Sunday, July 25, 2010

how i was spiritually raped and left for dead (part 14)

to read this story from the beginning click here

i knew it before she said it.
“i'm leaving you.” she spoke, but her lips didn't move.
she stood sideways, gently pressed against george's hip, hand on the small of his back. she placed her other hand on his stomach and gently kissed the side of his neck. he looked directly at me, smiling, showing pity as she kissed his neck.
she looked back at me as well, a beat, another beat, both of them expressing pity for me.

my daughter was 20 feet behind them, sitting in a motorcycle sidecar. like an overexposed picture, the sun reflected off her blond hair and face. she was smiling, excited, anxiously awaiting the motorcycle sidecar ride.
i the distance was a castle like home atop a lush, emerald-green hill. the land was rich with trees and flowers. birds and butterflies flitted about giving the castle-like home and the land around it a magical storybook appearance.

“c'mon daddy,” my daughter called out to george, showing her closed teeth in an exaggerated, fake-looking smile. her lips didn't move either.
the motorcycle and sidecar sat on a black, paved road which winded up the hillside to the castle-like home. directly behind it was long safari-style, open-sided car with a striped canvas top and several rows of passenger seats where goerge's other “wives” sat smiling, waiting anxiously.
i wanted to beg her to stay, but i knew she was right to leave me. george was better than me. he would give her and our daughter, their daughter, a better life. who was i to keep them from having what they deserved, what anyone deserved? besides, how could they ever love me? i was nothing. the pity she felt toward me made it clear that she could never love me.

she dropped her hands from george's back and stomach, took a step toward me and placed her hand on the back of my head. then, she looked into my eyes. again, she looked at me with pity and, as she gently pulled my head toward her lips, she said, “it's time.” she kissed me on the forehead and with a flash of white light they were gone. i was standing alone in an empty house.

there was no furniture, nothing on the windows, nothing on the walls except blue and gray striped wallpaper. the windows were dingy so that i could not see though them. they allowed enough light to penetrate them to give the room a greyish hue.

i felt nauseous. to my right, through the open bathroom door, i could see a lonely mirrored medicine cabinet. the mirror provided a visual gateway into george's grand candlelit bedroom, where george stood behind my wife holding her in his arms.

she was wearing a black cocktail dress which landed high on her thighs. she was barefoot. he reached his arms around her, placing them on her stomach as she tilted her neck and reached back to kiss him.

as their lips touched there was another flash of white light and i awoke. i was in bed in our pennsylvania town home. it was still dark. i looked over to see my wife asleep beside me. i went to the bathroom and vomited.

the green digits on our clock-radio indicated that it was 5:14 am. i had to be at church in a couple hours to go over a couple pieces of music before the early church service, so i went downstairs and made a pot of coffee.

as my wife slept, i sat out back in the darkness drinking coffee and reflecting.
it wasn't the first time i'd had that dream, or at least dreams built on the same theme. these dreams exposed a loss of self with which i had continued to struggle, my manhood, my essence, even my right to exist.

i thought about all of the staff purpose meetings, in which i'd witnessed the female staff members sitting by george, near his end of the oval. vying for their seats next to the power, they were gathered closer or further from him depending on their status within the program.
the girls on staff belonged to bob and those with less status to george. like whores, they were handed out and repossessed as bob and george saw fit.

this dynamic was part of a more dangerous and insidious hierarchical system which existed within bob's organization where, throughout the years, we just came to accept that some were inherently better than others. within this system, justice was nonexistent. punishment and reward were handed out arbitrarily; more accurately, they were handed out based on what was immediately most beneficial to bob and his wife.

bob used twisted pieces of evolutionary biology concepts to justify inconsistencies in the way people were treated. he referred to himself as “the alpha male.” he justified his constant belittling of one staffer, who he referred to as “the warthog,” by stating that the young staffer was deformed, fvcked-up, born wrong. he had told us that if he had been a dog, the other dogs would have killed him when he was a puppy in order to keep him from dirtying the gene-pool.

if one got close enough to bob, for a long enough period, he was likely to hear bob's ideas regarding who deserved what based on their genetic markers and even their primal spiritual makeup. for his part, bob was at the top of the food-chain, both physically and spiritually.

mostly, however, these messages were insidiously hidden within the structure and doctrine of the program, as well as the actions taken by bob.

why hadn't i killed that mother-fvcker? why hadn't i used raw power to beat him? i had decided to employ my intellect, my cunning, to outsmart him and right now, i hated myself for it. what kind of a man allows another man to beat him down, to take control of his home and his marriage without confronting him directly and beating him to a bloody mash?

my feeling of nausea was replaced with anger, rage, hatred. i imagined beating him with a bat. making him beg me to stop, making him beg for his life. i wanted to become his master. i wanted to terrorize him in front of his wife and daughter, in front of my wife and daughter. i wanted to destroy him, while everyone who had ever witnessed him making a punk out of me watched. and while he died, traumatized and suffering, he would know that he had been beaten in front of all these people. he would know that they knew that he was nothing. but most importantly, i would destroy him, utterly and painfully, proving to myself that i wasn't a punk, that i mattered.
i went to church.


the bible.
i've read a lot of books, but the bible is, without any doubt, the greatest book i've ever read. it beats moby dick hands down.

within it's text one will find every conceivable form and measure of human evil. murder, kidnapping, adultery, theft, betrayal, rape, incest, it's all there. the bible doesn't shy away from exposing the darkness that often lives within the hearts of men. i have seen this darkness first hand.

2nd samuel tells the story of david, king of the hebrews, and bathsheba, the wife of one of his his trusted soldiers. while uriah, bathsheba's husband, was on the battlefield, david saw bathsheba and wanted her for himself. he sent an agent to fetch her and he slept with her, taking the only wife of his trusted soldier...because he desired her.

bathsheba later sent a message to king david, informing him that she was pregnant with his child. this is where things get really interesting.

in order to cover up his his betrayal of his trusted soldier, david sent someone to call him off the battlefield. he gave him a gift and sent him home so he could spend the night with his wife, bathsheba, before he returned to the battlefield. not only had he impregnated uriah's wife, now he sent him to sleep with her so that he would believe the child to be his own, causing uriah to raise another man's child believing the child to be his own.

but uriah refused to sleep in his bed and lie with his wife while the other soldiers slept on the ground. so he slept with the servants at the palace's entrance. king david's cover up was foiled. so he tried again. he asked uriah to stay one more night and got him drunk. still, uriah went to sleep at the palace's entrance.

king david continued to scheme. he ordered the general to put uriah on the front lines and to instruct all the other soldiers to retreat once the battle got underway. uriah was killed. david was in the clear.

then, david took in bathsheba and made her his wife.

david had many wives. he could have had any woman he wanted. yet, he took the wife of his trusted soldier and killed him to cover his tracks. now, that's evil.

but that's not the stuff that makes the bible great. many believe that the bible is a book filled with violence, vengeance, and death. sure, it has all of those things. those things exist in the world in which we live. evil has been alive in hearts of some men since the beginning of recorded history and almost certainly before recorded history.

the bible's real poetry is not in its record of evil, but in its message of love. deliverance, repentance, forgiveness, absolution, redemption, these are the primary themes of the bible. even david, when he was shown the magnitude of his evil, found redemption

i think that one's view of the bible, as either a message of vengeance or a message of love, depends upon one's perspective. and i don't mean to say that those who go to church or are raised in the church are more likely to see the bible as a message of love. i've spent way too much time around way too many “religious” people, who claim to have love in their hearts, but clearly demonstrate righteous indignation, legalism and bigotry. i should add, however, that the vast majority of christians that i've known have been loving people. christians have visited me and my children in the hospital when we've been sick. they've prepared meals for my family during times of grief. they've provided us with groceries and money. they've prayed for us and grieved with us.

but i've also seen evil in the church. i won't deny that.

still i don't know why, given similar experiences and circumstances, one individual would come out with a perspective that would cause him to see the bible as a book of vengeance, while another would see it as a book of love. i only know how i see it. i don't even know why i have the perspective i have.

bob was like king david...without the redemption part. taking away the wives of his trusted servants is among the many evil acts i have seen him perform. still, though i could rightly blame bob for a lot of things, i knew i couldn't blame him for the harmful acts that i had committed, even while under his watch.

as an agent of the program i had betrayed my faith, betrayed myself and my family and lied to the community. i had also committed other acts which directly harmed others and had done so in the name of love.

for the next few years i continued to attend church. i read the bible, attended sunday school and bible studies, prayed and took counsel with ministers. but i wasn't seeking redemption. repentance was my goal.

lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith ;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy

o divine master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life ~st. francis of assisi

i had to get a grip, find myself. my nightmares had nothing to do with bob. they had everything to do with how i saw myself. he played his role in formulating my self image. he had aligned his pulse with mine, exploited my deepest fears and desires. he had used me and so many others as a means to his own ends. but it was up to me to take back my soul.

i knew it wouldn't happen overnight. and exactly where is the point of deliverance anyway? when does it happen? the jews escaped egypt, but then ended up wandering around the desert for 40 years. i had escaped bob's fold, but was i wandering around the desert...again?

the message of the bible was a part of me and to the degree i allowed it, it became evident in my mental and emotional state. i changed. the nightmares stopped. the “sightings” of bob and george went away. i no longer experienced bouts of dissociation. most importantly, my desire for vengeance, my desire to hurt bob was gone completely. i'm not exactly sure how this happened; it just did. it was a like a miracle. if there is a god, he did it. if there is a god, then he took away my burning rage and replaced it with the message of the gospel.

that's pretty cool if you think about it. i didn't necessarily deserve grace, but i really needed it. and though, according to evangelical christian theology, i'm lost, i've been delivered...and possibly redeemed. i don't mean to say that i was no longer angry at bob. he continued to harm people, unrepentant, and i continued to be angry. i see that as a healthy position.

when i speak of the message of the gospel, i'm not talking about the idea that only people who believe in jesus go to heaven and non-believers get sent to hell. in fact, from where i sit, the idea of a powerful god sending a bunch of people to eternal torment runs completely counter to the message of the gospel.

i've been to hell and the hell i was in was created by men, myself included. the message contained within the gospel, on the other hand, delivered me from hell.

