People Who Belonged to Cults Discuss the Moment They Knew They Had to Get Out

©Unsplash,Luan Cabral

I’m not gonna lie, cults have always terrified the hell out of me.

How does a person (or an entire family) actually get sucked into something like that? It’s pretty scary stuff.

And it’s because of the people who actually leave that we know how cults work and the nefarious things that they do.

Let’s take a look at these true stories from AskReddit users.

1. A big show.

“Went to a church that had a night where a faith healer came to visit. He “healed” a teenager of very severe asthma. As a sign of his faith, the teenager goes out on the bike trails without his inhaler the next day and almost dies.

The pastor visits the family in the hospital and tells the heartbroken parents it was because they didn’t have enough faith. And with that, I exit stage right. I say that because that’s when I realized the whole thing was an effing show.”

2. Manipulation.

“I am a Former Jehovahs Witness.

It was a a lot of things, but a big one was that I never felt like I could do enough, it was constant, never ending guilt. I used to think there was a problem with me, but I finally realized that no matter how much I did I would still feel like I wasn’t doing enough and that this wasn’t an accident, they wanted you to feel guilty and inadequate.

I reached a breaking point and knew I had to get out for my own well being. Now I know more about cults and realize that this is a cornerstone of cult manipulation.”

3. Back to Wiccan.

“I felt that way in the Catholic church.

I was conceived out of wedlock, to a Wiccan adultress and a protestant. I’m also bisexual. And a feminist. But my university is Catholic, they have mandatory spirituality classes. They made it sound amazing, and really dismissed all the negative ideas about the church.

So, after enough grooming, I joined. It was horrible. I was taught that I was a sinner and should hate myself, just for being me. I question a lot, I like to learn things, and that got me reprimanded so many times.

I’m also very into the occult, and HOLY SHIT they hate that. But the big turn was when I stopped going to mass. I was battling depression and couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore, so my supposed “church family” cut me off completely.

Fuck them, I converted back to Wicca and couldn’t be happier.”

4. “It felt so gross and cruel.”

“Two instances stick out to me, although I was just a child. My family was very involved and we didn’t get out until I was a teenager. My mom is still a member.

1: My first time sitting in a crowded room while the elders or leaders of the group publicly announced someone being “disfellowshipped” or ex-communicated. Meaning they did something wrong and nobody was allowed to speak to them until they were reinstated.

I just remember feeling so sick for them. They were publicly shamed and humiliated, and their family was also treated poorly usually. Everyone knew about their perceived wrong doings. Even as a little kid it just seemed so wrong to me. Shouldn’t we have been extra supportive and loving to people when they were struggling with bad choices? Shouldn’t we be encouraging?

It felt so gross and cruel. I knew then something was wrong but I was only about 5 years old and if you questioned anything it meant satan was putting lies into your head so I always just kept my mouth shut. If you tried to get out you’d be shunned too and lose everyone you loved.

2: When I was 8 years old, struggling with my parents divorce and my dads subsequent exit from the “congregation”, and an older family member sat me down and told me that if I wanted to have a dad I needed to convince him to start going back to “meetings” and being a good member of the congregation otherwise he would die at Armageddon and I’d never see him again.

What a fucked up thing to tell a child.

These are just the two biggest instances that come to mind, but I have a whole lifetime of trauma from my years in the cult.”

5. The exact moment.

“I happen to have an exact moment.

Let me start with it was not a confirmed cult, however I was listening to “Beautiful Anonymous” hosted by Chris Gethard. And a person on his podcast was a cult survivor. The more she talked the more scared I got. I was going to a met up with some other members.

I threw two of them in my car and made them listen. We all quickly figured out what I had realized. We decided to stick it out, we had a trip at the end of summer, during the trip we made sure we were all in the same car, and we never came back.

Without listening to that podcast I would have never in my life thought it was possible to be in a cult (or more in my case a cult like environment) but you can.”

6. This is awful.

“I’ve got one. Among the sexual abuse, for some reason this is the one that made me go “Wait a second…”

I brought home a kitten as a child. Very young. Was abandoned at a rest stop down the road from us. I loved and bonded with that kitten for two weeks. My parents knew and allowed it.

One day, my mom punished me by making me dig a hole in the back yard, having my stepdad smash the kitten in it then chop it’s head with a shovel, then shoot it. All while I watched. Because God told them the kitten was sick.

That one had me pressing charges and taking full action the moment I turned 18. I fucked them up good, but it left me with scars.”

7. Came crashing down.

“I was in what you could consider a cult as a child.

What finally fully woke me up was the pastor’s trial and conviction of multiple cases of sexual harassment and assault. We, the congregation, were told we needed to “lift [pastor] up,” because this was a test from God and he needed our prayer. Everything finally clicked for me.

