People Who Escaped A Cult Describe How It All Went Down
Photo by Quaid Lagan on Unsplash

Cults are a very imminent issue to be on the alert for, especially these days. People fall into the masses all of the time without ever realizing they are giving away their identity. We never realize when we're being indoctrinated, that's how good the snake oil salesmen are, they are gifted in their vile ways. So that is why it's always so inspiring when we learn the stories of those who survived and ran for their lives.

Redditor u/Hattmyler1227 wanted to hear the best stories of triumph over the masses by asking.... For those of you that escaped cults... what was your, "I need to get the f@@k out" story?

Life Hack...

Former Jehovah Witness, the way they treat people who aren't in the religion and also how they treat people who do get ex communicated.


Reminds me of a life hack: if a Jehovah's Witness comes to your door say you've been ex-communicated and see how fast they gtfo of there.


"Wait a second..."

I've got one. 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 messed them up good, but it left me with scars.


Out on Monday.

I don't love talking about it, because I'm embarrassed I ever fell for it, but I was briefly involved in a MLM about 11 years ago, that in ways I view like a cult now. I'm talking meetings all the time, peer pressure to give up info on your friends so they can be pestered to join. These people's whole friend groups revolved around the MLM.

So we went to a big weekend conference and on Sunday morning they had church services for each religion that went on simultaneously before the last day of "business training." I'm not a religious guy so I asked my group to just get me after church, and they agreed. So Sunday morning, someone comes to grab me from the hotel room and we head over. Low and behold it's church (the Christian service) and they're like "surprise! We thought you could use the good word!" And I was PISSED.

But the real deal breaker is what the "leader" of our MLM said, which I'll never forget.

"We have business partners currently worshiping in our Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist services. And we love them and support them...even though we know they'll be in hell, because they can't join us in the kingdom of heaven."

I told them I was out on Monday.


being 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.



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.


New Beautiful Life...

This will get buried, but this hits home hard. My realization that I needed to get out came when I found it was easier to tell my parents that my girlfriend was pregnant rather than tell them I didn't want to go on a Mormon mission as a 17 year old. It's been 10 years and looking back it makes no sense, but it lead me to a beautiful life and I'm immensely grateful. Now I'm the father of the two most incredible children and I haven't looked back. Forget the Mormon cult.


a sort of crusade....

Not me, but I worked with a South African guy who joined a sort of crusade. There was a very charismatic leader and a core group of followers convinced that they were going to collect funds and then go establish a mission in some eastern country (not sure which). My colleague joined up and they travelled to Europe, going from city to city holding rallies and collecting funds.

After a couple of months, he figured out that there was never going to be any mission, the whole point was to make the rounds and collect funds. He confronted the leader, who immediately booted him off the bus in the middle of nowhere. They were in a country where he didn't know the language, with no money and just the clothes on his back, and no work permit.

He found a farmer who was willing to let him work for a few weeks off the books, and he earned enough to get a flight back to S.A.

He and I were in an actual mission together and he was very sharp, not the gullible type. Some cult leaders are just very, very good at convincing people of something that turns out to be a lie. Not unlike a lot of politicians.



I was in Amway/LTD for a year and a half. I realized I needed to get out when:

  1. I found out about the killings of gays in Chechnya and began to suspect that I was unwittingly funding that or similar activities through my involvement in Amway due to the extreme conservatism of the environment (and how our top leader mentioned that Russia has more morality than us (USA) and we need to catch up). (Out of curiosity, I later found out that one of the DeVos foundations donated to NOM which worked toward enacting severe legal punishments for homosexuality in Uganda.)
  2. I couldn't get out of my seat while a speaker was talking and couldn't not donate $236 to Here Be Lions during Sunday morning service at conference because of expectations that had been subtly drilled into my head, even while already suspecting what I mentioned in (1). GWCooke25

The Nightmare....

Not me, but my aunt is a Jehovah Witness. I was 12 years old and was interested in gothic/emo culture. After watching "The Nightmare Before Christmas," she pulled me aside and told me if I didn't stop messing with the occult, I'd be assaulted and attacked by demons.

Yeah. I'm an atheist now.


47 Years In....

After 47 years of strict adherence, I was sitting in church one day looking at Facebook on my phone, came across an article and begin reading it, jaw hitting the floor, while in church (using the church Wi-Fi as I read this expose on the same church I was sitting in) which led to 2 1/2 months of intense research that opened my eyes to the lies and hidden history of the Mormon church.

Despite how badly I wanted to avoid the awakening bc it would mean that my entire life up until that point had been hijacked from me by a fake religion and fraudulent founder, the mounting evidence eventually overwhelmed me and I stopped believing. That was 2 1/2 years ago and I cannot express through words how much it means to me to now have the rest of my life to be my own, not a series of decisions that I will make under the false teachings of the Mormon church.

The most difficult part? None of my close friends or family, except for one of my five children, will talk to me about any of it or read any of the articles that could wake them up, despite many of the articles being found in official church literature and sources the church accepts as true.


I'm just a kid!

My cousin and I talking on the phone when we were 16 and he had just gotten diagnosed with cancer. We were Jehovah's Witnesses and they don't allow blood transfusions. To live, Trent was going to need blood transfusions. I can still hear him saying "I don't want to piss off Jehovah but I don't want to die. I'm just a kid!"

And all at once I went from being a good little JW kid to only doing what I absolutely had to because I still lived with my parents.


good faith

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 a damn show.


Jim Jones Way. 

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.


never ending guilt....

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.



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 f**ked 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.


the memories....

I am an excommunicated JW. That means I was never baptized so they were allowed to talk/preach to me still and my parents would send them to my door constantly. I told my husband at the time that if they came to the door to tell them we were disfellowshipped and they would go away.

So the next time they stopped by I sent him to the door. But in his confusion and misunderstanding he told them we were dismembered and can't talk right now. I had hoped by the look on their faces that that would keep them away but they are persistent buggers. Its a funny memory though.


"Beautiful Anonymous" 

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.


Tests from God. 

When they wanted to install Covenant Eyes app on all of my devices including my work issued computer which contained access to multiple local celebrities information. They flipped out when I nope'd the hell out.


"going their own way"

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 loosing 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.


Oh Mormons. 

Former Mormon, and when I was about 13 and couldn't get any satisfying explanation as to why women couldn't hold the priesthood- ie. Have any position in the church above a Sunday school teacher. Everything we learned and did revolved around becoming a good housewife.



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