there were things that happened in the church that i ultimately couldn't live with. at the top of the list was listening to the preacher stand in the pulpit and condemn gays. one couldn't be gay and also be born again, regardless of the state of his heart. even if one accepts the idea that it is a “sin” to be gay, which in itself is hard to accept since there wasn't even a word for “homosexual” in greek, hebrew or aramaic, why set this so-called “sin” apart from all others.*(see note)

i also had a bit of a problem with the idea that anyone who was a born-again christian could join the church, but first you had to go through an interview process with a group of church elders, presumably so they could determine whether or not you were really “born again.” that seemed a bit too similar to the early days of the christian church when the pharisees called for the gentile converts to show that they'd been circumcised in order to prove they'd been saved.

still, it wasn't my place to advocate within the church. i was there to take what i could, to focus on the message contained within the gospel.

in time, i reconnected with others who'd left bob's organization. i listened to some of the horror stories people told. bob and his programs were becoming even more brutal, more dangerous. i feared that people i loved, people who were still in, would be physically harmed or even killed. i began to think more about those i'd recruited into bob's group. i was also deeply troubled by the fact that there was no information about bob or his programs on the internet.

it had now been over 5 years since i'd left. i was healthy. my family was well. my rage was gone. i knew that i no longer had a desire for vengeance. i didn't want to hurt bob. however, i did have a desire to warn his potential victims. i also wanted to provide something for people who'd been harmed by bob and his programs. when i had left, there were no former members to talk to. there was no place to get information. i hadn't had an avenue to connect with others who'd been in the program and had left. there was nothing out there.

i thought about how great it would be to provide a resource to catch people after they left or were excommunicated, a support network where people could talk through things, reconnect with friends that had left at a different time, a place to get their stories out, to be validated. i also thought there should be a truthful resource for young people and family members who were considering joining bob's programs. the use of the internet for consumer research was becoming more common; yet, there was nothing about bob and his groups, other than their own propaganda, anywhere on the net.

then i heard 2 stories that brought me to the realization that it was time to act. the first was that of a young man i'd known since he was just a kid. his mother had been a friend of ours and had still been working for bob when we left the program. she left several years after us and visited our home. she recounted for us the story of how she nearly lost her son. we'll call him sam.

sam's parents and his older brother had entered the program when sam was just a boy. in time, sam's mother, who was active in the parent program, was brought on as the parent coordinator. his brother, though resistant at first, became indoctrinated as well and became a counselor for the program.

during this time, sam became victim to a form of inequity that existed among indoctrinated families where one child was involved in the program and another wasn't. sam's brother, because he was “with the group,” was granted the freedom to stay out all night, quit going to school and smoke cigarettes. the program's stance was this: since he was an addict, the only thing that mattered was “sticking with winners.” the staff and kids in the program were “winners.” kids outside the program (even those at school) were not. sam's mom and dad, like the rest of the parent converts, believed that, as long as their addicted child avoided drugs and drug users, everything would be okay. smoking, school, language, structure were unimportant in comparison.

since sam wasn't an addict, he had to comply with a curfew, go to school, etc. in addition, i imagine that he felt left out, at times. the rest of the family shared the “program experience.” he was not fully a part of that. i know his parents and i'm sure they did everything they could to insure that sam was not left out. but, truth is, this is one of the dynamics that exists with siblings of program members.

though he didn't have a drug problem, sam eventually convinced the counselors, his parents and probably himself, that he was an addict and needed the program. he went through outpatient treatment and became a full-fledged member, able to hang out all night, smoke cigarettes and attend the extravagant dances and parties hosted by the program.

i got to know him and couldn't help but love him. he was a vulnerable kid with a tender heart. he also had a sharp wit and a snarky sense of humor. the more he tried to defend his heart with his wit, the more his vulnerability became apparent. i knew he was the kind of guy you could count on if you were down and out.

the entire family was highly talented. so, bob exploited them. mom became a part of the national leadership elite, brother, a sr. counselor and dad, a seasoned detective with the city's police force, was drawn in by bob. bob personally took him on and became his sponsor. bob always kept “friends” in high places.

sam went through counselor training. in time, he was sent to another city and became the city's executive director. but sam had a secret; he was gay.

years earlier, struggling with sexuality issues, sam had tried to talk to his counselor about it. the counselor explained the program's stance. homosexuality is an aspect of the disease of addiction—the highest form of self hatred. it was unacceptable. he needed to stop entertaining any homosexual thoughts, stay sober, work his program. if he was on solid spiritual ground, he would be straight.

bob was more blunt. he claimed, “faggots are people who suck their own sh!t off other people's c0cks. being a fag is the ultimate form of self-hatred.”

sam buried the issue. to pursue it would surely lead to expulsion from the program and possibly the loss of his family. further, since he was compelled to break ties with the rest of the world, since seeking counsel outside the program was forbidden, he had nowhere to turn. he soldiered on.

as the director of a city, sam was perceived as the spiritual leader. serving in such a position with that kind of a secret must have been excruciating. sam was no hypocrite. he was a straight-shooter, a 'what-you-see' kind of person. so functioning in this manner must have been more than he could bear.

ultimately it was. and so sam, who was never an addict prior to joining the program, began smoking crack. it was the proverbial cry for help. as director of a militant, totalitarian, black-and-white, no questions asked drug treatment program he was using one of the most devastating, dynamic drugs available—a drug that no one could hide using for long.

his mother told us that sam would smoke crack in his car minutes before picking up bob at the airport. wasted, with glassy eyes and dialated pupils, he would drive bob from place to place, the car reeking with the stringent odor of crack-cocaine. bob had to know.

moreover, sam was calling rachael, who controlled the money, and made desperate demands for more and more money. instead of inquiring, she sent him blank checks. by all appearances it seems as though bob was allowing sam to continue to deteriorate until he could find a suitable replacement.

when he did, he took sam's checkbook and put him on the street. he convinced sam's family that they should not take his calls or help him in any way. they were convinced that this course was best for sam and for their family. in reality, bob was angry at sam. this was what bob wanted.

sam was left to die on the streets of a violent, unforgiving city 1600 miles away from home and family.

eventually, sam wandered through the doors of one of the city's charitable organizations. they did what bob couldn't...wouldn't. they helped him detox, nursed him back to health and allowed him to begin the process of embracing his sexuality. he was able to overcome bob's atrocious message regarding homosexuality which had been implanted within him since, as a kid, he first tried to discuss the issue with his counselor.

he became a man. but he almost hadn't.

the second story was told to me by someone who'd been one of my closest friends, until the time i had left the program. we'll call him ty. five years after i'd left, i received word from a mutual friend that ty was out too. i asked my friend to see if ty would give me a call. within an hour, my phone rang. it was ty.

it was great to talk to him and we made arrangements for both of us, along with our families, to meet up in new york city. we stayed at the embassy suites hotel in lower manhattan. our rooms overlooked ground zero. below, we could see the tremendous hole where the twin towers had stood just a few years earlier.

i had first met my friend in 1989 when he became a counselor in dallas. i had known his wife since 1987. i remembered when they'd gotten married, when their son was born. our children played together even before they were a year old. we believed that they would grow up together, that when they went to high school together he would be my daughter's “big brother,” watching over her.

ty was a devoted husband and father. his wife was his true love and best friend. years earlier, while working for the program, his family was evicted from their apartment because the program didn't have any money to pay him and he couldn't pay rent. with baby boy in tow, they found themselves sharing a hot dog they'd purchased, from 7-11, with the last of their pocket change. they didn't know where they would stay or where they would find their next meal.

as they ate the hot dog, ty told his wife that he felt ashamed that he was unable to provide her a home. without hesitation she responded, “my home is wherever you are.”

ty was able to find a place for his family to live. he purchased a no-money-down, take-over-payments town home and spent the next several years building a profitable program. the program put a lot of money in bob's pocket. he and i worked side-by-side as our children played together.

when i left, our friendship was over. in the program, that was the way

his wife, who had been considered a leader among the women, began to fall out of favor with bob's wife. she had asked some questions that weren't supposed to be asked. bob's wife saw to it that she was ostracized. she also began trying to drive ty away from his wife and child.

with no support, no friends and knowing the leadership was pushing her husband to leave her, ty's wife became increasingly more depressed. she needed help. but bob and his wife weren't in the business of helping people. those in need were cast aside, lest they become a burden.

ty got sick once and passed out. his wife was terrified and called an ambulance. the doctors didn't find anything wrong, but bob's wife did. she explained that ty's marriage was making him miserable. because of his devotion, he was unwilling to leave his family, she said. she convinced him that since he refused to divorce his wife, he was trying to die instead. she told him, “you don't have die to get out of your marriage.”

she convinced him that, by staying with her, he was doing a great disservice to both his wife and son. she said he was preventing his wife from getting her act together—that for her to get well, he needed to leave. his son was suffering too. how could she meet his needs when she was spiritually sick? and ty, because of his selfish need to be dutiful, was standing in the way.

they sent ty to st. louis to spend some time with another director who'd been divorced at bob's and his wife's direction. that's how they sealed the deal.

broken-hearted and ashamed, ty returned to his home town and told his wife he was divorcing her and that there was no hope of reconciliation. then, he sat down and told his son he was leaving. it broke his son's heart. he left his family and rented a townhome 45 minutes away.

his wife and child were devastated.

ty was the director of bob's biggest and most profitable program. he was responsible for most of bob's personal income. he had faithfully served bob for years. bob repaid his efforts by destroying the thing he loved the most, his family. and why? because bob's wife didn't like his wife.

ty, continued to serve bob, but he was miserable...every minute of every day. he missed his family, but continued to do the “right thing” day after day, month after month.

ultimately, he couldn't stand it any longer. he believed that he had done what was necessary in leaving his family, an idea that was continuously reinforced by bob, his wife and their minions, but the pain was more than he could endure. so, admitting that he was a spiritual failure, he resigned his position, turned over the program (his business and sole source of income) to one of bob's minions and returned to his wife and child.

this is the story he told me in the hotel overlooking ground zero.

i hung my head. first sam's story and now ty's. again, my thoughts returned to my friends who were still under bob's control. something had to be done.

i was happy. my family was doing well and intact. i had put my life with bob's cult behind me. i had found peace, deliverance. but how could i rest knowing that people i loved were still being torn apart. they believed that they were by choice, but i knew they were captive. brainwashed and manipulated, they were being led down the road to hell which was paved with their good intentions and railed on both sides with bob's insatiable manipulative powers. standing on the side of the road, looking the other way, while others were driving unknowingly toward the cliff, wasn't an option.

is there a road to redemption? in his letter to the ephesians (eph.2:8-9), the apostle paul says, for it is by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves; not as a result of works, so that no one should boast.”

