My Escape From a Living Hell
To keep this account to a reasonable length, I have glossed over some events and shortened the length of time between others. If a reader wants further information, they just have to ask. Because of the group’s willingness to sue, I have had to be careful about naming people. I ask that this lack of names and shortening of the story does not lead anyone to downplay the events written about. If anyone needs or wants more information or has any questions, just ask and I can reply either publicly or privately. All the events took place in Dublin unless stated otherwise.
P.S. If my story gets turned into a film, I want Tom Cruise to play me.
I was always something of an odd kid growing up. Being very uncomfortable around girls, it was impossible for me to start a conversation with someone I’d just met. Going up to somebody and asking her out would have completely freaked me out. This led to quiet a lot of people presuming I was gay or calling me that weird fella in the corner. Doing my Leaving Cert in the summer of 1990, my working life began with a few dead-end jobs over the next three years, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. That all changed one April morning in 1993, when I met the one person who would have the biggest effect on my life up to that point.
Her name was Amanda Carey and I would find out over the next few months that she was even more mixed up than I was. We met in a Social Welfare office of all places when we were both signing on. She was struggling with her 6 month old kid and a massive bag of washing she was on the way down to leave in to be laundered.
Two hours later, with the bag of clothes and the screaming kid left with the respective people, we were sitting together in an early house on Capel Street telling each other how much life had screwed us and how one day, everything would be different. She had recently broken up with her live in boyfriend of four years and was finding it hard with a new-born son and another two kids who were under five.
Over the next few weeks, our relationship got closer. I felt I could tell this woman my innermost thoughts and fears without being judged or that she was listening just for the sake of listening to me. She also told me a of a lot of things that happened to her as a kid growing up in inner city Dublin, her alcoholic father, her mother who was in and out of hostels as she threatened to leave the family every couple of months. Her mother was later diagnosed as having clinical depression and would take her own life in the early 2000’s.
In June 1995, two years after we first met, Amanda’s attitude started to slowly change. She had started hanging around and meeting up with a new group of friends. Most of the time I was with her when these get togethers occurred but on the odd occasion she went out with them on her own. The three new friends seemed nice enough.
Paul Hyland, Anne Welsh and Ursula Ford. They always seemed to be together. If you bumped into one, the other two would always be very close behind. There was talk of Anne and Paul being engaged but she seemed more interested in eyeing up other fellas and I never found out if they were serious about each other.
During the first week of July, Amanda let slip that she was going to church gatherings with her three new friends. She was being asked to bring me along to one of the meetings although as I wasn’t that religious she unsure of what my reaction would be. After a couple of weeks and plenty of arguments I agreed to go to one of the meetings.
I first attended a church meeting in August. It lasted about two hours and for most of that time I didn’t see Amanda. When we walked in the door together, I was brought into a room on my own were two members of the church were sitting. They looked very formal and stiff and they talked in a monotone the whole time I was with them. Questions came at me constantly. Name, age, brothers ,sisters, parents, what friends I had, where I worked, how long were me and Amanda seeing each other………. On and on it went.
After an hour or so, they stood up and walked out. I mixed with the others who were there and was told that the interview I had undergone was normal for everybody who started attending the church. They seemed nice enough but seemed wary of telling me too much. There were a lot of reservations running through my head. What was I doing here? They are a very weird group. Should I just make an excuse and slip away? I never wanted to come back near this place again.
Yet two weeks later I was back. This time I was in the main hall with everyone else. There was a lectern at the front with three men seated behind it. These men would lead the meetings. They started by introducing me to the room, which led to a round of applause from everybody there.
Then the meeting started. They started off slow, telling us of any news or events that had occurred within the group since the last meeting. I would learn later that the group consisted of 450 people. They came from all walks of life. Some were unemployed, some were working in factories. A couple of people even owned their own company. The informal rule within the group was that anybody with any clout in a company would set an unemployed member up with a job if they could.
I also learned that as a group, everybody hung around together. Nights out drinking, meals, weekends away, everyone was encouraged to stay within the group as much as possible.
They had their own names for a lot of things. The seasons, months and weekdays were changed. Some of the names made sense; others just seemed to be made up. It took me months to learn the different names and I’ve listed them here:
• Monday – Imbolc
• Tuesday – Litha
• Wednesday – Mabon
• Thursday – Bon
• Friday – Ridvan
• Saturday – Vesak
• Sunday – Vaisakhi
Months of the Year:
• January – Novum
• February – Feuer
• March – Yanus
• April – Kline
• May – Braun
• June – Solus
• July – Solus Magna
• August – Ulternia
• September – Produm
• October – Jurn
• November – Nolus
• December – Storm
• Spring – Unusber
• Summer – Duober
• Autumn – Tresber
• Winter – Quattuorbia
Your position within the group was in one of five groupings which had their own names. Everyone started out as an Alttan, which meant something like bottom. Tsvey, Thataatha, Tetram, and Verda were the other four levels. Most people were at the second and third levels. Tetrams were the people who led the people who led the meetings every week. There could only be one Verda at a time. He was something like a Bishop in the Catholic Church and usually held the position till he died or retired.
The problems started when I split up with my girlfriend. I was approached on the street by a high-ranking member who claimed that because I had not grown up in the group, I was seen as an outsider. They were going to close ranks on me and made it clear that I would not be welcome by any of my former friends, which, to be honest, didn’t really bother me too much. I hadn’t really known any of them that long.
A campaign of ostracization was started against me. My friends with any connection with the group were told to avoid me. There were phone calls made to my employer making allegations against me. These were hard to take and it was only because my employer knew me so well that I kept my job.
There was times when I went out and had the very distinct impression that I was being followed by people. Weather it was to check who I was meeting or to gather information I don’t know. This made me very paranoid and eventually led to a minor breakdown.
There were also very serious rumours spread in the local community about me. It was alleged that I had hit Amanda on a number of occasions and that on one occasion she had miscarried because of one of my beatings. This was all complete lies but a lot of neighbours would keep their distance from me after that, even a few people I considered close friends. I have not had any interaction with them to this day.
It was around this time I met the person who would become my saviour. Jeannette O’Hare worked with Dialogue Ireland, an organisation that gathers information on religious movements. She put me in contact with people who helped me come to terms with how the group had messed with my head and to start rebuilding my life. I also met up with people in similar positions as myself. This alone was a fantastic help. It showed me I wasn’t alone. It also helped me out of the very dark place I was in at the time.
Through the group I was in, I started dating one of the women who also went there. We took it very slow at the time and we’ve just moved in together. We plan to marry in the next year or two.
I have put Amanda and her bunch of control freaks behind me. Occasionally, I bump into one of them but there is no interaction. I started working full-time with Dialogue Ireland, giving advice to kids about the dangers of getting involved in cults. We protest outside their offices, handing out leaflets to passers-by.