They would stop at nothing to bring me back.
I sat on the stained bed of a grungy motel room in Sarasota, Florida. It was 3 AM. There was no way I was getting any sleep that night.
I got up and paced the room. The only possessions I had left to my name were the clothes on my back and a canvas handbag full of essentials: extra pair of panties, water bottle, $50 cash, and a few pens. I kept a Swiss Army knife in my back pocket for security. They were the only things I thought to pack when I finally made the decision to run, and now I was faced with the fact that they would have to last me until who knows when. Running was the only step of the process that I had figured out at that point. That was really all I had time to plan. I bit my nails and sat back down on the bed. Suddenly I heard someone pounding on the door.
They found me.
The only thing I could think to do was hide. I ran into the bathroom and locked the door behind me hoping that would be enough. The walls were so thin that I could still hear them beating at the door.
“Officer Andrews, this is Officer DeSantis. Kindly let us in.”
Kindly my ass. I wondered if the door would actually come down with the force of DeSantis’s beatings. I thought I could hear the wood in the door cracking under the force of his fists. I could probably crack under those fists, too.
The beatings stopped after almost five minutes. Aside from the blasting air conditioner, there was silence. Maybe they had just decided to declare me an SP and call it a night. I opened the bathroom door a crack just to make sure they were gone.
Suddenly, I heard a key turn in the lock. The door sprung open and the owner of the motel stood in the hallway surrounded by six higher-ranking Sea Org members. It was over. They were dragging me back to Clearwater.
Everyone started yelling at me at once.
“YOU MUST COME BACK WITH US. THINK OF YOUR FAMILY.”
“THINK OF YOUR FUTURE.”
“THINK OF THE FATE OF MANKIND.”
One does not simply get in their car and drive away from the Sea Org, the Church of Scientology’s leadership organization. As soon as you join, you are forced to sign a billion year contract pledging your allegiance to L. Ron Hubbard and his teachings. It may not be legally binding, but it’s not a promise you want to break.
I signed that contract ten years ago, when I was just 14 years old. As the daughter of two prominent members of the Austin Church of Scientology, everyone expected me to join the Sea Org. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I believed in Scientology then and still do now. I was happy to serve my community and the rest of mankind. But I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.
I worked long days of hard labor. I had little contact with the outside world or even my parents. I was constantly moved from job to job with hardly any notice ahead of time. I had about two days off a year. Maybe. Worst of all, I was living in constant fear of being sent to a work camp, a camp that some people have never returned from, for the smallest of offenses.
I talked to my mom for the first time in months two weeks ago. She told me how my childhood friends were getting married, making careers, and having kids. She assured me that she was proud of me and that I was doing great work for the human race. That was nice to hear, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more out there for me than just day after day of work in the Sea Org. I knew I couldn’t have kids. I was highly discouraged from even getting married. My life was the Sea Org and would always be the Sea Org.
That wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted out.
One does not simply walk out of the Sea Org, though, as I thought I had done. If I took the organization’s way out, I would be faced with three years of scolding, isolation, training, and shame. I knew they would follow me, I knew they would try to bring me back. I never thought they would use force.
I felt two of the members dragging me up from my spot in the corner of the bathroom by my arms. I squirmed in resistance but they just tugged harder. There was only one way out of this.
I bit down on the arm of the officer to my right and he let my arm go. With my now free arm I dug the back pocket of my jeans for my Swiss Army knife. Seeing that I had pushed up the blade, the other officer let me go. I got to my feet and pointed the knife at the members of my apprehension committee.
“Officer, stand down,” the tallest man said to me.
“No. I want out,” I growled back.
“You will be labeled a Suppressive Person,” another officer said.
“You’ll never see or speak to any member of the church ever again, including your family.”
“You will never find peace.”
“FINE. JUST LET ME GO.”
They knew I meant it. I was a lost cause and it was far too late at night to make any progress. They turned their backs on me and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind them.
Then I was alone. Just my body and my thoughts to keep me company. I felt a hole growing in the pit of my stomach and I knew then what it really meant to be alone.