i believe what paul says. forgiveness is never earned. redemption is never earned. it is given not because we deserve it, but because we need it. whatever peace i had gained came as the result of a gift that i could never have deserved. though i hadn't spoken to my parents and siblings in years, when i left the cult, they never asked me to earn their forgiveness. they welcomed me and my wife and children back into the fold, no questions asked. even my old friends, which i'd abandoned when i entered the program, accepted me without reservation.

the issue of redemption is really beside the point anyway. as i stated previously, i wasn't seeking redemption, but repentance. i had learned ephesians 2:8-9 as a child, but i had just recently read what james had written in james 2;15-17:

if a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? so faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

taken together, the message seems clear. forgiveness, deliverance or redemption, whatever the case, is a gift, but it is useless without repentance. the greek word for repentance is metanoia, which means a change of one's conduct following a change of heart.

i don't claim to know many things (actually that may not be an accurate statement, but stay with me here), but i do know one thing for sure. a person can be wealthy and successful, a great athlete, writer, thinker, scientist, artist or academician, but if he turns his back on his brothers and sisters, if he neglects them when they need help, he is nothing. his life means nothing.

i knew there was nothing about me even approaching greatness. the love i had been granted was a gift. the peace i'd found was not of my own doing. any happiness i had was the result of being blessed with a loving wife, great kids and a loving family. to simply resign any humanitarian efforts to enjoy my newly found peace would be a waste of a human life, my life.

the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing ~edmund burke

my family didn't want me to do it. they were afraid for my safety. my mother warned me to always check my car before i started make sure no one had tampered with it. they were worried that it might destroy my career as a drug abuse counselor—that my reputation would be attacked—that i would slip back into ptsd. there was a risk of losing myself completely.

i knew that people would come after me. those i'd harmed while i was in the program wouldn't care that i had believed i was acting in accordance with a higher purpose. they wouldn't care that i'd been manipulated. they would want their pound of flesh, and rightly so. i knew this. those who were loyal to the program would spread vile rumors about me. they would try to discredit me. secrets i'd shared with my program peers would be exposed. they would hurt me in any way they could. maybe bob would send one of his goons to rough me up. maybe he'd dig a hole in the desert.

i didn't know it at the time, but this simple step, that of speaking the truth, would lead to a national movement. it would result, for the first time ever, in an environment where thousands would be allowed an opportunity to tell what happened to them--where victims would receive validation. i also didn't realize that these people would come together and provide a loose network in which virtually anyone who had been harmed by bob and his organization could find someone to talk to.

it never crossed my mind that these people, these program castaways, would draw national media attention. that the media would inquire and they would respond, telling their stories to newspapers and tv reporters.

in the children's fable, “stone soup,” three of soldiers, returning home, came upon a village. they were carrying nothing but an empty pot. the villagers, who were poor themselves, closed their doors and windows. they knew the soldiers would be hungry and they didn't want to be asked to share their scarce supplies.

the soldiers built a fire, placed the pot atop the flames, filled it with water, and dropped a large stone in it. as the soldiers sat before the boiling pot of water, a few of the villagers became curious and came out to inquire as to what the soldiers were doing.

“we're making stone soup,” they replied. they invited the villagers to have some soup once it was done. then, as the villagers stood watching, one of the soldiers dipped a ladle into the soup, and tasting it, he said, “it's a bit bland, i wish we had some carrots to give the soup flavor.” one of the villagers spoke up, “ i have some carrots, let me run and get them.” the villager returned with the carrots and placed them in the boiling water.

after a bit, the soldier tasted the soup again. “it's almost ready,” he said. “if only we had some onions. another villager went to fetch some onions. and so it continued, parsely, beans, potatos, etc. when the soup was finished all of the villagers along with the soldiers feasted.” everyone was nourished and satisfied.

late one night, in 2004, i sat down before my computer and began writing the text for a website which i would launch. the website would provide a spark for a movement that would provide healing for thousands, expose bob and his entire organization, warn would be victims, and ultimately drive bob to his knees, destroying his credibility and forcing him into retirement.

i can't state emphatically enough that i am not the one who achieved these things. they were achieved by the people he'd harmed, the children he'd abused, the junkies he'd cast aside, the brokenhearted who'd been crushed by lies, the parents who continued to look toward the horizon hoping for the return of they're children whom they'd lost to the program, the castaways.

all i did was drop a rock in the soup.

and when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
there will be an answer,
let it be ~the beatles

(to be continued)

*note: please do not send me bible verses in an attempt to demonstrate to me that the bible condemns homosexuals. i am surely familiar with most of these verses, namely genesis 18-19, leviticus 18:22, leviticus 20:13, dueteronomy 23:17, romans 1;26-27, 1 corinthians 6:9, 1 timothy 9:10. if you just can't help yourself, you might want to review the original greek and hebrew words used to write these and other biblical passages that have been translated by english biblical translators in a variety of different ways. a good starting point? in hebrew: qadesh, quadeshaw, to'ebah.  in greek: akatharsia and arenokoitai. there are others, as well. in the original languages, verses which seem to be a wholesale condemnation of homosexuality, when read in most english translations, generally refer to male and female prostitution within the temple, pagan sex rituals, anal rape, sex with pagan idols, and same-sex relations between heterosexuals during mystical orgies.

in any event, it's just not a debate i'm interested in taking on.

thanks for understanding (or at least for shaking your head and biting your tongue).
oh...and, don't tell my mom what i wrote. i'll never hear the end of it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

how i was spiritually raped and left for dead (part 13)

to read this story from the beginning, click here.

on january 1st, 1892, irish immigrant, annie moore, stepped off the gangplank, exiting the steamship nevada and stepped on to ellis island. twelve days earlier, she had boarded the ship with her 2 brothers, leaving the the emerald hills of the only home she'd ever known to be reunited with her parents whom she had not seen nor spoken to in four years.

annie moore was the first immigrant to ever land on ellis island. she was warmly greeted by the press and was presented with a gift by the citizens of the united states of america, a 10 dollar gold coin.

it was her 15th birthday.
as i stood in the vast open space of ellis island's great hall with my wife on one side of me and my daughter, tightly clutching my hand, on the other side, i imagined what it would be like for a child to leave the only life she'd ever known—to travel to a new land, a different world with different customs and norms, escaping poverty or tyranny, possibly, but also entering a world of new and exciting possibilities.

what did ellis island look like through annie moore's eyes? what were her thoughts as she first spotted lady liberty, her torch held high, clutching the tabula ansata...tabula rasa, treading on broken chains, standing tall over the horizon? did she imagine the possibilities? was she able to quell her racing thoughts and consider her own potential as she approached this great land?

surely, she was comforted by the fact that she would be reunited with her parents. it was the sole reason she'd come to america. but was the promise of a new life sufficient to eclipse the sadness of leaving her friends, her culture, her home?

when we had first arrived in pennsylvania, several months earlier, we were welcomed by some of the kindest, warmest people i'd ever known. like refugees, we had arrived with few resources, few possessions. we lived in a room in the finished basement of a relative of one the program's supporters. our belongings were stored in the warehouse of a man who owned a trucking company. the families who had brought us to pennsylvania provided meals (and company) for us on many nights.

racheal had screwed up the withholding on our pay, so most of the money i'd saved prior to leaving arizona went to pay our taxes. it took several months to get the program licensed. as a result, we were unable to generate income for quite some time. one of the men who'd helped bring us to pennsylvania put me on his company's payroll. this helped to provide some income, while i worked with kids and parents, finished the licensing requirements and found a suitable place to to house the program.

we eventually leased a facility to house the program. it was half of a duplex on the main street of a small borough. it had previously housed a mom and pop style counter restaurant, so it was mostly an open space in need of a lot of internal construction. a local contractor volunteered to lead the construction project and several families from the local community worked long days framing, painting and hanging drywall. they built the facility while i counseled kids and parents out of the glass enclosed patio of one family's home.

the home in which we were staying was on a large piece of forested land with 3 other homes, all owned by members of the same family. on the property, there were running streams, hills, a golf course, soccer and baseball fields, and a large pond-style in ground pool.

in the off season, the pool was home to turtles, frogs and tadpoles. my wife and daughter would go to the pool each day, sometimes collecting tadpoles. they would go on long walks exploring the land. we often spent the evenings with one of the families who had brought us to pa and lived in another house on the property where we were staying. we would have dinner and long talks. sometimes, we would walk the paths which meandered throughout the acreage.

at night, i had nightmares. these nightmares continued increase in frequency and intensity. it was the first sign that, although i had left the cult behind, it hadn't left me.


complex post-traumatic stress disorder c-ptsd is defined by susan roth, ph.d., et al as: a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma with lack or loss of control, disempowerment, and in the context of either captivity or entrapment, i.e. the lack of a viable escape route for the victim.¹
c-ptsd is characterized by the same symptoms as post-traumatic stress disorder, which may include anxiety, depression, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares and the avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event.² but, it is differentiated from ptsd in that it describes the pervasive negative impact of long-term, chronic, repetitive trauma and includes the elements of captivity, loss of trust, sense of safety and self-worth, as well as the loss of a coherent sense of self.³
cult victims frequently suffer from c-ptsd. in addition, they may have difficulty making decisions, since, while in the cult, decisions were always made for them. they may also be preoccupied with thoughts of their abuser, the cult leader. thoughts of the cult and it's leader may change frequently. for example the victim may attribute absolute power to the leader, then they may become preoccupied with revenge, then a desire for the perpetrator's approval.

cult victims often experience a sense of helplessness, guilt and shame, distrust for others, loss of the ability to sustain faith, hopelessness and despair, and a feeling of being completely different from everyone else. they may find it difficult to relate to others and may be unable to establish meaningful relationships. some will isolate or withdrawal from others completely at the first sign that they are being judged or that their trust has been broken.

former cult victims often search for a rescuer, someone to tell them how to act, how to be, someone to give them approval. many end up being re-victimized. in cultic-studies circles, the act of falling in with another perpetrator is sometimes referred to as cult-hopping.

one of the most devastating effects of cultic trauma concerns variations in consciousness. cult victims may lose touch with their emotions, repeatedly relive traumatic events, experience episodes of explosive anger, and have periods of dissociation, where they become detached from their mind and body.

i had nightmares. i had had these nightmares while i was still in arizona and, though i'd experienced a temporary reprieve, i continued to have them after moving to pennsylvania.

in time, we found a town home to lease and moved in. roxanne had started school, but, although she had always loved school, she began to cry every morning, begging us to let her stay home. we realized that her life had been turned upside down. she had lost all of her cult friends and family and had moved across the country. we decided to let her stop going to school and begin again at the start of the next term.

we enjoyed our new freedom. we took frequent trips to new york city, philadelphia, and washington d.c. roxanne eventually started at a new school, where she excelled. she developed friendships with other children.

my wife and i became increasingly more intimate. i loved our new life. the program opened and we began to have a steady stream of clients. i was enjoying my work and feeling a sense of success. i did some good things. i also made a lot of mistakes.

and though the program would be successful in many ways, it would also prove to be the greatest block to my recovery from the trauma i'd endured in the years prior to my arrival in pennsylvania.

so you think you can tell
heaven from hell
blue skies from pain
can you tell a green field, from a cold steel rail?
a smile from a veil?
and did they get you to trade
your heroes for ghosts?
hot ashes for trees?
hot air for a cool breeze?
cold comfort for change?
and did you exchange
a walk on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage? ~ roger waters

somewhere in the distance, i could hear the ring of my cell phone. the ringing sound seemed closer and closer, until...snap. the mental fog cleared and i looked down at my right hand, resting on the shopping cart handle and holding my ringing cell phone. i hit send. “hello,” i spoke into the phone.

