What I wish I knew before joining a cult: Being a cult member requires a surprising amount of time and hard work

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

You could say this is a story about finding religion, or you could say this is a story about joining a cult. I prefer to refer to it as the latter.

I was in a dead-end job. I had a dead-end relationship and dead-end friends. Nothing had any meaning.

Then I found a cult. Or should I say a cult found me?

It started with a coworker. She seemed happy to be associated with this association, which I’ve decided not to name by name.

I was intrigued.

When I asked her about it, she was more than willing to share all the details — well, maybe not all of them. She told me enough to make me think that this was the answer to my problems and ennui.

I’m not saying I had a bad life before joining the cult. But what I was doing wasn’t making me happy on a spiritual level and there was a deep void in my life I couldn’t fill. Whenever I would think about that void, I would feel a little twinge of anxiety, and then I would replace those thoughts with binge-watching Friends reruns and eating carrot cake.

I began attending meetings with my coworker. It wasn’t long before three-hour Sunday morning services became full weekends of preaching and teaching. They were friendly, smart, seemingly happy people. This organization consumed most of my free time, and I wasn’t sure whether I liked it, but I was too embroiled to bail out. Or so I thought.

Besides, I had nothing to lose, and I was curious to find out how it all worked.

I never intended to become a fully-fledged member of this religious cult; it just happened.

I spent so much time allowing members of their organization to proselytize to me that I felt guilty declining when one of them whipped out a daily planner and scheduled me for a baptism.

The date was sufficiently far enough into the future that I figured I’d find a way to get out of it by then. So I let him write my name on his calendar, and I watched with a strange and sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Before I had a chance to cancel the date of my unwanted baptism, they moved the date up — by a lot. I was terrified to say no, that it wasn’t for me. I felt myself spiraling out of control. This group was becoming my life against my wishes.

I found myself wearing a white canvas jumpsuit with a metal zipper down the front and being submerged in a very nice heated pool in the basement of their meetinghouse the following Sunday.

I was officially a member of a cult, and I regretted it immediately. Being in a cult is a lot of work.

Why in the world would I join a cult? How could I walk away from everything comfortable and familiar — and turn my back on my Catholic upbringing — for a group of people who were not only secretive but who made little sense?

They weren’t bad people, but they held a lot of strange beliefs I didn’t share. I didn’t believe in Bigfoot or aliens from outer space walking among us, although I didn’t mention it, either.

After they officially indoctrinated me into their organization, they attempted to fill my days and nights with activities in which I was disinterested. They tried to pressure me into singles events when I wasn’t single. They even introduced me to a fellow member who needed a wife and a green card, thinking they could convince me to marry him.

There were lectures every night after work. They were so powerful; you had to go. You couldn’t say no. You couldn’t even get up and leave without permission, but the more they pressured me to do things, the less I wanted to do them.

I was just trying to lead an average, everyday life, but they wanted me to boost their membership every chance they got. I wanted to be part of this secret club, but I didn’t want to tell anyone about it. I tried my best to keep everything on the down low, but they wanted me to be an active recruiter. That wasn’t my style.

It wasn’t long before I cut off contact with everyone associated with the cult. I blocked their numbers on my phone one by one. I ignored my coworker at work. I refused to answer the door when select members showed up at my doorstep in twos and threes even after I asked them never to come to my home.

Basically, you could say I ghosted them. I never thought about it like that before.

I ghosted a cult, and I’ve never been happier.

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