP declare lifted so I could once again talk to my brother. I was going to pay my "Freeloader Debt" – the bill that you get when you leave the Sea Org for all of the services you obtained while a Sea Org Member. I fully intended to do all this and remain a Scientologist. My priority now was finding a job – then I’d worry about getting back into Scientology’s good graces.

The weeks were going by, and still no job. I was phoning prospective employers every day, sending out e-mails, mailing resumes, and rushing out to interviews. I was in a quasi-panic about it – money was running out and none coming in. As I was rushing to an interview, I’d pass these homeless guys on State Street asking me for money. I came to resent them. I don’t have a job either, I’d think, but I’m hustling while you sit there in the sun! Later, when I had steady work, I was more charitable.

In May, I interviewed at a local weekly magazine called Casa. They needed a Production Manager – someone to lay the mag out and get it to press. We talked and they were impressed with my skills. They said they’d get back to me.

Gradually, gradually, I felt myself recovering. I’d get out and take a walk every day, longer ones on weekends. I got into hiking in the hills above Santa Barbara, eventually tackling La Cumbre Peak, the highest mountain in the county.

The view from La Cumbre Peak

The city was beautiful and calming. I’d take long walks on the beach and just relax. I felt like I was slowly gathering up the pieces of my life and getting back some pride and confidence and self-respect.

I still missed Kim and wished I could talk with him. I wondered if they had told him I was declared like the promised to. Probably not. I also wondered where Gwennie was. I tried Googling her name but came up with nothing.

Almost every night I had nightmares. I would be back at the Base, in a meeting with Miscavige, or waiting for a meeting. Or I would be at a Gold Muster, or roaming a strange nightmare version of Building 36. I came to expect the dreams. But every morning I’d wake in my own little apartment and smell the sea air and I’d know everything was all right.

At the end of May I got a call from Mark Whitehurst, the Publisher of Casa Magazine. He wanted to hire me – on a freelance basis at first. He wanted to pay me $16 an hour. I negotiated him up to $20. I had no idea if that was good or bad, but it seemed like I could survive on that when I did the numbers. I started down at Casa Magazine that week – five weeks after my job search had begun.

I got an e-mail from Jimmy Yeoh. He had been in Malaysia visiting family and had just arrived back in the US, in San Diego. He gave me Carrie Cook’s e-mail and I contacted her. She was in Vermont with her husband Peter, who had also left the Sea Org. She was working as a designer for a local magazine there.

On June 5, I began working at Casa full time, on the payroll. For the first time since being out, my income exceeded my expenses. It was a red-letter day, and I vowed that from then on, my income would always be greater than my expenses. I had some catching up to do.

Casa Magazine was a small office, half a dozen people. It was run by Mark Whitehurst and his wife Kerry, a pleasant couple about my age. The magazine was about 60 pages every week, and had to be printed every Thursday night and out on the stands Friday morning. A lot of the ads carried over from the previous week, but there were always new ads to be designed and laid out, and editorial content to be put together. I told them I was interested in art and so became the de facto Art Editor, interviewing artists and gallery owners and putting articles together. They had other freelance writers doing poetry, theater, movies, wine and so on. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays we’d be putting the whole thing together to get to the printer.

When I first started working there, we’d sometimes have to work "late" Thursday night to get an issue out – sometimes until 6, 7 or even, God forbid, 8pm. Mark was careful to check with me and make sure I was OK on that. I almost laughed. Even getting off work at 8pm was like a vacation for me!

"You really work well under stress," Mark told me. To be honest, I hadn’t even noticed any stress.

Mark had to "dial me down" a bit. When I first started working there, I wore a tie every day. He told me that wasn’t really necessary; Santa Barbara was not really a tie place. And he’d notice me working through my break times. "Take a break, take a break," he’d tell me. It took a while to get used to the idea.

With a job secured, my evenings and weekends became my own – a very new experience for me. I remember the first Friday, as I left the office Mark said, "See you on Monday." My immediate thought was "Monday? That’s two days from now!" Then I realized I had two days to do whatever I wanted. I went to the Zoo, the Museum, the library, went to movies, read books, took hikes. Almost everything was within walking distance of my apartment. I started thinking about painting again. When my birthday rolled around in June, I went down to the art store and got myself a set of acrylics, brushes and canvasses.

