13 People Who Broke Free From Cults Share Their Stories

I can’t imagine what people who get involved in cults or were even raised in cults have gone through.

And the ones who have managed to escape definitely have some very interesting stories to tell. So let’s take a peek into a world that most of us will never experience in our entire lives.

Take a look at these disturbing stories from AskReddit users who escaped cults.

1. Doomsday.

“I was in a doomsday cult for 23 years from my age 13 to 36 (1995-2018). Based on its “knowledge” , this world should have “transformed” by now, into the so called “heaven”, and only a bunch of the cult followers should have remained in harmony.

I totally believed everything I heard without questioning ( probably because I was young and naive) and followed their ” Rules and regulations ” to the dot. Like celibacy, food habits, keeping a distance from everyone outside the cult ( even close family members) .. etc.

Finally, when some obvious questions started arising in my mind I felt like fool, and totally lost and betrayed. It took a lot to break free and am still in the process.”

2. Only notice when you’re out.

“I think the funniest thing about living in a cult isn’t what you notice living in it. It’s what you notice once you’re out.

There were some pretty strange things that when you’re long removed from it all you’re like, “Holy sh*t that IS messed up.” When you’re in it it just seems normal. That’s the weirdest part. When you ask what it was like, my first response is to go, “Like any other childhood really…”

And then I think about it and go…hmmmm okay, not quite. It’s funny how accepting minds can be when it’s all you know.”

3. Sucked in.

“I broke away from a cult. I had gotten sucked in during college.

They prey on college kids who are away from home, searching for an identity and desperate for a sense of belonging. At first it was fun. Nonstop activities. People who genuinely wanted me around. Help. Support. It felt good. But it quickly took over. Then the pressure started. Subtle at first.

Give up all other people and activities because they weren’t good for me. Spend all my time and energy with the church. They assigned someone to watch me. To report to. To confess to. At the same time I befriended the cult leader’s wife and spent a lot of time with her. I felt privileged. But I started to see things.

I went to catholic school 13 years and I think that was the best inoculation! Then the whole women’s role thing really got me steamed. I started arguing with the cult leader’s wife about women being equal and I suspect something I said got to her.

Because the cult leader hauled me in to a meeting and talked to me for an hour and by the end he could see I wasn’t going to fall in line and I could finally see him for what he was – a fraud. So he kicked me out. I was banned hard! He was afraid I would infect others.

My good friend had to flee in the dead of night and hide in another state. They hunted him. But me- they never even spoke to me again!”

4. Hard to process.

“It was difficult. 25 years of not knowing how to think for yourself and suddenly having to, is hard to process. Everything was very routine and once I got out of that routine, I didn’t know what to do.

Forced myself to meet new people and figure out what “truth” is. Very happy with who I am now after three years but still learning more about being independent and being open to new ideas and beliefs.

Plus, holidays are AMAZING! I love Halloween and Christmas.”

5. A very hard thing.

“Leaving was one of the hardest things I have done in my life. It took me years to realize the pain I caused my family was actually not my fault.

Also, I felt so alien in the world. I missed the general background that people have, because the world I had lived in was so different. I was trying to fit in, without knowing how to set boundaries to protect myself.”

6. A different perspective.

“I left AA in 2011, after ten years of lies, coercive deception, and being intimidated by extreme fear.

Although many may laugh at AA being considered a cult, It has all ten of the ‘Sam & Tanner’ indicators, that would describe it as such. As Scientology hides behind it being a religion, AA hides behind its structure of anonymity (at all levels).

I was pursued and threatened if I didn’t go back, and other members visited my family, at home, and at their places of work, to tell them I was going to drink, and soon die if I didn’t resume meetings. As AA promotes the image of an ‘altruistic fellowship’ the Police are very wary of getting involved.

It took me over six years to de-program, and even today, I have troubling thoughts from the incidents I witnessed while a member.”

7. Relearning the basics.

“Having to re-learn basic words, definitions, and thought processes.

Oh, Practical Prayer doesn’t take up hours of your time? Circular logic is bullsh*t? Idle hands are NOT the Devil’s playground?

Being a passive-minded, obsessively-clean, hardworking, frugal SHEEP that gives your blood, sweat, tears, time, and MONEY all to the Church DOESN’T make you a contributing member of society?”

8. Mennonite.

“Ex-Mennonite here, from a rather extreme branch of it.

I hate how people idolize Amish and Mennonites and have no idea how f*cked up it all is. The physical, s*xual, and spiritual abuse that is carried out behind walls. The sickening way they treat animals. How they force victims to forgive, and cover up the crimes of their own.

People were so surprised and admiring when those Amish whose school had been shot up “forgave” the sicko who did it. Missing from the commentary was that we are told from when we are very young that the only way to enter heaven is to forgive everyone everything.

And to be doormats for all the violent men in our lives. Whether in or outside the community.”

9. In a bubble.

“Being so completely ignorant of how the world really works was the worst for me.