“where are you?” it was my wife.

“i'm at the grocery store.” i was slightly irritated. i had just left the house. she had sent me to the store to pick up a few things. in my other hand was an index card. vanilla extract, hot dog buns, lemons, milk, eggs, provolone—there were just few items.

“you've been gone for over an hour,” she said.

i looked at the cart. it was empty. i looked at my watch. i had entered the store an hour ago and had become lost, detached. i had wondered around the grocery store, stopping and starting, drifting off, in and out.

this was my first dissociative experience. it was strange, but i rationalized. i had simply become lost in thought, i told myself.

a few days later, i was certain that i saw bob and george driving down cedar crest boulevard in george's black mercedes. the car was turning right and i was in the left lane. my heart began to race. i flipped my car around and took a hard left on the road where they'd turned. though i was on my way to work at the time, i spent over an hour driving up and down the winding rural roads, trying to find the black mercedes.

later, i came to terms with the fact that there was absolutely no chance that they would have driven george's car all the way from arizona to pennsylvania.

a few days later, i worked up enough courage to call a number that was listed in the back of the book combating cult mind control. it was the number for the international cultic studies association (formerly american family foundation). it was a help line.

the phone was answered by carol giambalvo. carol is an expert on cults and thought-reform. she is also a former cult victim. she was/is the director of icsa's cult recovery program's and co-founder of the recovery, support and referral network, refocus.

when she answered the phone i said, simply, “i was in a cult.” i immediately broke down and began to weep. i was also terrified. my heart was pounding. i began to perspire.
i was driving my car when i made the call. i didn't want anyone to know i was calling. i had the feeling that, in calling icsa, i was doing something gravely wrong.

carol was nurturing and empathic. since i had difficulty speaking, she filled in the blanks. she shared her experiences and told me that she too had become part of the leadership of her cult. as we talked, i began to become a little more comfortable. i was feeling relief, though i was still weeping.
i looked up just in time to see a yellow toyota stopped in front of me. i hit the breaks, but it was too late. i crashed into the yellow toyota with tears streaming down my face.
i was immediately overtaken with the realization that this crash was the result of my phone call to betrayal of bob. i was immediately consumed with fear. it was total.

what was i thinking. i knew the terrible things that happened to those who'd left bob's program...and to tell the program's secrets to an outsider, worse a “cult person.”

i had a sick feeling, the kind of feeling you get when you impulsively do something that causes devastating and irreversible damage. the kind of feeling a drunk driver gets when he realizes he has run down and killed a child. “they must have tapped my phone,” i thought. then, “they don't need to tap my phone. she (bob's wife) knows. she knows everything.” i was so sorry. i wanted to take it back. i had used “the c word.” i told secrets. i had sought council from someone who was outside the circle.

i couldn't get out of the car. i wanted to cease to exist.

my car was undamaged, though the yellow toyota was smashed in. i pulled it together enough to exchange information with the woman driving the toyota. then, i got back in my car and sat there for a while before driving off.

my thoughts raced. i'm so sorry. i'm so sorry. i'm sorry. i'm sorry. i'm sorry. i'm sorry. then an involuntary mantra pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease. i pounded on the steering wheel. i pulled my hair, grabbed my stomach, wanting to rip my guts out.

i took a hard left, drove my red t-bird to the fish hatchery and parked. i was breathing rapidly. i made a conscious effort to slow my breathing, to stop my racing mind. pleasepleaseplease. i'm so sorry. i promise. i promise. i promise.

i needed forgiveness, absolution.

i didn't dare pray.


my friend lives in a house
lives in there all alone
with locks on every door
windows are made of stone ~seeking in tongues (1992)

he did things to me that i'll never tell. not because i'm afraid of him, but because they are too painful to recollect.
in an instant, without hesitation, without remorse, he snuffed out flames that had ignited and inspired me since childhood. i won't even think about these things. they remain hidden, stuffed deep down in the inside me, in the places where the fires once burned.
the most damaging, however was the systematic induction of phobias deep within my psyche. so as i made an attempt to start a new life, to build a treatment program, i faced recurring nightmares, flashbacks, false sightings, and periods of dissociation.
i was lost. i didn't know myself. i didn't know which beliefs were mine and which were planted by the cult. as i worked with kids and parents, i was constantly struck with the thought that i wasn't even certain that i believed in what i was telling them.
i instructed kids to avoid their friends they had been using drugs with. was this sound advice or just a way to isolate them so that they would become more pliable? i had told young people to “stick with winners” for years. i couldn't be sure that it was the right thing to do as opposed to a step toward indoctrination that i'd learned in the cult.
to be sure, much of what i did was cult-inspired. though my motives were pure, i perpetuated the legacy of my abuser on many occasions. one of my greatest violations was that of hiring former clients to work with me. i had always subscribed to the idea that, to help a drug abuser, one had to be a reformed drug abuser. no one else could understand as succinctly where they were coming from.

i would later realize that this was a mistake. it rarely turned out well for the client/employee.

perhaps my greatest transgression was my insistence that the 12-step approach was the only acceptable path to recovery. as a result, many kids adopted the identity of addict/ alcoholic when they were simply normal teens who liked to blow off steam by smoking pot and drinking booze. others, who really did have a drug problem, were denied opportunity to enlist an approach that may have been effective where 12-step recovery had failed. they were often blamed for their failure by those within the 12-step community who claimed that they were unwilling to “turn it over to god.”

one thing i'd learned all too well while in the cult was how to shelf my thoughts and feelings in order to “perform.” so, even though i struggled to find myself, even though i often lacked confidence, i was able to present as though i was solid. i don't mean to say that i was proposing ideals that i knew to be false, only that i sometimes struggled to parse truth from my cult mindset. it is common for cult victims to drift in and out of the cult mindset and it was no different for me.

in time, i worked up the courage to again call carol giambalvo. she was able to recommend several therapists who specialized in cult recovery and, fortunately, there was one who lived about 45 minutes from our house.

my wife and i met with him together. the experience was liberating. he talked about bob's wife by name. without hesitation, he said, “she has no power.” he told us that she couldn't enter our dreams or read our minds—that she had no psychic abilities. he explained how she and bob had used eriksonian hypnotic techniques as part of an effort to plant fears deep within us.

he also described many of the symptoms i was experiencing. he taught us about floating (or dissociation) and the internal panic that often accompanies it. he also directed us toward literature that would help us in the recovery process.

i began to devour this material. my understanding of cults and thought-reform increased. it helped me to gain some degree of control over my state of being.

on the other hand, i was working everyday in an environment that was full of triggers. without fully realizing it, i was being retraumatized on an ongoing basis. the language, the slogans, the issues, even the act of sharing openly with the young people and their families triggered floating episodes and continued to reinforce cult doctrine. even attending aa (which i don't consider to be an inherently dangerous organization) would cause me to become lost in the cult mindset. there were too many similarities, too much of bob's doctrine consisted of ideas, stolen from aa and then twisted or amplified to be used as a means of dispensing my sense of self. i eventually stopped attending aa meetings.

as a family, we began attending church on sunday mornings. it was a large, mainstream, evangelical-free church. the people were friendly. i liked the staff and began seeking counsel with two of the church's ministers.

in time, i was asked to audition for the church band. they needed a new drummer. i ended up playing drums for the band and we performed in 2 services every sunday morning. we also did cantatas and festivals several times each year.

playing the drums again brought me tremendous joy. i hadn't played in years, but the task of learning new music every week enabled me to get back some of my musical skills. i also began to return to my christian faith.

it started like this. i was in church one sunday and thinking about my past, the trials i'd experienced and also my daughter. i remember saying to myself, i'd give my life, without hesitation, to spare my daughter the emptiness, the separation from god that i'd felt. instantly, another thought popped into my head: “don't you know that jesus feels the same way about you?”

i couldn't shake that thought. was god speaking to me? i had struggled with feelings of worthlessness. i had felt unlovable. damaged. though, since leaving the cult, my life had improved in so many ways, i'd also left behind a sense of purpose in life.

while in the cult, i had believed that i was a player in a higher cause. i could rely on the stated mission that we were saving the world and the ongoing reinforcement provided by the cult's doctrine, its leaders and its members. the transition from being a major player in “the” divine movement to change to world to that of a piece of cosmic dust, floating through space and time with little or no substantial impact often left me with a sense of emptiness.

at times, those who counseled me would point to the idea that, through my work as a drug rehabilitator, i was, in fact, making a difference. but did it matter if a kid stopped using drugs? would it save his soul?

in the cult, drug use was the root cause of all that was wrong with the world. every crime, every broken home, every injustice, from the fall of the roman empire to the failure of the united states to prevail in vietnam, to the high divorce rate, to child abuse, to spousal abuse, to illness and disease, despair and death, lifelessness and loneliness could be blamed on the use of alcohol and other drugs. drug use was the original sin and sobriety was the quintessential step toward physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ascendancy.

now, sobriety was just sobriety. and i was just a guy trying to help people achieve it.

but this idea that god loved me (in fact all of mankind) the way i loved my daughter, my family, spoke to me. i knew something about sacrifice. i loved my wife and daughter enough to endure ongoing, long-lasting, excruciating pain--to place dominoes.
was god willing to do the same for me?

so it was on this simple idea, god love me like a father loves a child, upon which i began to rebuild my faith. i stripped away all of the doctrine and dogma associated with religion and focused on one simple concept.