Out of necessity at first, I stopped using any Scientology terminology. I had to learn to speak without the shorthanded Scientology jargon I’d used for the past 35 years. And to do that, I was forced to rethink concepts. I had to take a Scientology concept and discover how to say it in English. Not surprisingly, I found myself re-evaluating those concepts. Without the Scientology slogan or bromide to fall back on to "explain everything," I had to start really thinking about things. It felt like old, rusted gears in my mind were starting to turn again.

When I first started working at Casa Magazine, I had some vague idea of using Hubbard’s "administrative technology." But as I worked in the office, most of it seemed unnecessary and time-wasting. Sure, I could work out an "org board." Why? It was six people, and everyone knew what to do. I could write a program. Why? It dawned on me that even as disorganized as that office was, it was producing rings around the Marketing area at the Int Base. There, it could take months to produce a single 16-page brochure, doing it over and over and over again. Here, we were getting out a 60-page magazine every week. There were no musters, no inspections, no hordes of executives and program operators swarming down for inspections, no Ethics Officers and Security Guards snooping around, no endless meetings, no recriminations, shame and guilt, no capricious rejects from executives trying to justify their existence. All we did was get out a magazine. And it was easy.

With my evenings and weekends free, I had more time to think about what had happened to me. On a whim, I had picked up 1984 by George Orwell and started to read it. I was struck by the parallels between the thought control systems described in the book and my experiences at the Int Base. In the book Orwell describes "doublethink" – the art of believing two contradictory ideas at the same time. I realized that Scientology was full of those. One was told to "think for yourself," for instance, yet in fact everyone knew that no disagreement with Hubbard was allowed. Scientology teaches that the secret to good communication is high affinity (liking) and high reality (agreement). Yet staff are taught to scream at each other and even physically abuse others. Scientology champions "human rights" yet runs an abusive RPF prison system. I had always known these things, but I had justified them, explained them to myself – in other words, I had become adept at doublethink. With that realization, the sense of hypocrisy, the gap between what is preached and what is actually practiced by Scientology, began to grow in my mind.

I had considered that the Int Base was an anomaly, an unfortunate deviation from the true nature of Scientology. But what if that atmosphere, that culture, was actually the culmination of the unrestrained application of Scientology? I had worked for 35 years to bring about a "Scientology World." Suppose that Int Base was a microcosm of what a Scientology World would be like in reality – an authoritarian regime where "downstats" are abused and any real human emotion is mocked and repressed. I would want nothing to do with such a group.

The tipping point came as I was trying to plan my finances. I knew that I was way behind. I had nothing for retirement, and I was already 58. I calculated out my monthly income and tried to itemize all of my expenses. One of the expenses was my Freeloader Debt. Even at $500 a month, it would take years to pay off. I felt frustrated.

Then an odd thing happened. I got mad. Why, I asked myself, should I pay them any money at all? I had worked for the Church of Scientology for 35 years, seven days a week, often 16 and 18 hour days, for next to no pay. I had no savings. How, in the name of all that is fair, do I owe them anything? I decided, there and then, that I would never, never, pay them a cent on any "Freeloader Debt." And, as that was the second step on the "A to E" steps to get the Suppressive Person declare lifted, that I would never, never do my A to E steps. Never. I owed them nothing. So they labeled me an SP? So what?

All of a sudden, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Thise were things I didn’t have to worry about – Freeloader Debts, SP declares. I didn’t have to worry about those things because…a radical thought formed in my head.

Because I am not a Scientologist.

It felt good to think it, to say it, to scream it. I am not a Scientologist. I am no longer a part of that madhouse called the Int Base. I no longer have to practice doublethink. If something is wrong, I can say so, honestly and openly, without fear. I no longer have to justify abuses – to myself or anyone else.

I took my Scientology books and put them in boxes, then drove them down to recycling and threw them in the bin. It felt great. I am not a Scientologist.