I lived in a bubble just thinking everything outside the religion didn’t matter, because soon everything will be destroyed and almost everyone would be dead because they were not Jehova’s Witnesses. I had to educate myself when I finally woke up. I read more than 20 books in one year.

Trying to comprehend how the outside world really works. But my life has been full of failures because is not the same in theory than in practice. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of it and start succeeding.”

10. Eye-opening.

“It was pretty bad. I was 7 when we left, and my childhood was filled with terror, daily beatings, hunger and exhaustion.

When we re-entered the real world, I was like a fish out of water. Straight from a cult into the projects, that was an eye opener.”

11. Was in multiple ones.

“I was in multiple different cults growing up. Evangelical brand, doomsday cults, all extorting money from their members.

One kept me socially isolated for years, exorcised me, designated me to be a surrogate mother to carry the children of everyone in the church who was infertile, despite the fact that pregnancy would kill me, said I was unfit to be married because I’d been r*ped as a child but I still had to give birth as that’s what God demands of women to free them of their sin.

The town I lived in was controlled by the main cult I was in- I couldn’t escape it. Everyone everywhere knew that I wasn’t a good enough believer. They were always feeding information back to my parents and the cult leaders to use against me. Everyone knew everything about me at all times.

In another, I was psychologically tortured, forced to consume rotten food and if I threw up I had to eat the vomit, forced to commit racist acts, and allow the leaders of the cult to s*xually harass me, a child. In the last one, I thought, finally this one is normal, until they tried to kill me.

I’ve been “out” for a year and moved hours away, but one of them managed to find me again. Periodically, they’ll send people I used to know to my town who are just “happening to run into me” when they’re “on outreach”, just so they know I know they’ve still got an iron grip on me.

My older brother used to be being groomed to be a leader in one of them and responsible for facilitating a lot of the abuse because he didn’t have a choice, and me and him are struggling to reconcile and be civil due to this fact.

The trauma is intense and I can barely leave my house a lot of the time, and my memories of my entire life are fragmented because I can’t handle them. The worst part is trying to function.”

12. Had to get away.

“I accepted a job as a traveling salesman once upon a time when I was desperate for income. Had no idea that it was a front for a cult.

We sold waterbeds. But anytime someone would tried to leave the company, management would gaslight you, become mentally abusive and manipulative, and try to use your personal life against you. All the other coworkers were honestly like creepy as f*ck. They all behaved like subservient loyal robots literally.

The cult itself, was centered around the owner. They had subtle wording in their company core values and policies that basically referenced that they were a God, if not the God of humanity. It was weird as f*ck. I was subjected to some really sh*tty situations, and trying to tell my family and friends about it they wouldn’t believe me.

Thought I was a lunatic, it was just a sh*tty job etc. But no, there were death threats, other forms of threats, all sorts of just mind-blowing crap from management, including attempted blackmailing, framing etc. Company meetings consisted of people getting hazed, but they called it “trust building exercises”.

There was also some kind of weird double love triangle going on between some of the coworkers and management. Im pretty sure the coworkers all f*cked each other too. Like you know the movie, whats it called…West World or something, where all the cyborg robot humans were obviously preprogrammed to act and behave a certain way without fault? Thats exactly how my coworkers were.

In the end I realized I had to move across country without warning to get away from them.”

13. Creepy stuff.

“Long long ago when I was a preteen I had to stay with some relatives for a while. These relatives were in a ‘church’ that was run by an openly admitted, formerly imprisoned con man.

I was told I had to go to this ‘church’ too, 3 times a week, or be thrown out of the house with nowhere else to go. Things started off more or less normal-ish and only gradually did it become a fanatical cult.

For the time I was there, I was as sucked in as everyone else and couldn’t see that things were messed up. One Wednesday evening I had a bad tummy flu and was left with the neighbors while everyone else went to the church. Friday night rolls around and I’m still too sick and weak to go.

Sunday morning comes and I’m perfectly healthy, but no longer want to go. Once again I was left at the house, but with instructions to be gone before they returned. I left and have never regretted it.

What made this ‘church’ a cult:

I know of at least one young woman in the congregation that had quietly asked around for help because the ‘leader’ was hitting on her and not taking no for an answer. She soon disappeared and was never heard from or mentioned again. I have no idea if something happened to her, or she just ran but either way it was bad.

At any given time in the last year I was there, at least 3 of the most attractive mid-teen girls lived with the ‘leader’, an unmarried man, with no supervision, and their parents seemed to think this was wonderful.

The ‘leader’ would frequently say one thing and then contradict himself in the next sentence, and no one ever noticed or commented on it.

The ‘leader’ put a great deal of effort into separating his ‘flock’ from friends, family and the community at large. All holidays became ‘satanic’ and the congregation was forbidden to practice anything considered normal for holidays.

Years later when I was grown and married, a friend from childhood contacted me to tell me the cult was being investigated by, I don’t remember now which alphabet agency. I immediately called the number for that agency that was in the phone book, and told them everything I knew. I never heard anything after that, and have no idea what happened.”

How about you?

Have you ever had any experiences with a cult or any kind of extreme religious organization?

If so, please share your stories with us in the comments.