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!

top photo source

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.

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  1. Good heavens! Just reading that excerpt made me immediately think “I have to read this whole book”.

    • Pat LeClaire Grubb says:

      me too !

      • Wow. Your description of who you still are, despite being “old enough” and “recovered enough” to move on, echoes so loudly with me. I’ve quit doing hurtful things, stayed sober, gone to counseling,taken self help classes…but that scared little hotel still cries, “I’m not good enough.” It’s haunting. Less so now than before, but that little girl needs to be fully healed. I believe your memoir could help me down the path of healing even more than i already have. Thank you for bravely sharing your story.

    • Karen Scripture says:

      I want to read this book!

    • As well as really interesting also sounds like you have not only been though a journey of self discovery but are just at the start! I hope that you have found what you are looking for and have a peace that passes all understanding and can lay the past to rest. Look forward to reading the book x

    • Lauren Brown says:

      Wow. The excerpt blew me away. Thank you for sharing your story! I’m so excited to read it!

  2. Chris Roach says:

    I’d really love my wife and I to spend some time reading this together.

  3. Leigh Sabey says:

    I would love to read this book. Thanks for the opportunity!

  4. Sounds like a great book. Her words are honest.

  5. Jacque K. says:

    Though I was never a part of a cult, I grew up with my own demons. Demons that haunt and refuse to ever really leave. Hearing you talk, I felt like this could be me. There is a lot to be space for knowing you are on a shared path to healing, regardless of how you’ve been hurt. Sometimes, just knowing you’re not alone is the catalyst that helps put everything in perspective. Thanks for sharing your vulnerabilities. I look forward to reading more!

  6. This post had me hooked, and then I realized it was part of a book. I think many people struggle with their background in fundamentalism. I know a few, myself.
    Sarah M

  7. OK, this sounds intense, and I was pulled right in. We all are in the same plight as human beings to some degree. I would love to read the book as it seems very interesting…how the heck do we release the demons of the past and live a fully functional healthy life? It is, in the least, a good question to ponder…

  8. Sounds interesting! And, you certainly got us with that one. 🙂

  9. Would love to read this.

  10. When I read this blog post, so much resonated with me. Though I don’t have the same background in a fundamentalist community, I do have parts of my past that I simply cannot leave behind me, no matter how hard I try. Lately these broken pieces of me have been eating me alive. So reading this fascinated me… I want to see the journey of a girl with a broken past become healed. I looked up her book on Amazon and was further intrigued with her past because I know many people who have turned away from God because of their upbringing. This breaks my heart, and even more it has forced me to examine what I need to do to ensure that my children follow Him all the days of their lives. I CANNOT WAIT TO READ THIS!

  11. I grew up in a similar church. A lot of what she was saying resonated with me. I would love to read this book!

  12. I think we can all relate to these feelings. I would really like to read on to see if the rehab helped her. Sounds like a really good, honest person. Very few of us would be willing to open up like this. Thank you!

  13. Jennifer says:

    Wow, just wow.

  14. Courtney J says:

    I would love to read it…the ‘Escaping Fundamentalism’ intrigued me

  15. This book is going to be at the top of my to be read list ASAP!!

  16. I would consider myself a fundamentalist. I am not aware of the Assembly, but my interest is peeked. I would love to read her new book. Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. Wow, grabbed my attention! I would love to win a copy of this book. I too was involved in a church, which I found out to be a cult. I still have mixed emotions about my experience – because even though it was where I first really turned my life towards God…it also took that strong faith to leave, losing the support of all the people I have formed friendships with.

  18. Just that little snippet gripped my heart, I would so love to read more…

  19. I have been keeping tabs on Elizabeth’s lovely blog for a while now, and my Twitter feed has been entirely Girl at the End of the World themed for the past few days. I can’t NOT read this book. 🙂

  20. I’m in the autumn of life and my inner child still cries ‘I’m hurting’. My journey into wholeness and my desire to continue on that journey never wanes. I identified so much with your writing I am so keen to read the book.

  21. Beth Anne Ake says:

    I would love to win a copy. What a beautiful except.

  22. wow, if that was a deleted scene i would love to see what actually made it into the book! so powerful and so beautifully written

  23. Hi Tsh, I just stumbled across your blog today and am so glad I did! thank you for sharing your heart. i feel i can so relate to the raw honesty you write about. It would be a blessing to read your book!

  24. I’m in love with the human mind and even more so with the human heart. Your story is intriguiging and will undoutedly expand both my mind and heart.

  25. Interesting and heart touching. Love to read this. Thanks for the giveaway!

  26. Memoirs are some of my favorites, especially memoirs in which the author comes more into herself than she was, where God is bigger than everything, and His redemption isn’t just a transaction with a date and time stamp, or a promised future, but a moment by moment presents reality.