I became determined to find Gwennie. I had last heard from her at the end of the 1990s. She was living in San Francisco with her boyfriend, and had just given birth to a baby girl, Devon. She had sent me pictures. Then, after 2000, nothing. My letters had been returned by the Post Office. I tried one of those net detective services. I gave them her full name and birth date, and a list of past addresses. After a few weeks, they sent me a long, long list of addresses and phone numbers that were somehow connected, they thought, with Gwennie. I despaired of calling all those numbers. Then, in the middle of the list, I saw the name Hare – my first wife’s maiden name. I thought it must be one of Tina’s relatives. I called the number and asked the woman who answered if she knew Gwen Wilson.

"Sure, that’s my Granddaughter," she said.

"Do you know where she lives now?" I asked.

"Yes, she’s right down the street." She gave me the phone number, and I called.

Gwennie was amazed to hear from me, and doubly amazed that I was out of the Sea Org and out of Scientology. She said, "I’m coming down, I’m leaving right now." Six hours later, she was at my door.

Wonderful Gwennie visits me in Santa Barbara

She stayed all weekend, and we spent hours talking. We walked down State Street all the way to the beach, and I told her all about what I had been through at the Int Base. It was the first time I had really unloaded to anyone. Our progress down the street was slow, because every couple of feet she’s stop and look at me and say "No way!" or "That’s nuts!"

It was an amazing experience for me. I had lived at that Base for years. That was "daily life." It was "normal." I was the one who was crazy, criminal, SP. To hear the reaction of someone outside that bubble was priceless. That’s nuts! And I was free to say, yes, yes it is.

I went from laughing to crying to laughing. Gwennie would hug me when I cried, and laugh with me when I laughed, and we somehow made it through the weekend like that. I told her everything, and I felt unburdened, liberated, free.

I vowed to come up and see her, and I did, and still do. Every few months I see her and my wonderful, amazing granddaughter Devon.

Devon with "Grampa Jeffie"

I started searching the internet for information about Scientology, and about Miscavige. I visited all the sites that had been "forbidden" to me while I was a Scientologist, and learned all of the things that had been hidden from us. I was amazed at how much I didn’t know about Scientology’s history, about Hubbard’s life. I was incensed to learn the magnitude of the lies I had been told through the years. In a few weeks on the internet I discovered more about Scientology’s history than I had known in 35 years on the inside. I began to realize how sheltered we had been and how much our information had been controlled.

On one of the sites, I found a name I recognized, and a phone number. It was Chuck Beatty, someone I’d known for years in the Sea Org. I called him and we talked. He connected me up with a Yahoo chat group called XSO. I was amazed to find that there were hundreds of Ex-Sea Org Members who were members! I began to post on the chat group, using my real name. Soon the floodgates opened, and I began to get e-mails from all over the country – and even from other countries – from people I’d known in the Sea Org who had now left. Where I thought I had no friends on the outside, now I found I had hundreds.

I began to travel to see some of my old friends. I drove out to an Ex-Sea Org reunion in Las Vegas, hosted by two wonderful sisters, Terri Gamboa and Janis Grady. There were about 50 Ex-Sea Org there, people I’d known from Copenhagen, from the Apollo, from Clearwater, and from the Base. While I was there, I spent a relaxing afternoon with Bill Dendiu and his new family.

After I got back, I got an e-mail from Scientology’s "International Justice Chief," taking me to task for "consorting with known SPs." Somehow they had planted an OSA spy at the reunion. I wrote him a scathing e-mail back, taking him to task for spying. I informed him that I was no longer a Scientologist and to never write to me again or presume to tell me who I could or could not associate with. That felt great.

Christmas 2005, Jimmy Yeoh and I went up to Seattle and spent Christmas with another former PDO staff member, Georgianna. George was gracious enough to invite us up to spend the holidays with her family. It was my first real Christmas in many years.

I made frequent trips to LA to see many friends there. Gabrielle Allen, now married and running her own marketing company, invited me down for barbecues and parties. I visited my "hijita," Yael, in Huntington Beach. She's gone back to school, works at a great job and is rebuilding her life.