(to be continued)

1. roth s, newman e, pelcovitz d, van der kolk b, mandel fs (1997). "complex ptsd in victims exposed to sexual and physical abuse: results from the dsm-iv field trial for posttraumatic stress disorder". j trauma stress 10 (4): 539–55. doi:10.1002/jts.2490100403. pmid 9391940.
2. american psychiatric association (1994). diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: dsm-iv. washington, dc: american psychiatric association.  isbn420610.
3. herman, judith lewis (1997). trauma and recovery: the aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror. basic books. pp. 119–122. isbn 0465087302.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

how i was spiritually raped and left for dead (part12)

click here to read this story from the beginning

the men who committed the atrocities of september 11 were certainly not 'cowards,' as they were repeatedly described in the western media, nor were they lunatics in any ordinary sense. they were men of faith - perfect faith, as it turns out - and this, it must finally be acknowledged, is a terrible thing to be. - Sam Harris

is faith a virtue as pope gregory i proclaimed?

in 1632, galileo galilei published his book, dialogue concerning two chief world systems, a comparison of the copernican and ptolemaic views. according to the ptolemaic view, the earth was the center of the universe. copernicus, on the other hand, claimed that the earth orbited the sun. as a result of his book, galileo was convicted of “grave suspicion of heresy” by the inquisition. he was condemned to hell and sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life.

and although copernicus' ideas were verifiable through observation, parishioners were not only forbidden from believing that which could be proven by mathematics and observation, they were denied access to writings which even mentioned these ideas. publication of all of galileo's works, past and future, was forbidden.

what was the basis of the rejection of copernican thought? a book called genesis, written by an unknown author and determined by the political powers of the time to be inspired by an unseen and mysterious “holy spirit,” who, as one-third of a triune god, had placed these men in a position of authority to rule over the lives and wealth of the masses.


it's not so hard to understand why i was able to suspend critical thought and blindly follow bob, even to my own peril. i, like most of us, had always considered faith a virtue. many of our greatest artists, thinkers, leaders and humanitarians were men and women of faith. mother theresa, martin luther king, johann sebatian bach, benjamin franklin, george s. patton, ronald reagan, mahatma ghandi, anne frank, harriet tubman, malcolm x and muhamed ali all relied on their faith in god.

when faith clashes with observable fact we are often asked to deny that which we can see, touch, taste, smell and hear, or at least reinterpret our observations, retrofitting them to support faith in that which cannot be physically observed.

bob was a master at manipulating one's faith. he understood the extremes to which a faithful individual might be willing to go. he depended upon it, exploited it to achieve his agenda.

speaking of clayton's death, bob said, “he chose it.” rejecting the fact that clayton suffered from a life-threatening illness which had been diagnosed using state-of-the-art, replicable, scientific techniques and ignoring the fact that bob himself, had denied clayton the treatment which likely would have saved his life, he claimed that clayton's death was due to a deep-seated spiritual shortcoming—the desire to take the easy way out.

as evidence, bob cited his own previous bout with hepatitis. but he failed to mention the fact that he had contracted a different and very curable form of hepatitis, hepatitis-a, or that his hepatitis was cured using mainstream medicine.

nearly everyone in the program began saying, “clayton chose it.” in fact, it was the explanation for any one who died in the program.

i remember one kid, a 15 year-old boy, who had been banished from the program following multiple relapses. the boy died as a result of huffing glade room deodorizer. when i asked a young girl, a friend of his, how she felt about losing her friend, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “he chose it.”

i had not lost my faith, just my faith in bob. in fact, it wasn't that i'd lost faith in bob, but instead i came to recognize that he was lost. i vacillated between the belief that he was a sociopath, who had been a con-artist from the very start, and the belief that he had been pure at one point, but had lost his way, adopting machiavellian methods to protect his power and wealth.

he had begun his career as a drug rehabilitator in 1971, when he was employed by an episcopal priest to lead a group of teenagers in a church-sponsored, youth support-group. a woman, who later became his wife, was running an alateen group at the church. many of the kids in the alateen group were smoking pot and using other drugs, so they became some of the first members of the new support-group.

bob would hang out with the kids. he would tell wild stories about his experiences on the streets of baltimore and his time in the federal penitentiary. the kids would hang out at night and prank the local community. when someone in the group reached 30 days without using drugs, bob and the group would get drunk and celebrate. bob told me this. he also said that he slept with some of the girls and that he even dropped acid with some of them. he claimed that his soon to be wife straightened him out, telling him he could no longer use alcohol and must remain true to her. abstinence from alcohol became part of the program's view of recovery.

the program continued to mushroom, partly due to bob's charisma, but also due to the hard work and deep pockets of local businessmen who were the beneficiaries of houston's oil boom.

bob helped a local up and coming rock star break his heroin addiction. the star achieved national fame shortly thereafter and it is through this individual that bob may have become connected to one of the nation's most well-known actress/comediennes. she was seeking help for her daughter who had been using drugs, so she sent her child to houston to be treated in the program which bob now claimed to have personally founded.

impressed with her daughter's progress, she went on national television and plugged bob and his program. this caused parents from around the nation to inquire about the program. kids were coming in from around the country. new chapters began to pop-up throughout texas and in other states.

bob had also begun working for a houston-based hospital, where he was being paid to oversee an inpatient unit which worked side-by-side with his support groups. he was making good money. he was also becoming somewhat of a celebrity.

all this came to a halt when, in 1979 and early 1980, he became the focus of two national news expose`s, one on 60 minutes and one on 20/20. when it was determined that he was being paid to use his position with a non-profit organization to fill hospital beds for a for-profit hospital and that he had been using harmful cultic practices to maintain control, he was fired.

he then exploited another celebrity who had befriended him to start another non-profit program in california. he opened a private for-profit treatment program and again used the non-profit group to funnel kids into his for-profit fee-based program.

in time, his for-profit program was shut down by the state and he was fired from the non-profit. he was found to be promoting racist ideals, using cultic methods and attempting to circumvent the state's authority.

we knew he'd faced these challenges, but we were never told the whole story. instead, we were told that he'd been run out of the texas-based program by a manipulative rival who had lied to the board of directors and that his problems in california were due to a local investigative reporter (who bob claimed was also a child pornographer) that went after him in order to start his own youth group, presumably as a means of getting close to kids.

it was easy to imagine that bob had started out pure, but had become tainted as a result of being victimized in the past. he was terrified of the media. he maintained that no news reporter or news organization could be trusted—that he had trusted them in the past only to be destroyed by them. we were taught defensive measures. no one was allowed to talk to the media under any circumstances. if the media contacted anyone from the program for any reason, bob would hold an emergency meeting to discuss the “threat.” all of the programs became private, for-profit entities so that we could maintain control. we were careful about what we said to outsiders.

at times i would think, perhaps bob had just become too insulated. there were no checks on his power. he was paranoid. then, i would put the pieces together again. he had been released from the penitentiary just prior to being hired by the episcopal priest. he had a long history of illegal and unethical activity. he was hurting people. he lied without hesitation. he never expressed remorse. he was glib in the face of others' trauma. he had left a path of destruction behind him everywhere he went. in fact, there was not a shred of evidence that he had ever demonstrated a single genuine act of altruism, only his claims and those of his followers.

his philosophy for treating drug abusers was unconventional and there were no studies to demonstrate its efficacy, only his claims to have saved the lives of thousands. still, even after seeing failure, destruction and death, even after recognizing that most of the kids we worked with eventually returned to drugs, after having to defend the organization from those who called us a cult, after realizing that all of bob's most loyal supporters had left or been cast aside, after my awakening in the santan mountains, i believed that his philosophy regarding drug rehabilitation was sound.

i was waiting for my opportunity to connect with my wife and get my family out, but was still mired in confusion about bob, his initial intent and the validity of the program that we were delivering to the kids.

it was excruciating at times. i had set out to help people and i still held the belief that his approach alone could save the lives of dying teenagers. i had been so indoctrinated to believe that nothing else worked that i feared what would happen if this program no longer existed. it would be years before i would realize the truth: that very few kids were actually dying from drugs use, and; that scores of other doctors, therapists, and programs were succeeding in helping kids get off drugs.

my internal struggle continued--guilt, fear, anger, loneliness, loyalty, love. is leaving the right thing to do? is there any way to stay and lobby to correct the mistakes we were making? perhaps, as bob had often stated, i was using my intellect to destroy myself. he had told me that my intellect was my worst enemy—that i needed to stop thinking, to have faith, to trust the universe.

i was torn..observable evidence vs. longstanding faith.

to make matters worse, i was still undergoing constant indoctrination. though i'd made a decision to leave, i still had to go to work every day. i still had to attend staff purposes, as well as all of bob's lectures. i still had to endure frequent confrontation. i had no meaningful contact with the outside world. perhaps most devastating was the fact that the only tool i knew for resolving my internal conflict was the program's doctrine.

i had to turn the doctrine around. up to this point, faith had meant sticking with the program, accepting bob's ideals even in the face of contrary evidence. fear was the opposite of faith. to reject or question bob was to give in to fear. now, i had to tell myself that to stay with the program was to give in to fear. i determined that perhaps god had intervened—maybe he had given me the clarity to see bob for the sociopath that he was. maybe i needed to depend on god to help me escape with my family. maybe god was watching over me.

i couldn't maintain these thoughts for long periods. i would stop my car on my way home every day and take time alone to clear my head--to return the truth. i was not yet free, but i began to be able to imagine what it would be like to be free.

each day i struggled with these conflicting thoughts. each day i hit the streets on my rollerblades. each day, i parked my car on the way home and cleared my mind, reminding myself of who bob really was. each day i placed dominoes.

a year after i had returned from my sabbatical in the santan mountains, the opportunity arose. after lying to my wife for a year, i decided that this was the time to tell her the truth. this would either be the beginning of our escape from this cult which had destroyed virtually every part of our essence, the beginning of a new life, or it would be the end of our family.

i was about to lay some heavy stuff on my wife. i was about to tell he that i'd been conning her and everyone else she considered dear to her. over the last year, i had stashed nearly $10,000.00 in cash, escape money that she didn't know about. i would show her the money. i had no way to know whether she would agree to leave or whether she would take our daughter and run to bob and his wife. this could be the last time we'd ever speak to each other.

things had not been going well between us. we had recently been allowed to take an overnight trip to the grand canyon. it was our first vacation in years. we had arranged for one of the young women on staff to take care of our daughter so we could be alone.

just prior to our trip, my wife had consulted with bob's wife. she had gone to her seeking her blessing to have a baby. my wife desperately wanted another child and this desire was growing each day.

i don't know exactly what bob's wife told her. it was between them, not for my ears. i do know, however, that my wife returned from her discussion terrified. as a result of her conversation with bob's wife, she was unable to be intimate with me. it cast a cloud over our vacation. bob's wife had planted seeds, causing my wife to be afraid that, if she let go, i would impregnate her as a manipulative means of gaining control over her.

this carried over after we returned home. bob's wife was able to convince her that becoming pregnant would destroy all of my her spiritual progress. further, she claimed that i was somehow manipulating my wife, causing her to have the desire to have a baby, so i could keep her down and maintain control. she told her that she looked to men to make her happy and that she needed to learn to be happy on her own.

my wife had had long standing issues with her own mother, who had neglected her throughout her life. bob's wife accused my wife of being, “just like your mother.” she ultimately tore my wife apart and used the other girls in the program to break her.

my wife had approached her with the desire to have a baby and she had responded by launching a total push effort to destroy our marriage.

i was not privy to any of this, but i could tell my wife was devastated. she had begun to withdrawal from bob's wife, her longtime mentor. she was afraid.

so i told her everything. “i'm not happy,” i said. “this is not the life i want. i've lost my passion.”

i reminded her of our lives before the program, the intimacy we shared, our dreams for the future. we talked for hours. it was the first time in years that we'd talked openly. i told her everything.

from that point forward, we were no longer alone.