  27. “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.”

    Oh, how this spoke to me and the work I’ve been doing in therapy lately… I would love to read your book.

  28. Ginnylou says:

    Well, I’m definitely intrigued!

  29. This “deleted scene” couldn’t describe by current life anymore accurately. I NEED this book. Hope to win!!

  30. I would love to read this memoir!

  31. Sounds like a book worth reading!

  32. That core belief that I’m broken… It’s such a common one. Would love to hear how she handled it.

  33. I would love to read this. I grew up in a fundamentalist church, and while not a cult, it definitely affected how I see God, something that I still find myself wrestling with two decades later.

  34. This sounds like such an interesting read, one I’m sure tugs at the heartstrings the whole way through.

  35. You openness and honesty are both refreshing and convicting. Thank you so much for being so brave. Looking forward to reading and learning from your journey.

  36. I can’t wait to read this one!!

  37. Captivating! I can tell that this is a book that I will forgo all other responsibilities to read! Defnitely one that will be devoured in an weekend.. or afternoon.

  38. Memoirs are so compelling!

  39. Melody Reid says:

    Would love to read Elizabeth’s book!

  40. She writes beautifully! Would love to win and read a copy of this book!

  41. Christina says:

    Wow! This book sounds amazing! I’d love to read more about her journey! Incredible!

  42. I’m hooked, I want to know what happens. Is she able to regroup and experience the love of Jesus in a personal way. Is there a way to quiet your deepest fears and struggles for grace?

  43. I would love to read this book because even though I don’t struggle with these particular issues, I can relate to the feelings she describes.

  44. Sounds like an amazing book.

  45. Sarah Westphal says:

    What a cliff hanger! Hope I win a copy. I love growth stories about doing the hard things, because they are never easy.

  46. I would love to read this!

  47. I grew up in the same background – would love to read how God is healing you. I struggle with some of the same demons.

  48. Michaela says:

    Ah, yes. How do we unbrainwash ourselves without turning our backs on Jesus?

  49. I would love to win a copy. I’ve felt for a long time I could benefit from intense therapy or rehab but I’m too afraid to admit to those I love that I need help. Maybe this book can help me.
    Thank you!

  50. I’m dying to read EE’s book because she is a gifted writer and a lovely soul!

  51. This is a book I need to read!

  52. Ooo! Sounds like a good book! Would love to read it.

  53. I’ve added this to my book list!

  54. I would love to hear more of her story; about her church and why she believes it was a cult, etc. sounds very interesting.

  55. I have my own history with fundamentalism; my own struggle to weed out what is harmful while still growing my roots deep into God. I would LOVE to win this book!

  56. Christine C says:

    That is so intriguing! Love to read the whole thing to hear her story!

  57. I read a lot of things on the Internet but this one broke me open. I think so many people reading it can relate, whether they have experienced being part of a cult or not. I admire Elizabeth’s bravery in being honest and vulnerable about how she’s feeling. It’s exactly writing like this that helps people heal. It’s a testament to the power of writing. Thank you for sharing.

  58. I love her honesty. I would love to read this…

  59. Admiring her bravery. I would love to review this book.

  60. I would love to read this book. I’ve been eagerly waiting its release.

  61. Looks like a great read!

  62. Sounds like a fascinating read!

  63. economom says:

    I am walking my daughter through a similar journey of false to real faith. I would like to read this book with her.

  64. I actually intend to buy EE’s book, but I just want to comment here, too. I LOVE EE. I’ve been reading her blog for a couple of years. Her experience was more extreme than mine, but I can relate to a lot of what she’s been through. She’s an amazing person with a beautiful spirit that can’t be held down for long. And no, I don’t know her in person and I’m not a friend of hers. I just really admire her and everyone who finds a life after fundamentalism.

  65. I have to read this book! I feel like I can relate and would love to hear more of her story.

  66. Would love to read this book. I think it would provide some insight into someone important in my life. I added it to my ‘ to read list’. Thanks for bringing topics / books/ ideas to the attention of others and getting stories of people’s lives out and heard.

  67. Nicole B says:

    Wow. Memoirs are my favorite genre, because I find truth more riveting than fiction. And I admire people who can share their truth, however painful, with the world.

  68. This is one of those moments when you feel like someone is telling your story within their own…. Another reminder that we’re not alone. Would love to read this book and be able to share it with others. Winning a copy would be the icing on the cake as we are on a very limited budget these days.

  69. I need to escape the “this is the only way” that was relentlessly pounded into my brain so I can raise my children w/ a healthy relationship w/ themselves & church. I don’t want to be preached at, I want to “hear”. This book sounds like that.