And always, when we’d get together, we’d talk, tell stories, and laugh a lot. It was amazing to hear people tell their side of a story – things had been so shrouded in mystery and secrecy in the Sea Org that you never quite knew what was going on. To be able to speak openly and find out what really went on behind the scenes was amazing – and salutary. I was able to find out, first hand, from people who had been there, exactly how Miscavige had taken control of the Church. And I found that his physical violence and beatings of staff had started much, much earlier.

I got back in touch with my first wife, Tina, and we began to regularly e-mail back and forth. I also found my second wife, Nancy, now living in Pennsylvania and working for an environmental construction firm. I was happy to hear she was doing well, and we began exchanging regular e-mails. Today I am close friends with both of these ex-wives.

But there was still someone I wanted to talk to more than anyone else – my brother Kim. I had talked to Gwennie about it and she said it was ridiculous that I couldn’t talk to my own brother. She even volunteered to call him for me. I didn’t want to get him in any trouble with the Church, but I did want to let him know that I was out and living in Santa Barbara and doing well. Gwennie tried some numbers I had, but they were all disconnected.

I began searching for Kim, but even the net detective service came up with nothing. Finally, in an internet search, I found a mention of his daughter Slayde. It was an unusual name, so I didn’t think there was more than one Slayde Hawkins. It was on the Reed College website and was her senior thesis. I called Reed, and they put me through to Alumni Services, as she had graduated the previous year. They said they could not give me her e-mail address – school policy. I explained that I was her uncle, and asked if they could relay a message to her. They agreed to do that. A few days later, Slayde called me. I explained to her that I was out of the Sea Org now and in Santa Barbara, but I couldn’t talk to Kim because I was declared. I asked her if she could just call him and tell him I was OK.

Ten minutes later, my phone rang. It was Kim.

"You know, you’re not supposed to talk to me," I said.

"I don’t give a shit about that," he said. "You’re my brother. I know you’re not Suppressive!"

We talked for an hour. He told me they were living in Clearwater now to be close to Flag. His wife Cathy, who had been out of Scientology for 30 years, was now back "on lines" and doing courses. I told him all about my new life in Santa Barbara and what I was doing. I was vague about why I had left, not wanting to get into it with him. I just told him that I had "been through some rough times." He asked me if I was doing anything to get "back on lines," and I said no. I told him I was done with Scientology. "Wow," he said, "I don’t know what you went through, but it must have been rough if that was the result."

After that, we talked every week, every Saturday morning. I never elaborated on my Int Base experiences and he never asked.

About six months later, Kim and Cathy flew out to California for a business trip. I drove down to see them and we spent the weekend together. At one point, Kim and I had some time together to talk.

"OK, spill," he said.

"You don’t want to get into it," I demurred.

"No," he insisted, "I do. Tell me what happened."

Over the next hour, I told him everything. The conditions at the Int Base, the abuse, the beatings, the crippling of Int Management.

"I thought there were checks and balances to prevent this sort of thing," he said. "Isn’t there a Watchdog Committee?"

"Name one person on that Committee," I said. Of course, he couldn’t. No Scientologist could – it’s "confidential."

After I had told him everything, he was quiet. Then he said, "I’ve known for some time that something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. What you’ve told me confirms what I’ve felt."

They went back to Florida. The next weekend he called me – our usual Saturday morning call. He was at Flag, attending an event. He had arrived early and secured a good seat, only to be thrown out of his seat as it was needed for someone "more important." He had left in disgust. We talked for a few minutes and then hung up.

About ten minutes later, my phone rang. It was Cathy, his wife.

"I’m going crazy; I have to talk to someone," she said. "I chose you."

"What’s going on?" I asked.

"I don’t want to be in Scientology any more," she said.

I asked her why, and she gave me a litany of mishandlings – having to get endless repairs on her auditing, at her own expense. Being told to take services she didn’t want. Being pressured constantly for money.

I asked her if Kim had told her any of the things I’d gone over with him in San Diego. She said no. I gave her a rapid summary.

"Gee, my complaints sound like nothing," she exclaimed. "But I don’t know what to do – I can’t talk to Kim about it, he’s such a dedicated Scientologist."

"Try it," I suggested. "I think you’ll find him more open that you think."

The next day my brother called.

"We’re out," he said.

