I’ve been asked by a few people to discuss recovery from the system over the years, and so I thought to create a new category and to discuss a bit. I am by no means an expert.
It is a recovery
The first thing to cover is that it is, in fact, a recovery. It is impossible to pen the feelings and emotions one goes through when one first doubts the teachings of the church, and an order of magnitude above that when one does not believe any more.
Picture yourself on the way to a party. You’ve been told your favorite actor/actress will be there. You’ve spent a bundle on clothes, perfume, etc. preparing for this party. You’ve rented a limo to set a good impression. Everyone who was ever anyone is going to be there.
When you mention to your friend you rented a limo, he says something that makes you question whether your favorite celebrity is really going to be there. You put it on the shelf and ignore it. He was probably just trying to be funny.
Then you get in your limo with your clothes and as you start driving you ask your friend for directions to the party. He seems confused. He doesn’t have the location of the party and gets offended you’d dare to ask. You question more details and he replies getting more and more agitated that you need to have more faith.
Finally, you realize there was never a party with a celebrity. Not just a party where your favorite wouldn’t be there, but there was no party at all. You look back at the expenditure, the time and effort, the number of people you bragged about going to the party to, the people you invited to the party, and your expectations.
At first, you’re very depressed. You had set your hopes on this so much. It is crushing in the waves of disappointment.
Then you get angry at the “friend” who invited you. You ask him what he did with the money you paid him for your ticket and he says “It’s mine now, I did with it as I saw fit” and then questions your morality for even daring to ask such a thing. He belittles you and you feel depressed again.
Finally you stop the limo, send it back and get out. Dressed in your fancy clothes your credit card bills for the ridiculously hip clothes you are wearing hit you again. How will you ever pay for this mistake? You know that the friend betrayed you. You remember all the times he bragged about he was going to the party, and how only cool people going to the party really were “With it”. That he, you and others would laugh at people who didn’t believe in the party.
And then it hits you, he’ll be mocking you with others. You wonder how many “others” he has invited to parties and not delivered. You google it, a quick search just to see, and find that he has done it to thousands. Shocked, you can’t believe you were so taken in. You find out that many were far more misled that you, giving up spouses, family, fortune and more for their tickets to the party.
You feel sick at the sheer amount of deception. You read everything there is about the party to try and comprehend how you didn’t see it. The realization that the signs were all there and you didn’t see them makes you feel foolish. You wonder if you have any value at all, if a person so gullible has any right to be alive.
And then you reach out. Someone on some group has a story similar to yours, and you say “Hey, that’s like me”. You make a comment, and they respond. You find others who have similar stories of deception. You connect. You realize that this is common and you are not broken.
Then it hits you, there are others still headed to the party. Maybe it’s someone who introduced you to this friend. Maybe you always knew the friend because your parents were friends of the family. Whatever the case, you start trying to point out how obvious it is that this “Friend” is taking money and gifts and there will never be a party. But your family members and acquaintances refuse to listen. They quote how nice the friend has been to them, or how much better they feel around the friend as evidence that everything is fine. They treat you just like you treated others who tried to warn you. You feel dismissed. Ignored. Small. They treat you like a pariah. “Lesser”. Only part of a person. Sometimes as delusional.
You cope, and you move on. But then something happens. One day, the anger drops away. Oh it might be there for a while, rumbling around, but it doesn’t affect your day to day. You might still associate with groups, but it’s mostly for the friendship, and to lift and help others. Your life takes on new meaning. Parties aren’t that big of deal; and maybe you find a real party that actually happens.
And then one day, you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Unless someone you know constantly brings up the “friend” and “party”, and then, “ugh”, you can never get away from it. Every time you try to forgive the “Friend” you hear the person quote a like the friend told, or talk about how wonderful that party is gonna be and you go through the steps listed above all over again.
That’s the best analogy for the stages I can give. Of course not everyone’s experience is identical. Some people get mad first, and depressed later. Others move straight to apathy. The determining factors seem to be the amount spent on the party in dollars, effort, and friendships. The more spent, the more the anger/depression/foolish stages hit.
I’ll continue with specifics of what I’ve seen work to help people get over each step in later posts.