All the terrible things this “church” had been up to came crashing down and I realized my faith in this place was broken.”

8. Scary stuff.

“”He” knocked on my closed bedroom door when he heard me on the phone and said, “get off the phone. Lights out.” It was 10pm on a Saturday and I’m 25. How did I let myself become a piece of property to these people?! :: i was used as whatever role they wanted me to fill.

Tbh, I’m just kinda fucked up rn. my therapist said that I was in a cult. I was too closely tied to a married couple double my age. I lived in their house. I was groomed to take drugs/ do sex. I watched their kid and he eventually called me sister.

They took advantage of me losing my family at 17. 2 yrs later I find myself involved in a crazy drug orgy every 3 months by people who I considered my saviors, my real family. I have a hard time talking about it in therapy, to my boyfriend, and my new family. I’m happy I got out of it.”

9. Name change.

“When they changed their name. I had been sketched out for a while, but they made me alienate myself from all my friends outside the cult. So I stayed because I was worried I wouldn’t have anyone.

One day the pastor announced that they were changing their name and “going their own way”. The other church they were partnered with dropped them because their views were getting too out there. A cult church got dropped from a bigger cult church because their views were too crazy. Sitting there that night I decided I had to go.

It sucked losing so many friends but now I’m in school and have a job I enjoy, had I stayed with them I’d be married to whatever guy there was closest to my age and pregnant with my third child.”

10. Hurting kids.

“When they reinstated a member of the congregation who had sexually assaulted a child, because he had repented and God had forgiven him, so we had to too.

Then publicly counseled my father who didn’t agree with this monster being in the same place as his four children. My father stood down from his position as elder because of this.”

11. Now an outcast.

“I was raised in a Christian church that was borderline cult status.

No music. No movies. We were told never to get close to anyone who wasn’t from the church. Using a condom is a sin. And it isn’t uncommon for 16 and 17 year olds to get married before they graduate high school. And I knew I had to leave when during the sermon the preacher told the congregation that it was a sin to think too much about what they told us.

Most of my family still goes to that church so I’m kind of an outcast. People outside the church don’t care to know me because I’m so much different mentally and people from the church barely will look at me because I left it.”

12. Mormons.

“Former Mormon.

Ever seen the South Park episode wherein Joseph Smith “translates” the Book of Mormon using a hat and a rock? The entire episode is factually accurate.

Mormons are historically racist and extremely sexist to boot. Their entire dogma reads like the insane ramblings of a hateful, exclusionary, lustful snake-oil salesman. Because it is.”

13. Total control.

“I’ve come to the realization that I was in a cult 5 years ago. A small one, but a cult nonetheless. I can’t pinpoint one specific thing that made me realize that I needed to leave, it was more so just individual events building up over time that led to me being traumatized to the point where I was finally able to register how insane it all was.

People think cults are obvious, or that they have to be large and religious. It could very well be happening to you.

The leader sought out people who had poor interpersonal relationships, and quickly convinced us that our friends and family were out to hurt us. He wanted to get rid of anyone who might realize that we were being hurt.

Unhealthy beauty standards were enforced among the group, and harmful behaviors were normalized.

Many of us were regularly exposed to eating disorders and self harm. Recovery or seeking help  was very discouraged.

The leader often made it difficult for us to eat, sleep, and bathe while we were around him. Drug use was also common. I spent the majority of my time around him completely delirious as a result.

We were all led to believe that we were somehow better or different from other people. Belittling and making fun of others was commonplace.

Multiple people have experienced the same things I did and attempted to speak out about how they were treated, only to be met with aggressive stalking and harassment. The leader will ensure that anyone who tries to expose him is branded as crazy or evil.

Sexual coercion and abuse was pretty common. We were all led to believe that we were special and important to him, and that we were different from all the others, so many of us allowed him to do whatever he wanted.

The entire group idolized the leader and blindly followed everything he said and did, even if it was wildly hypocritical. He was constantly being showered with praise and compliments, and at one point the group hosted an “appreciation day” for him.

Obviously, I was eventually able to get away from that group, but it is very much still happening and I can only hope that the people currently roped into it can come to their own realizations.

It really does hurt to see people going through what I did. If any of these warning signs apply to a situation you’re in, please take action! You can have a better life than this. You can get away.”

14. A story about Mom.

“Not me, my mother.

She used to go to a church/college up in New Jersey. Not gonna name any names here, but a cult none the less. No music, aside from Christian radio, STRICT dress codes, etc. She knew they were bad, but she realized she needed to gtfo when the preacher went up to the podium and mentioned offhand that while wrong, Jim Jones had a good point.

This was in the ’80s mind you, right after Jonestown.”

Truly scary stuff…

Now we want to hear from the readers out there.

Were you ever in a cult? Or maybe you knew someone who was?

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