They started researching on the internet, as I had, all the "forbidden" sites. And they started posting on the XSO chat group, using pseudonyms. Before long, they had an OSA staffer on their doorstep, with printouts of their posts. How he obtained posts from a private chat group he never explained. He told Kim that he would have to disconnect from me, or be declared Suppressive.

"You picked the wrong family," Kim told him. He refused to disconnect.

Today, three years after my exit from Scientology, I’ve created a new life for myself, a life of happiness and freedom. I am surrounded by a group of amazing friends and my incredible, loving family. I live in Portland now, a city I love, and run my own very successful freelance graphic design business. My brother and Cathy live in Portland too, and we see each other all the time. Just last year Gwennie gave birth to a son, Eden, and now I have two awesome grandchildren. I get down to see them as often as I can. I have fully reclaimed my life.

Every once in a while, someone new leaves the Int Base, and I hear the latest news. The most recent person to leave told me that things had gotten "much worse." It strains my imagination to even conceive of what that would be like.

A few of my good friends remain inside. Foster still works in the PAC Mill, still operating that same CNC router. He’s been there now for almost six years.

And Cathy still soldiers on at the Int Base, still on the post of Port Captain.

It is for them, and other friends still "inside the bubble" that this narrative is written. I hope someday, somehow, they can read it. If I had only a few moments to reach those inside, I would say to them only, "I am still here, I am still your friend, I will always be your friend."

I write this also for those tempted to follow Scientology’s Yellow Brick Road – so you can see in advance the nature of the man behind the curtain.

This, then, is my story. I am neither hero nor rogue, neither victim nor fanatic. Perhaps a bit of each. Like Solzhenitsyn, I believe that the line between good and evil passes through the heart of every person. We all make choices. Some are good and some bad. Some are wise and some are foolish. And in the light of hindsight, we can often see that yesterday's wisdom was indeed folly, and in yesterday's foolishness there was sometimes wisdom. I am just a man who followed a dream, some might say to the bitter end, and wound up lost in some very dark and strange places.

I do not look back with regret. I look back, I hope, with greater wisdom, greater tolerance, and greater compassion.


One day, about a year after I had left the Int Base, I took a long walk down State Street in Santa Barbara, all the way to the beach. At the end of State Street, Stearn’s Wharf juts out into the Pacific Ocean. It is a long pier, filled with shops and restaurants. I walked all the way to the end, past all the souvenir shops, past the fishermen with their lines dangling into the water. I walked to the very end and looked out over the broad Pacific. It was a bright and sunny day, white clouds on the horizon, and distant sailboats tacking in the wind. I felt the salt breeze in my face, the warm sun.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a heavy gold ring. It was blocky and ugly, a huge square with the number 25 embossed on it, and over that, the Sea Org symbol. It had been presented to me in 1996, for 25 years service in the Sea Org. I felt its weight in my hand.

Then I spun and with all the force I could muster, hurled it in a long curving arc out over the waves. It disappeared without a trace.

I turned and walked back towards town.

45 comments:

Friend said...

Yaaaaay!!1!1

We're so happy you're here!

Brad Kalinowski said...

Thanks for an absolutely amazing story.

Notreal said...

Thanks Jeff. Whew. Thanks.

Sailor said...

*APPLAUSE*

Jeff, that was an amazing tale. Your writing this for all the world to see is admirable, to say the least. If you don't mind, I'm going to refer people to this blog at every opportunity because it does such a wonderful job of unmasking the real, sinister, corrupt inner workings of this filthy cult.

You, Sir, deserve a medal.

THIS IS WHY WE PROTEST.

Kristen S. said...

Thank you. What more can I say?

EastAnon said...

Jeff, even reading your tale has led me through every possible emotion, from rage to fear, sadness and happiness. I am so glad you are out!

I think it is unbelievable what the human mind is capable of. Positive and negative. Cruelty and recovery.

One question; is your art for sale?

Valdameer said...

Your story is amazing Jeff. Thank you. I dont know what else to say.

alex said...

Holy F**k what a story.

There are tears on this scientologists face...

Thank you for your DECADES of hard work for noble goals...

Thank you for telling your story so well....so effectively...

Thank you for having the courage to take back your life so you could...

chuckbeatty77 said...