“what should we do?,” she asked. i showed her the money. “we have to leave,” i said.

i laid out a plan.

leaving wouldn't be easy. in the real world, if one wanted to quit his job, he would simply put in notice and leave. coworkers might hold an office party. employers would provide a letter of reference. everyone would wish him well. but this wasn't the real world.

in this world, to leave meant to die, if not physically then at least spiritually and symbolically. leaving bob was tantamount to betrayal. we would lose all of our friends. in fact, they would ultimately see us as the enemy, part of the “them” in the group's us and them worldview.

we lived in a world where bob's wife used hypnosis to plant phobias in others, a world where she could enter one's dreams and cause emotional catastrophe, affecting one's thoughts actions and sanity. those who had left, often experienced devastating health problems, a return to addiction, incarceration, insanity, and death—or so we were told.

upon leaving, we would enter a world we did not know. for years, we had been separated from the outside. we'd come to believe that it was a dangerous place, filled with evil. no one could be trusted. we had no connections. no friends. no family. no job prospects. no resources. no history.

after devoting my entire adult life to this work, this program, this man, i would leave with no verifiable employment history. i knew bob would never give me a letter of recommendation. he would not make himself available to verify my employment. in fact, he would do everything within his power to insure that i would fail in any endeavor i undertook. it was his way. he simply couldn't tolerate the idea of anyone having any success for which he could not take full credit.

my wife was afraid that they would take extreme measures to make us stay...or that they would try to separate us and try to get one of us to stay. bob's wife was trying to end our marriage, and she wasn't accustomed to failure. she understood the the tremendous ability of bob's wife to influence, to spin one's head, creating doubt and confusion. she also knew that bob's wife was capable of quickly employing and exploiting the one's peers to manipulate them. her power should not be underestimated.

bob would not see it coming. as far as he was concerned, i was a loyal follower who saw him as near deity. over the past year, i had been calculated in fostering this idea. i had sat at bob's feet while he told me of his plans to go overseas and spend a month with the buddhist monks, a trip which would be paid for by one of bob's wealthy followers.

“you're going to be disappointed,” i said. “i think you will find that you're lightyears ahead of all of them. while they've been sitting on the mountain, you've been changing people's lives, changing your life, my life. if you go, you go to teach...that will be your lesson.”

in order to manipulate me, bob would need information. he would need to understand my motivation, why i was leaving. i would make sure he remained in the dark. i wouldn't allow him to read me. i would not demonstrate anger or give him any reason to believe i doubted him.

i told my wife that i would call bob and tell him that i needed to speak with him immediately. this would cause him to panic; it would throw him off his game. then, i would go to his house and give 30 days notice, simply stating that i was unhappy.

he would need to try to come across as though he knew where i was coming from, that he was cosmic enough to know the answers without asking questions. since he didn't know what was motivating me, he wouldn't attempt to try to explain or counter things. he would look for cues, but i wouldn't provide them. he would, in fact, be shocked by my announcement. he'd be off balance, confused. this would prevent him from trying to manipulate me.

my wife decided that she wanted to avoid any further contact with anyone from the program. she had been working with rachael, doing the books for the program. she decided that, once i talked to bob, she would drop off all of her bookkeeping materials at rachael's house with a letter of resignation, effective immediately.

i would go to work every day for the next 30 days. i would also look for work outside the state, where they couldn't find us. at the end of my 30 days, we would leave, moving wherever necessary to obtain a job.

the next day, i called bob. my phone call and conversation with bob went exactly as planned. he was thrown. he offered to send me to pennsylvania where he was trying to launch an outpatient program. he also offered to contact a friend in branson, missouri to help me obtain a job in the live entertainment industry, a line of work which he knew i'd had a passion for.

after i left his house, i picked up my wife and we dropped the bookkeeping materials and resignation letter in rachael's foyer, using the key she'd given her to access her office when she was not home.

the smear campaign started within days. bob spread rumors, one that we were running away because my wife had gotten pregnant. he said that i was a pedophile, that i had been stealing, using drugs. he searched for reasons why i would simply walk in and announce my resignation without seeking his approval. where he could find no answers, he created them, filled in the blanks. without reservation, he said whatever he wanted to say about me and my wife. he couldn't possibly accept the fact that i was on to him.

from my perspective, everyone in the program was an agent of bob. i assumed that when i was speaking to them, i was speaking to bob. i knew that bob was telling them exactly how they should interact with me, how they should treat me, where they stood with me.

when i walked into a room, everyone would stop talking. people would leave.

i was responsible for the counselor training school, but they wouldn't let me anywhere near the trainees. so i focused on making sure all the paperwork and records were up to date. i also made sure that the curriculum was organized for whomever might take over the training program.

i was told that i no longer needed to attend clinical staffing at the residential center, staff purpose, or clinical meetings for the outpatient program. i went to the hospital every day and met my responsibilities there.

i had one other responsibility as well. i was writing the policy and procedure manual for the new pennsylvania program and working on getting it licensed for bob.

the push to open the program had begun with several pennsylvania parents, some of whom had sent their children to arizona for treatment. they had created a loosely structured committee to raise money. bob had agreed to send a director to run the program and to provide the counselors. he had asked me to get the program licensed.

i tried to reach bob, to remind him that, since i was leaving, he would need to inform the people from pennsylvania that i wouldn't be completing their policy and procedure manual. he would need to find someone else. he wouldn't take my calls. since i couldn't reach bob, i tried to go to george. he wouldn't take my calls either. i showed up at his office, but he closed his office door and instructed his staff to inform me that he was busy. after several attempts, i gave up.

a couple weeks passed and i knew that no one had informed the pennsylvania families that i was not going to get the program licensed, soi decided to call them myself.

i told them that i was leaving bob's organization and that i would not be completing the p&p. to my surprise, they offered me the job as director of the program. i explained further. “i don't think you understand,” i said. “i'm not going to be working with bob in any capacity.”

thay responded, “so what?”

i was not accustomed to this kind of response. no one did anything without bob's blessing. how could these people decide that they would simply move forward without him. i tried to be more clear.

“i am leaving bob's organization because of philosophical differences. if i were to come there and run the program, it would be my program, not bob's. we would have no affiliation with bob, no support from him. he would interpret it as though we stole his program.

bob had already sent 2 young counselors who had just recently graduated from training. they had been holding support group meetings and sending paying clients from pennsylvania to bob's arizona programs. he had made at least one trip to pennsylvania to meet with the parents, young people and community leaders. he had invested a lot of time and energy and considered the pennsylvania operation to be part of his national organization. if he lost the program, he would be livid.

the families in pennsylvania felt no loyalty toward bob. in fact, they thought he was a nutcase. not only had they found him obnoxious and arrogant, but they had been waiting months for him to send a director and were beginning to believe that he wouldn't be able to produce one. they told me they had asked for me, but that bob refused to let them anywhere near me. bob had never discussed this with me.

the truth is, he didn't have anyone to send. opening a program in pennslvania was legally and politically tricky. no one within the organization had the experience and knowledge needed to make it work within pennsylvania's tight regulatory environment.

i agreed to fly to pennsylvania and meet with the families that were backing the project. i would fly in over the weekend (i was still working for bob—fulfilling my 30-days), meet with the parents, tour the area and discuss the terms. if we all agreed, we would move forward.

it would be critical that no one other than the parents who were backing the program knew anything about my coming to pennsylvania. everything was done cloak and dagger style. the pa staff and many of the kids in the pa support group were communicating with folks from phoenix on a regular basis. if bob found out that i was considering taking the program, he would immediately pull the staff, leaving the group with no guidance. further, he would likely attempt to sabotage the entire pa operation. he would also instruct the counselors to exploit their relationships with the kids in the support group, causing them to believe that i had malicious intent.

i knew bob couldn't be trusted. interestingly, so did these parents who were backing the program. bob had thought he had them completely convinced that he was the solution to their local drug problem. he was wrong.

my plane circled over the statue of liberty as we approached newark international airport. below, i could see the twin towers through the window. as we touched down, i felt excited, fearful, apprehensive and hopeful all at the same time.

a couple, one of the sets of parents who'd been funding the pennsylvania program, picked me up at the airport. we drove across the new jersey/pennsylvania border and stopped at a restaurant to meet two other couples, also program supporters, for dinner.

that night we all met in my hotel suite. we talked for hours. i was deeply impressed with these fine folks. they were committed to helping their kids and the community.

the next day, they took me to tour the area. the trees and the grass were a stark contrast to the arizona desert. the local parks were filled with children and families. the community was vibrant. it seemed like an excellent place to raise our daughter.

we had dinner and more discussion. i had insisted that they review my c.v. and ask me questions. we also discussed the terms, if i were to come to pennsylvania.

i went home on sunday night and discussed everything with my wife. together, we decided that moving to pennsylvania was the right thing to do. so, i contacted the folks in pennsylvania and accepted the offer.

we all decided that, since bob couldn't be trusted, we wouldn't tell him anything until after i had arrived in pa to take over the program.

ten days later, our cars and belongings having been transported to pennsylania, my wife, my daughter and i boarded a plan to the east coast to start a new life.