  70. Oh. Reading this physically hurt. I didn’t escape a cult but I survived a family (although those sometimes feel like the same thing) and here I am using the excuse of a midlife crisis to explain away the truth that I never learned to stop running. Rest might as well be a unicorn for as often as we’ve crossed paths.

    If I don’t win a copy, I’ll be buying one. Thanks for the introduction!

  71. I’d like to read and share with someone close who has felt oppressed by her church 🙂

  72. I would live to hear how it all turns out!

  73. I would love to win this.

  74. Maribelcompagnone says:

    It’s time I pick up a book and read again. This sounds super interesting.

  75. Thanks for the bravery you’ve shown to write this book. May it’s honesty bless and challenge others.

  76. Devon Hernandez says:

    I never grew up in a cult or fundamentalist environment. I grew up in a Christian home with an evangelical pastor for a grandfather. But I know what it feels like to be haunted by your past; I was sexually abused at age 5 and it infects so many areas of your life. My first child, my tiny baby boy, was born last year and died 5 days later. It can be difficult to trust God through trauma and pain and keep moving forward without constantly looking back and wondering. Healing and trust require effort and will. I would love to read this book and get a glimpse of her journey to healing and hopefully it will influence mine.

  77. Lori Behrens says:

    Oh my goodness! I have read few things that can convey those feelings like the excerpt you posted. Thank you for writing. I will definately read this book.

  78. I just took a leap of faith which feels crazy at the moment… I can relate to the feeling of change, hoping for good to come out of it.

  79. You are going to rehab to heal from what I think is my normal. No I’m not in a group or cult but I feel the fear of the end of the world everyday. May you get better and feel whole very soo.

  80. Thank you for the opportunity to win a cop of this book!

  81. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of this book.

  82. Fascinating! I can’t wait to read the entire book!

  83. I would love to read this book.

  84. While my wallet would apreciate me winning a copy, ill be ordering this book regardless (and will share the second w a friend). Riveting is just the beginning of how I feel this book will be!

  85. I think everyone can relate to not feeling good enough. Would love to read this.

  86. I would love to read this book in hopes that it would encourage me to keep fighting my own battle. Each day when I wake I wonder what my purpose is and if I have the strength to fight another day. I am on my own fighting the government for custody of two beautiful children that have been in my care for 6 years and it feels like a battle that not only will I never win but one that will never end.

  87. This book is going on the must-read list! Thanks for sharing your heart through your words, Elizabeth!

  88. I didn’t grow up in a cult, but my upbringing was sufficiently fundamentalist to leave me questioning, decades later, whether my faith is ever “real enough” to count. I would love to read the rest of Elizabeth’s story.

  89. I would love a copy because I had very similar experiences to EE.

  90. I grew up in/around that same cult. I escaped scarred deeply as well. But not nearly as bad as many others I know who have walked away from faith completely because they cannot fathom loving a “god” like the one they were taught about… A vindictive, record keeping, authoritative, controlling, task master of a ” Heavenly Father”. I don’t blame them. But it’s books like Esther’s that give me hope that some of my friends (as well as myself) can rediscover Jesus who is the only one who can truly reveal the real Heavenly Father.

  91. EB Wolfe. says:

    Thank you for sharing so openly. I’d love to read more.

  92. This is a must read for me! She sounds as if& does she had the exact same life as me. I would love to read about her transformation.

  93. I can relate to the feelings you described-that’s why I want to read this book!

    Good for you, Elizabeth! You’re brave! Thanks for sharing.

  94. I enjoy reading memoirs and this one looked very intriguing.

  95. I’ve heard such wonderful things about this book!

  96. Alethea G says:

    Reading this passage really touched something inside of me. I too struggle th letting go of past pains and moving forward. I too do not take care of myself opting instead to care for everyone else around m, knowing that if if i am in service of others i am in service to Christ and my Heavenly Father will be pleased. I dont come from the same religious background, but the service, and not taking the time o care for ones self and not seeing our selves for the amazing people we are is a woman thing….I really ould love to read this book and find out what the author did to overcome her monumental mountain of a past. I wish the author all my prayers. I hope that she found her peace.

  97. Thank you for the chance to win a copy of Elizabeth’s book. I would love to read it!

  98. Your journey sounds hard yet inspiring, exactly the kind of story we all need to read. I would be honored to read about your journey!

  99. Would love to read this book.

  100. Amy Duncan says:

    Wow. I have to read this book whether I win it or not. I can relate to a lot of just that little excerpt. I would love an opportunity to go to a place where I can be alone…a place where I can clear my head long enough to even start thinking about my life. This really spoke to my heart.