What a story Jeff. I'm sitting here in tears.

I remember the wedding gift door plaque you made, sort of western cowboy lettering of our names, Ann and Chuck beatty, when Ann Halbom and I got married, this was in Feb 1979, back at the FLB.

Back at the FLB, in the late 1970s, when staff couples were trying to make the hotel rooms "home". Door name plaques were a small fad, and you made a western cowboy type lettering for ours.

I wish I'd have saved that door plaque.

Ann's parents and brothers and sisters had settled in Santa Barbara.

It's a small world.

Thanks for all time for being open and writing Jeff!

Guaranteed, man, if you posted your phone number someday, you'll be deluged with calls, for a couple months, then it will die down a bit, but you could open up a whole new chapter of helping ex's transition back to "normalcy."

Best,
Chuck Beatty

Pierrot said...

Thank you for this beautifully written story! you got me hooked up, waiting for next chapters, putting aside other books to read yours ;-)

Sigh... when I finished reading the last chapter I thought "pity, I would like to read more..!" - then at once thought "what a relief Jeff is out of that mess, and there is no more" !

Wishing you all the best
Pierrot

barb said...

Jeff,

There's something in my eye...must be smoke from the Sacto fires.

Your musing about a Scientology-run world after reading 1984 reminded me that I have a hoard of Hubbard quotes for every occasion. Such as this:

"Did you ever read poor old George Orwell's uh... 1984? Yes, yes,
that's wonderful. That would be, could be, the palest imagined
shadow of what a world would be like under the rule of the secret
use of Scientology with no remedy in existence."
-L. Ron Hubbard PDC Lecture #20

"No remedy in existence."

That psychopathic dwarf needs to be dragged out in chains and locked away with nobody but large men named "Bubba" and "Wild Willy" for company.

Gold needs to be sold off to repay people like you who dedicated years of talent and time for inadequate compensation.

DM and me. Cage match on pay per view. The ultimate humiliation.

I'd heard something about the Y2k flap inside the Sports Arena, and of course, the abysmal Photoshopping in of attendees.

I'd be interested to know what kind of thing went down after Arnie Lerma made that public, as well as if the protesters outside the event (all eight of us) had any impact.

Cheers, guy! Santa Barbara is a great town!

Josh said...

Wow. What an amazing story, and it's so well written! I was so glad to read how you've been able to reconnect with much of your family. Hopefully Cathy will come to see the truth as well.

I'd love to see your story made into a TV miniseries or something - seems like too much story for a movie to really do it justice. Maybe some studio will pick it up as a "Story from inside the cult" after Miscavige goes to jail.

The Sean Project said...

Wonderful job Jeff. You have really laid it out what it was like for all of us in that insanity.

It is great to be out.

Mick

Ora said...

Thank you so very much Jeff.
I also have gone through the gamut of emotions sharing your story.
I'm so happy that you are free now.
You are outstanding.

Also your photography is breathtaking.
I agree with an earlier comment... yes to a TV mini series.
Love
Ora Walker

Ludwigvanon said...

Jeff: Wow! I stayed up half the night reading your account. Incredibly moving. Parts made me cry, other parts made me so angry. DM is truly a dwarf/bully; did you ever see anyone stand up to him during a confrontation?
Thanks for explaining the "doublethink". It has always dumbfounded me that intelligent people would swallow LRH's koolaid, get pulverized physically and emotionally, then come back for more. It truly is brainwashing.
So glad you are out, happy, and living in wonderful Portland. Lots of "real" bridges in that city; you did your time on the 'fake bridge to nowhere'.
Thanks for amazing, enlightening, powerful writing.

Shane said...

Thanks Jeff! You really helped me get over some doubts I had from when I left.

BlastFurnace said...

An absolutely chilling story with a happy ending. I'm also going to refer people to your tale because this is something that needs to be told -- and the more we hear from you and others who found their way out the greater the chance there is of warning people not to fall for an ideology that is so contrary to what many of us believe.

Rambling Will Smile said...

Tremendous catharsis. Pool of tears here too.
Thank you very much.

Slayde said...

I'm so incredibly glad that you get a happily ever after. And thank you for sharing this amazing story.

