avatar

by Elizabeth

Elizabeth Esther’s first book, Girl at The End of the World, chronicles her childhood inside a fundamentalist Christian cult called The Assembly. She blogs at elizabethesther.com.

flight

Courage to change (which sometimes means going to rehab)

I grip my boarding pass tightly and stare at the bar-code as if I can somehow decipher the meaning behind the lines, trace the trajectory that led me here—trembling in an airport, waiting to board my plane to a Northern California treatment center.

I’m going to rehab because it’s been a decade since I left my childhood cult but I still live frenzied, frantic. I’m still making the same mistake: I don’t take care of myself. I keep burning out. I survive on caffeine and adrenaline.

I still don’t know how to rest, how to slow down, how to enjoy my life. I’m thirty-six years old and I’m still living like the world is ending tomorrow.

So, when a treatment center in Northern California offers me a partial scholarship to come rest, regroup and take a long time out, I book my flight that very afternoon.

I haven’t told anyone besides my closest family members that I’m going into treatment. I’m embarrassed about it. I mean, how long can it possibly take for me to “get over” my past? Shouldn’t I have “moved on” by now?

By all outward measures my life is far better than it used to be. My children are healthy and well adjusted, earning good grades in school and thriving in a safe neighborhood we’ve worked hard to afford. I’m still married to the boy I fell in love with at age eighteen. I’ve done a pretty good job of refusing to transmit the same pain onto my children. I even have a blossoming writing career. I should feel healed.

But I don’t.

I still struggle to believe God loves me.

In fact, I don’t trust God.

In the very core of who I am, I believe I’m not good enough. No matter how well we’ve rebuilt our lives, no matter how “successful” we look—deep down, I’m still a frightened little girl working desperately to make everyone like me. Because if they like me, maybe I’m not a bad person. Maybe if I collect enough trappings of success, I’ll feel ok inside.

The glaring, uncomfortable truth is that I left fundamentalism, but fundamentalism didn’t leave me. My childhood church set out to “break my will” and the tragedy of it is: the cult worked. My will was broken along with my heart and my psyche.

The line in front of me begins to move and I take a step forward.

I’m going to rehab because even though I’m all broken up inside, something remains: the desire to get better. I board my plane and wipe tears from my eyes as the plane takes off, leaving my family and children behind. I’m going to rehab to get healing for myself so I can love others from a place of wholeness. I still believe the light will overcome my darkness.

A note from Tsh & a giveaway:

The Girl at the End of the WorldsmallThe words you just read are a “deleted scene” from Elizabeth’s recently released memoir, Girl at The End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future.

Today, Elizabeth is giving ten Art of Simple readers a free copy of her book! To enter, simply leave any comment on this post (though I’d love to hear why you’d like to read it).

If you’re reading this via email or RSS reader, please click on the post to leave a comment directly on the blog.

This giveaway is now closed. Check Saturday’s post for the winners!

Join the Conversation