“you’re going to find that you lose most of the relationships that you have right now. you might keep a few, but mostly you’re going to have to make new friends.”
this was, roughly, what my therapist told me after i had been in counselling for a year and a half. at the time i had started to remember and heal from abuse that started in childhood and continued for almost two decades. as opposed to most childhood abuse this was concerted, intentional abuse at the hands of a satanic cult with the express intention of breaking my spirit and making me a good – read obedient- cult member.
i was also trying hard to stop drinking. i mention these two facts one after another because they are connected: sobering up coincided precisely with my memories of abuse surfacing.
although i didn’t realize it then, much of my social life revolved around drinking and partying. this meant that sobering up coincided with not seeing many of my friends regularly. i made attempts to reach out to people, and to be explicit and intentional about what i wanted, but despite this i did not get the support i craved. i still don’t.
it’s been a painful not getting this support. i don’t know what the true reasons are. it isn’t personal, even though it sometimes feels that way, and each persons’ reasons are specific to them.
i know that sexual violence, and, even more so, childhood sexual abuse, and, even more so, childhood ritual abuse are intensely triggering subject for most people. i know that most people don’t have the skills and experience to offer and provide support confidently, and may feel afraid of getting it wrong. i know that people have their own lives, and have other, important priorities. i know that the dominant culture is one that denies the existence of sexual violence and the experiences of survivors. i know that the mainstream institutions that do exist mostly do not exist to support survivors, but to further the interests of the dominant culture and ruling class (police and prisons, for example), and that the small number of underfunded and overworked organizations that exist primarily serve women survivors of sexual violence, and, to a lesser extent, trans and two-spirited people. i understand that, given the extent of sexual violence towards girls, women, trans and two-spirited people, this makes a certain kind of sense. but as a cis-male survivor of ritual abuse it leave me shit out of luck and out in the cold.
i have grieved for the absence of support in my life, partly because it is a real and tangible absence in my life at the moment, partly because it is deeply caught up with years of intentional neglect, and deliberate cruelty done to me as a child and adult. i work hard not to take it personally, because it isn’t really. it isn’t really about me, it’s about other people and their emotional issues. i still feel hurt, though.
i feel hurt that friends and friendships that i thought were solid, were not so, not when it has come to supporting me in healing from ritual abuse. i have grieved and reflected on these relationships, and the process has led me to question some of my assumptions about who my friends are, what friendship is and how good a friend i have been. everyone, of course, was always doing their best. it is not my intention here to call anyone out and to shame them and to blame them. indeed, i also celebrate these changes, as they are a necessary part of my growth. nobody said that healing and transformation would be easy and pain-free.
the radical activist community that i was and, to a lesser extent, am a part of, played an important role in getting out of the cult. this is one of the reasons why i have felt distressed about these changes. i feel profoundly grateful to so many people and to the radical community for the help they provided.
ultimately, to be sure, i made decisions and it was my own actions that got me out of the cult. the radical activist community in ottawa, however, provided some of the context to my slow-motion escape.
it was, for example, someone from this community that connected me with my therapist. and i met my romantic partner of the time through the job i had doing social justice organizing. if not for her, and our wonderful and challenging relationship, i don’t know when, or if, i would have gotten into therapy.
that said, i had been working my entire adult life to leave the cult – not easy given a) it’s a cult and b) i had dissociated identities and, most of the time, didn’t know that i was an involuntary member of a cult. i chose to go to couples counselling. i chose to stay in therapy. after my partner and i had broken up my therapist suggested that i really ought to continue with therapy, and, after thinking it over for a few days, i made the fateful choice to finally try and figure out what the fuck was wrong. little did i realize how utterly it would change my life.
similarly, it was my choice to finally begin to explore the vague and fear-filled thoughts i had that maybe, just maybe, i had been sexually abused by my biological father – one of the bravest choices in my life. i chose then, and i continue to choose to heal, and i’m not going to stop until i’m done.