Zenster said...

Oh My.......
Your last chapter was written with such deep human emotion, I know you are going to live a happy life. You survived nearly 40 years in an evil cult and it only made you stronger. Oddly enough, this is the ONE AND ONLY thing that actually works in Scientology.

I worked for ten years for a major real estate developer in NYC who was bipolar and routinely screamed at people. I always handled him without any stress. Co-workers would constantly come to me and ask "what do you know that you can handle Mr. XXXX so easily?"
I could not tell them that Mr. XXXX is nothing compared to being in THE HELL OF SCIENTOLOGY

Hermione said...

Oh Jeff, you need to get a book deal and make all that money back off CoS. Your story is amazing but there's got to be more!

genoramix said...

fucking great story and writing.

This will certainly make a wonderful book to read, and informative, for those who might think to choose the LRH way to enslavement.

The abuses at the int base are truly unbelievable, and i think you should file a complaint against the evil dwarf if you feel ready for it.

This shit has to stop, and seeing your account, i think it will be sooner than we thought.

oh and *APPLAUSE* too:)

sheetmedal said...

Wow. Truly amazing, unbelievable and believable all in one. Well written and completely captivating.
I was in the Sea Org and never experienced anything really bad (just kinda bad) except for one time when I was helping build the stage for an event and saw some exec from the int base just yelling at this guy from gold non-stop. I mean, from my perspective - I really wanted to punch the guy's lights out. How can constant yelling be the way to get something done (especially something suppose to be artistic)?

Anyway, yours is a truly detailed and inspiring story. I will definitely be referring people to this.

Carla said...

You are an incredible person, absolutely incredible. I am floored at what you have endured and the reason and art that you retain from it. There is absolutely nothing that can destroy you.

Thank you for making Santa Barbara your home, for sharing this story to the world and for look back for those left behind. Someday they will return to you.

Plups said...

Jeff. The tale of your leaving the Sea Org, with next to nothing, and having to cope with the minutae of everyday life on your own, left me deeply moved.

For every comment, my guess is there are hundreds of people reading and agreeing that your story is brilliantly communicated. No doubt you have the market research and the website data to back that up. This will go viral, my friend. Well done. Thanks. Now enjoy your life.

Paul said...

Congratulations on getting free, and for having the guts to tell people just what it's like in there.

Blake said...

Excellent story, Jeff: I'm only sorry it's true. The way you make 2005 sound like it was a lifetime ago (as opposed to three years ago) paints (in my mind) an image of you having really put some distance between that horrid past and your present. I wish you only the best in your future endeavors. God bless.

nefertitiantico$ said...

UN GRAND MERCI
for your wonderfully well presented SO story.
I am opening a Veuve Cliquot bottle = champagne
en votre honneur
I only feel sorry You don't live in France; so you could share it !
Félicitations
Néfertiti

oakthorne said...

I just read through all seventeen chapters in one sitting, and cried unabashedly on this last one.

Thank you for sharing your powerful, powerful story.

Plups said...

Dear Jeff, your story is still recent. Please consider making a report to the FBI NOW. They are listening and are, reportedly, currently investigating. Likewise the SEC - although perhaps you haven't got any specific information relevant to the SEC.

As I read your story, even the little abuses - such as the interference with your mail, and Nancy's - struck me as constituting breaches of federal law that, no doubt, are ongoing.

The Feds are listening and acting now. It's the chance of a lifetime.

Plups said...

Gee. I can't believe I said interference with your mail was a little abuse. The damage was huge. Maybe "littler" abuses fits better. Sorry.

RA said...

Jeff,

I just read your story and I'm floored. You are truly an amazing person to be able to pick up your life and move on with no seemingly no long-lasting residual PTSD effects.

As for reporting abuse, I personally think you should sue for 35 years of service working 16-18 hour days with few days off at less than minimum wage. That is illegal, and the statements you signed were coercion. While they could probably get your case thrown out for reporting the abuse, they have no legal foothold on the lack of wages issue.

And... I hope I don't offend you, but it seems to me that now you are really and truly "clear".

Good luck in all you do.

Minorage said...

To any exes who just finished reading this account and haven't visited one of the message boards in the last days.