i had had my first contact with one of bob's programs 16 years earlier. i had devoted nearly my entire adult life to his organizations. i had joined forces with bob accepting his promise of love—believing that through the principles of love and honesty we would change the world.

we were walking away from the only life we had known and into a world we didn't understand--one we had been taught not to trust.

i had given everything to bob, to this dream of setting free those who had been enslaved by drugs, fear, emptiness and trauma. i was a true believer. not only did i believe that unconditional love for others had the power to affect the world both physically and spiritually, i believed in bob's love for me.

now, at age 35, i was escaping his torturous love, saving my own life. saving my family.

i showed our daughter the glorious statue of liberty, through the window, as our plane approached the newark airport. it was the first time she'd ever seen it.

you said
love is a temple
love's a higher law
love is a temple
love is a higher law
you asked me to enter
but then you made me crawl
and i can't keep holding on
'cause all you've got is hurt ~ u2

to be continued

author's note: part 12 of how i was spiritually raped and left for dead was one of the most difficult parts to write, because it represents the death of a dream. for 16 years, i had devoted my life to a dream, that of saving lives, changing lives, changing the world.

though i made many mistakes along the way, hurt a lot of people (right now, i'm thinking of you steve s. and willie v.), i was always motivated by that dream. i often worked 12 and 16 hour days...sometimes longer. i endured sleepless nights, bouts of true poverty, frequent moves from city to city, self flagellation, criticism, loneliness and brutal confrontation. i sacrificed my own health, both physical and mental, to tend to the needs of my brothers and sisters, to serve a higher purpose.

i had known, without any doubt, that this was my purpose.

i loved the people who, for 16 years, had been my family. i was devoted to them and to bob.

i had loved bob deeply.

i'm not a saint. i never was...not even close. but i had a dream.

enjoy the video.

seeking in tongues

Sunday, May 16, 2010

how i was spiritually raped and left for dead (part 11)

part 1 is here
part 10 is here

part 11: my confession

“keep your friends close, but your enemies closer" ~michael corleone

i was laying on the floor of a basketball court, flat on my stomach, with a domino between my right thumb and forefinger. before me were parallel rows of multicolored dominoes each standing on end, threatening to topple the next domino. the parallel rows of dominoes extended for several feet, then formed complex geometric patterns, diamonds, triangles, rectangles, before converging to a single row which led to a single, precariously-positioned domino, threatening the trigger of a mousetrap which lay the far end of the basketball court, in front of an weathered, antique, wooden wheelchair with a wicker back and steel wheels.

my wife sat in the wheel chair and in her lap was my 5 year-old daughter, roxanne. roxy was wearing a cotton sundress with fishies on it. she clutched her stuffed dog, kimberly in her left arm and held my wife's hand with her right. on her lap was a bundle of dynamite.

two wires looped out of the bundle of dynamite and extended toward the floor. they were attached to the mousetrap in such a way as to cause the mousetrap to act as a detonator. trip the mousetrap and complete the circuit, causing the bomb to explode.

i carefully placed the domino on the floor and reached up to get another. directly next to me, on my left, was a little red wagon. it was painted and polished, fire engine red, with pristine, shiny black rubber wheels that had thin whitewalls. the wagon said “radio flyer” in white uppercase letters. the little red wagon was filled with a mound of multicolored dominoes, fluorescent orange, red, yellow and lime-green.

i slowly turned my head to the side and took a much needed breath, taking care not to allow my breath to upset the dominoes.

as i reached for another domino, i was aware of the reflection of the red wagon on the highly-polished, hardwood, gymnasium floor.

my wife had jumper cable clips attached to each of her arms. the clips had thick, black wires connected to them which led to group of several car batteries. if i stopped placing dominoes, or went too slow, the batteries would deliver an electric shock to my wife and, through her, to my daughter, causing each of them to shake violently.

i turned my head, took another breath and placed the next domino on the prescribed mark which had been painted on the floor with a black magic marker.

i continued with the excruciating process—not too fast, not too slow. no margin for error.

i looked back over my shoulder. the gymnasium floor stretched on and on, a hundred yards or more. i looked back at the wagon. the white uppercase letters had become scrambled—unintelligible nonsense. i placed the next domino.

i knew that i had to place all the dominoes according to the prescribed pattern in order to disarm the bomb. i knew that if i hesitated, my wife and daughter would receive another devastating electric shock. i knew that if a single domino fell, it would start a chain reaction that would cause my family to be blown to pieces.

on my forehead, a bead of sweat surrendered to gravity and dropped, slow motion, crashing on polished hardwood floor. i wiped my brow with my forearm and carefully placed the next domino.

my eyes were fatigued from the reflection of the overhead, fluorescent lights of the hardwood floor. the task seemed endless. my arms and shoulders ached. as i looked up, reaching for another domino, i saw my wife and daughter, exhausted from relentless fear and anxiety. then, from underneath the bleachers to my left, a rat appeared, twitching, moving aimlessly, starting, stopping, sniffing, twitching. with no particular direction, the rat moved diagonally in one direction, then another, closer to the geometric patterns of the carefully placed dominoes.

i watched the rat carefully, peering at it, then back as i placed the next domino.

another rat appeared, twitching and sniffing, from underneath the bleachers. then another...and another. i turned my head to the side, took another breath, placed another domino.

i had been vaguely aware of george, who was sitting dumbly on the top row of the bleachers. i glanced up at him. he was wearing shorts, tube socks and an oversized coyotes hockey jersey, with a fat, red polka-dot, clown tie. he donned a royal blue, plastic, souvenir batter's helmet. two cans of grape soda rested in can holders which were affixed to each side of the batter's helmet. he was sucking grape soda through “silly straws” which looped from the cans of soda to his mouth.

a large fishbowl sat on the bleacher, directly to his right. the fishbowl was filled with half a dozen red and blue betas. george held a chopstick in his hand and was dipping it in the water, taunting the betas, provoking them, causing them to attack the chopstick and then each other. in the other arm, he held a red, rubber dodgeball. sucking his silly straw and taunting the goldfish, he seemed oblivious to the life and death that was happening beneath him.

i gingerly placed another domino.

there were now dozens of rats aimlessly wandering, twitching and sniffing, moving closer to the geometric patterns.

i stayed calm, focused. i had to keep placing dominoes. i had to figure out how to intervene before the rats reached the dominoes. i had to be meticulous, taking care to place each dominoes in its proper position.

i turned my head and took a breath. i placed the next domino.

i was keeping an eye on the rats. how could i scare them off? i was keeping an eye on my wife and daughter. i became aware that i should keep an eye on george, who, as a result of his mindlessness, might do something that would cause the dominoes to topple, killing my family.

i placed another domino.

i had been lying on my stomach, propped up on my elbows, placing dominoes for as long as i could remember. no matter how many dominoes i took from the wagon, the mound of dominoes never shrank. george in the bleachers. rats on the floor. the lives of my family hanging in the balance. it was all i had known.

as i reached for another domino, trying to think of a solution to the rat problem, careful not to stop placing dominoes, not to move too slow, i glanced up at george. he had grown tired of the fighting fish. he dropped the chopstick in the water, abandoning it. then he looked down at the rats. i heard a muted beeping sound. beep...beep..beep.

i placed another domino.

beep..beep...beep. the sound grew louder. the rats moved closer. george sucked his grape soda. he scratched his balls, bored. my arms and shoulders ached. red hot pain shot down the nerves of my arms and back. i turned and took a breath. sweat hit the floor. george stood up. beep...beep...beep.

i placed another domino.

just then, george lobbed the red rubber dodgeball toward the ceiling in a high, lazy arch so that it would ultimately bounce on the floor where most of the rats had congregated.

i jumped top my feet and began to run toward the ball so that i could intercept it before it could bounce and then crash into the dominoes, but i had snowshoes strapped to my feet.

as i ran, i began to slip and slide on the glossy, hardwood floor. the beeping grew louder, more ominous. beep..beep..beep.

i began to slide across the floor and past the arc of the red rubber ball, until i crashed into the wall and the ball crashed, slow-motion, into the large multicolored domino diamond, causing a chain reaction as each domino crashed into the next. beep...beep...beep.

i attempted to get to my feet but the floor was too slick.

beep...beep...beep. i opened my eyes and looked over at my beeping clock radio. i hit the snooze button, then grabbed the radio and turned off the alarm.

i had a sick feeling. i could hear my wife and daughter talking in the next room.

i jumped out of bed and headed for the kitchen to grab some coffee. “hey kiddo,” i said to my daughter who was sitting, crisscross applesauce, on the family room floor. “morning daddy,” she said. my wife was in the kitchen, reaching for a plate. how'd you sleep?” she asked. “like a baby,” i replied, as i poured my coffee.

i went out back, lit a smoke, took a sip of coffee and began to calculate.

it had been several weeks since i had returned from the santan mountains. so far, things had gone relatively well. i had managed to convince bob that i had been transformed—that i had found my 'true, sociopathic, male self.' my wife and i had shared some wonderful moments. still, i hated having to be manipulative. i hated myself for being a liar. i wanted to tell my wife everything. i wanted to end the charade.

i pushed it all out of my mind and began my daily exercise of assessing current threats and determining how i would approach those who needed to be placated.

in a couple days we would have to attend a pool party at bob's house. these situations could be tricky. bob, his wife, george and his wife would all have to be dealt with simultaneously. each represented a different threat. each had their own need for their particular brand of adoration.

bob's wife would be watching everything, setting traps. someone would offend her during the swim party and would end up facing her wrath. i needed to make sure it wasn't me.

i crushed out my cigarette and went inside. then, as i did each morning, i strapped on my rollerblades and headed out the front door and into the street.

rollerblading was my respite. i began moving through the streets of my neighborhood, picking up speed, letting my mind drift.

as i picked up speed, my stride lengthened. the arizona sun was brilliant, warming, energizing. now, as i hit top speed, the wind blew back my hair. houses and trees flashed past me. my mind was spinning free. i jumped the curb and headed southeast on a bike path that winded behind an elementary school and then to another road which led to bob's neighborhood. i skated past bob's street, around the neighborhood loop and back toward my house.

i returned home an hour later, took a shower and headed for work.

during my half-hour drive to work, i thought about my current situation. for years, i had valued honesty above everything else. i had kept nothing from bob. every thought, every feeling, transgression, my fears and dreams, all of my motives, my internal struggles, pain and joy, doubts, questions and concerns were all shared with bob.

keeping a secret from bob was tantamount to blasphemy. for years, i had believed that if i were to withhold anything, to keep any thought as my own, i would risk devastating consequences, not only for myself, but for my family and friends as well. “we're only as sick as our secrets,” we would say. we saved lives. we had answers that no one else had. young people would live or die based on our spiritual prowess--and confession was critical to maintaining spirituality. one lie could destroy everything.

of course we lied to outsiders, but we were justified in doing so. they weren't ready for the truth—couldn't handle it. it would be dangerous and irresponsible to expose someone to information they weren't equipped to handle. anyone outside the program, armed with knowledge of the program's inner workings, represented a threat.

now, the greatest threat to me and my family were those within the program, the people i'd trusted, opened myself to, the people who called themselves “family.”

shortly after i arrived at work, i got a call from bob. he was in a panic.

clayton, bob's best friend, was in the hospital. he had been throwing up blood and it was discovered that he was experiencing liver failure, cirrhosis, as a result of hepatitis-c, which he'd contracted years earlier from an infected needle.

“these fvckin' doctors don't know what they're doing,” he yelled. “they're gonna kill the mother-fvcker. he continued, “get on the phone. find a doctor that knows what the fvck he's doing,” he demanded.

i was responsible for the hospital-based operations and, since i was working directly with physicians and other medical professionals, bob wanted me to exploit those resources to ensure that his friend was getting the best possible care.

i knew i was in a no-win situation. i wanted to help clay. he was my friend too. he had treated me well. at times, he'd befriended me when know one else would even speak to me. i also knew that bob would complain about any doctor, regardless of the doctor's skills. bob demanded absolute control and, since he wasn't a doctor himself, he had no control over this situation. the almighty bob couldn't fix his friend and his inability to maintain control would be manifested in his spitting venom on anyone else who couldn't immediately produce the results bob demanded.

so, i would make some calls. i would find the best liver doctor in the area. i would try to help clayton and quell bob. i knew, however, if bob didn't like the doctor i found, if the doctor didn't immediately give bob the sense of absolute control he required, i would face bob's wrath. he would place the blame directly on me. if clayton died, i would be deemed his murderer.

a show of confidence on my part would temporarily calm bob. “i got this,” i told him. “now, let me go, so i can start making calls. i'll get back to you in an hour.”

i hung up with bob and started dialing.

in bob's organization celebrities were golden. bob desperately wanted fame. he considered himself somewhat of a celebrity. he often dropped names. he claimed to have been fabian's agent. he had hung out with rock stars and movie stars.

clayton was the son of a famous hollywood producer and stepson of a well-known actress and comedienne. clayton was also a talented artist who had worked with aaron spelling, gary fleder, david brown, farrah fawcett and morgan freeman, among others.

bob had known clayton when clayton's career and life had fallen into ruins due to his addiction to heroin. bob had loved clay, not only because of his hollywood connections, but because clay was possibly the coolest individual he'd ever met.

clayton had charisma even greater than bob's. he was physically beautiful, dressed impeccably, and demonstrated total self-confidence. to me, he was an american version of ringo starr.

ten years earlier, as the story went, clayton had shown up on bob's doorstep holding a baby boy. he wept and begged bob and his wife to help him. the baby's mother was strung out. clay was addicted to heroin. he wanted bob and his wife to help him get clean and sober and take care of the baby until he was healthy enough to care for the child himself.

determined to be a good father, clay dug in and got clean and sober. he transformed his life and eventually began the process of rebuilding relationships in hollywood and rebuilding his career. he also fell in love with linda, bob and joy's spiritual daughter. she became mother to his baby boy and the two of them had another child, a girl.

clay, grateful to bob for saving his child, remained loyal to bob. the two became best friends.

clayton went back to work in hollywood and his wife and children lived near bob and his wife, where linda could serve at their pleasure. when bob moved to arizona, linda and their children moved to arizona as well. they bought a house near bob's and clayton commuted to work in l.a. during the week, he would work long hours on movie and t.v. sets. on the weekends he would travel to arizona to be with his wife and children.

it became obvious that this routine was taking it's toll on clayton, but bob needed linda, so clayton continued the grueling routine.

with clayton, i remember the little things--a pep-talk when i was afraid, my first trip to starbucks, listening to harry nilsson in the car, my first time eating sushi as we sat together in his living room listening to frank sinatra.

one weekend, someone had planned a camping trip for all the guys on staff. clayton was in town and decided to come along. there were about 15 of us all together. as was common, we all brought our guns...and we had a lot of them. assault rifles, pistols, shotguns and semi-automatic handguns. we brought them all. everyone except clayton.

for us, owning weapons was almost a spiritual responsibility. many of us purchased unregistered guns at gun shows for fear that the federal government was on the verge of showing up at the homes of registered gun owners and taking their weapons.

bob believed that we needed to be able to defend our families against intruders. but he also believed that, in the future, we would face an even greater threat--“the niggers.”

he would sometimes tell me, “i know you love your family. i know you want to protect them. you don't have to worry; i've got you covered.” he continued, “once we get enough money together, we're gonna buy a big piece of land. then we're gonna build a big fence around the mother-fvcker to keep the niggers out.”

this was his master plan. to buy some land in the middle of nowhere, build a fence, stockpile weapons and hide out from, as he called them, “the niggers,” who were ultimately planning to head to the suburbs and take all the white women.

although clayton was loyal to bob, i don't think be bought this line. and while we were running around in the woods, bullets flying everywhere, clay was kicked back by the fire taking in nature, probably thrilled to have a few hours to relax.

when it was time to eat breakfast, everyone went to their cars and coolers to grab their food. some had cereal bars, pop tarts, or bologna. others had more elaborate breakfast items, eggs, sausage, bacon.

i pulled a couple hot dogs from my stash, reached for my lockblade and began fashioning a stick with which to cook my dogs. clay pulled his chair beside mine. he leaned toward me. “don't eat that crap,” he said. “check it out.” he opened a small cooler which contained premium bagels, cream cheese, nova smoked salmon and a variety of tropical fruits.

we toasted our bagels and sat back together, in the middle of the forest, eating like kings, laughing heartily and watching our friends, fumbling, trying to cook, dropping their food into the fire.

for that moment, i had a big brother, someone to look out for me.

clayton had been my refuge on many occasions. because of his relationship with bob, he could get away with things that the rest of us couldn't. one of those was being a friend to me when others didn't dare say a kind word to me. countless times, when i was on bob's sh1tlist, and therefore everyone else's, clayton would pull me aside. he would put his hand on my shoulder and place his face inches from mine. “don't let all this get the best of you, brother” he would say. “just take care of yourself and your girls. this is gonna pass.” then he'd take me to get a latte or a gelato. we'd listen to choice tunes and talk and laugh.

while everyone else was avoiding my evil karma, clay was ministering to my spirit. he would make me forget about the constant life and death. he would make it so that, for a few minutes or hours, i didn't feel evil. now he was dying.

every call i made, everyone i spoke to, led back to the same name, the same doctor. it was the doctor who was already treating clay. this was good news for clayton, but bad news for me. it meant that, since bob had determined that clayon's doctor was inept, he would also determine that i was inept. he would channel his anger over not being able to control the situation toward me. that's exactly what he did.

i contributed what i could, which meant that i smuggled in a pack of marlboros and a can of ozium so clayton could have a smoke.

but something else happened, something i didn't expect. liver failure is an extraordinarily painful illness and so the doctor prescribed narcotic pain meds. bob began to complain that clayton was taking the medication. “he's laying around getting high and scratching himself like a junkie,” he said. bob was enraged. he couldn't stand the thought of clayton taking opioids. my take was that he couldn't stand the thought of clayton “getting high,” while he had to stay sober.

at the pool party, there were whispers. i began to pick up on the fact that bob and his wife were beginning to turn on clayton. in time, bob would say that he thought clayton had been secretely “getting high” for years.

after a while, clay was released from the hospital. but he wasn't healed; he needed a new liver. bob and his wife forbade this. “if he gets a liver transplant, he'll never be the same, spiritually,” they said. so, clayton took some time off work and began a regimen of vitamins, rest and healthy foods. he began working with a homeopathic doctor. he didn't get better.

bob was increasingly more frustrated at his lack of control. he sneaked into clayton's house and rifled through his belongings. he found half-filled and empty pill bottles and determined that clayton was getting high on the drugs the doctor had prescribed. he didn't consider the fact that clayton had removed pills from some of the pharmacy containers and placed them in his weekly pill container. he never considered the fact that many, if not all, of the medications had no mood altering effect. he never considered the fact that clayton needed pain medication, or that any time a heroin addict suffers an illness that requires treatment with opioids, he may become dependent on the pain meds, ultimately requiring help to get off the meds once the pain passes. he didn't consider clayton at all. he only cared about the disruption clay's illness had caused in his own life.

so clayton became the pariah. bob began to say, “i wish the mother-fvcker would just die and get it over with.” he told, clay's wife, linda, that she needed to make a choice—“him or us,” he said.

here is my confession: as this man, who had been so kind to me, became more and more sick, i was relieved that i was off bob's radar screen. at least for now, i was safe. i could continue to focus on how to get my family out.

i have a lot of regrets about my past, but this is one of my greatest. i allowed clay's illness to serve as a distraction while i plotted to rescue my family. i didn't defend him. i didn't reach out to him or his wife. in fact, i played along. i acted as though bob's reaction to clay's illness was normal, though it was anything but.

in time, bob and his wife turned against linda as well. “she doesn't know how to be happy without a man; that's why she is choosing that mother-fvcker over us.” she was ostracized.

when clayton was readmitted to the hospital, this time in l.a., they tried to demand that she not allow clayton's children to see him. “what you're gonna fvck your kids up by letting them see their dying father laying in a fvcking hospital bed just so he can feel better. that selfish mother-fvcker. if he cared about his kids, he wouldn't want them anywhere near him.”

bob, the man with all the answers, couldn't fix this problem. in the chaos and controversy, created by bob and his wife, clayton missed the opportunity for a liver transplant.

so clayton died in a los angeles hospital, desperate and in pain, as his best friend, to whom he'd always remained loyal, sat in his lazy-boy, eating gummy worms and talking shit about him. and i, having done nothing to stop the travesty, barred the doors and windows, forsaking clayton and everyone else (save my wife and my daughter), plotting, assessing the threat, determining my next move. i placed another domino.

would you know my name
if i saw you in heaven
would you feel the same
if i saw you in heaven

i must be strong and carry on
'cause i know i don't belong
here in heaven ~eric clapton, will jennings

to be continued