The time is NOW!

The FEDS are listening. They finally and really are! Many exes and critics are already funneling their personal experiences to the FBI and both the FBI and the SEC are investigating.

If you have another piece of the puzzle for them: please, give it to them. It WILL help them in building up a case.

Unfortunately, you cannot remain anonymous, but it is unlawful for the FBI to reveal your identity.

Link on:
http://forums.enturbulation.org/7-general-discussion/operation-octopussy-has-begun-24435/

Paul said...

*applauds*

Well done, Mr. Hawkins. Well done.

Michelle said...

I've finally finished reading your story, and I can't believe how evocative it was. I felt my emotions roller-coastering with the things that you wrote. I felt all of the melancholy and frustration that you wrote about, but also an awful lot of outrage. It was as if someone I knew and loved were being beaten and abused. "HOW DARE THEY DO THAT TO HIM?"

You have an incredible skill at writing, and I will be first in line when your book is complete and on the shelves.

Christina Wilson said...

Astonishing and mind-boggling roller coaster of a story – and it’s real. My first thought Jeff, after reaching the end is your incredible internal strength and determination you refused to be allayed, by anyone. The convenient “whys” of any given moment doesn’t matter – your pure survival instinct, blessed with your innate goodness and incredible talent, and your ability to love is what did and does matter. And for that reason you will always be and do well. Tina

Dead_Cabbit said...

Thank you for your story and good luck!

anonymous said...

Congratulations on getting your brother and his wife out, and good luck to you and EVERY ex-Scn and EVERY Anon who is working as hard as they can to do the same for the people they love!

Formerly Fooled said...

I am so glad to see such a happy ending! Thanks so much for sharing this story with the world. It conveys so much for so many and will definately be an inspiration for many others for years to come.

Mary McConnell

Zan said...

Jeff, although you say that you don't regret the past, I am sure there are times where you are tempted to think that the largest chunk of your life was wasted. What you dearly need to understand is that everything you went through was all for a purpose- the purpose being the story you are telling now, and the thousands of people you are helping. Your life has more meaning than most people's, and I am sure you will never take freedom for granted, as so many of us do.

gillianj said...

Wow. Just wow. Over the last two nights I've read your story with fascination, admiration, revulsion and sympathy - depending on which part we're talking about at the time.

My heart goes out to you, Jeff, for the journey you've made. The path you've trodden is an incredible one, and I'm relieved that you've found hope and peace at the end of it. Ultimately your tale is one of victory, and you have my admiration.

I only hope that your beautifully written, honest and emotive words will act as a cautionary tale, especially for those who might be seduced by Scientology's lofty and deceitful claims.

Thank you so much for sharing this with the world. I wish you and your family peace, love, freedom and enduring happiness.

SmartOne said...

Just read your story over the past two days. It just shows what we will go through if we believe something so much. I never was in the SO but went through my own hell as a public scio for 22 years until I decided to tippy-toe quietly away a year ago.

Thank you so much for your excellent writing and I will recommend my contacts read your story.

Fragmented said...

Jeff,

My thanks to you for sharing all that you have endured. You have filled in many gaps for me and that has helped me a lot.

StartingToWakeUp said...

I loved reading your story. I was never in the Sea Org but was on staff and shared many similiar experiences and observations. Only recently have I been doing internet searches after 20 years of believing I shouldn't because of the lies out there, to find out that the lies are not out there but being told to me every day by the most ethical organization on the planet. Double-talk, double-think, double crossed. I am glad you are doing so well. Thank you for sharing your story.

Michael said...

Talk about rising from the ashes!!!Thanks for this remarkable report Jeff. I don't really think it's fair to call it a tale or story as it detracts from the impact. I'm currently at a truly depressing stage of my life (I'm 44) and know the only way out is to take the initiative and change things. I've never been involved in a CULT before yet I've had people (starting with my father and continuing on with partners and so-called friends, one of whom is dangerously similar to DM) try to dictate all my life how I should be and what I should be doing. Listening to everybody else's opinions and letting them influence your own is possibly the most mentally unhealthy thing a human being can do. You've just changed things dramatically for me and for that, I thank you.