Archives For My Sordid Past

cults

 

Underneath all this jaded New York cynicism beats the heart of a girl who wants to believe in magic.

I’m an easy target for a “get enlightened quick” fix. The years I lived in New York I was easily swept up into anything I thought would raise my consciousness.

I tried Reiki, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, chakra balancing, craniosacral therapy, kinesiology. I got Rolfed. I tried Neurofeedback and Ayurvedic medicine and grape therapy. I sage-smudged my house and worked with crystals. I got colonics. I joined a Lesbian Wiccan coven.

And I was an active member of a well known cult back in the 90’s. I didn’t KNOW it was a cult. You think it’s this really cool group of super-enlightened beings who are helping you achieve your highest goals. Until you end up brainwashed, broke, and dancing naked in the Poconos with several hundred similarly lost souls.

Yeah, I’ll get to the naked part. Calm your tits.

 

Not all cults are led by notorious quasi-religious fanatics who order hundreds of followers to commit suicide via cyaninde-lace Koolaid. Some cult leaders are dynamic, charismatic individuals who are brilliant enough to tap into your most profound needs.

 

An extremely talented actress friend of mine enrolled me in the Course.  She was the star of a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway one-woman show, and I yearned for her confidence and success.

These LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) groups insist that they can’t explain the program; you can only understand it if you come to a group meeting. At the meeting you are hit with intense, unrelenting pressure to enroll.  All the participants rave about their breakthroughs and personal transformations.

All for just $500 and a weekend of your life. They didn’t mention stealing your soul.

I signed up.

The Course is designed to deconstruct your personality and rebuild it – based around continued participation in the organization.

You spend the weekend in a giant room, with a hundred other participants, plus staff member and graduates of the course who are assisting. The Leader conducts lectures and group exercises and “breaks.”

The “breaks” are anything but. You mill around and interact with the staff. They challenge your beliefs and force you to examine your childhood and close relationships. They frequently grow confrontational and belittle you. They press you to release pent-up emotions.

And they torment you to agree to enroll in more programs.

The room is locked. Bathroom breaks are sporadic. You are given only one meager meal a day. There are strict rules about talking. There is a LOT of screaming and yelling. The course starts very early, and continues into late at night, for three days.

You are experiencing sleep deprivation, hunger, and fear. It’s a potent mixture that leaves you ripe for brainwashing.

The Leader was a charismatic man who attracted followers for decades. He was a New Age charlatan with a knack for convincing people to spend endless hours volunteering to spread his teachings, getting people to pay to take the ever-mutating courses and services, and persuading countless women who had fallen under his spell to have sex with him.

Ew. No, this I did not do.

People attended the Course in droves. The majority of course participants really experienced the exultation of a strong emotional release, or even had a spiritual/mystical experience. And in a room packed full of people in search of the Promised Land, the energy of hope is contagious.

After I graduated The Course I embraced the organization with the fanaticism of a religious zealot. I enrolled everyone I was close to. I spent most of my free time at the local Center. I spoke in their jargon. At their urging, I minimized contact with people outside the group. I preferred the company of those who believed in the unlimitedness of the human experience.

And I turned a blind eye to the horrors within. The people “on staff” were made to work 70 hours a week with no pay – just room and board. They had to pay slavish detail to the minutiae of the Leader’s demands, including organizing his belongings using a ruler for precision.

They lived with very little food and sleep – so their defenses were always weakened and they were easily manipulated. It was a New Age work camp, with chores and activities to keep them occupied virtually every hour of the day. If anyone wanted to deviate outside the Course, or thought about leaving the program, they were attacked en masse, and bullied until they realized how foolish it was to think they could accomplish anything outside the group.

 

 

Over a two-year period, I participated in, and assisted at, many advanced courses and workshops.

Eventually, I did the behemoth of the organization – “The Intensive.”

Several hundred people travel to a deserted sleep away camp in the Poconos for a week of pure torture. It’s Outward Bound, liberally laced with psychological abuse.

They tell you it might be the most grueling experience you may ever endure. They claim it’s so they can prepare you for all life’s horrific events.

We had to wake up at 5 am. We were forced to take ice cold showers – and there were shower monitors standing just outside each shower stall making sure you were fully under that glacial spray.

We had to do cardiovascular exercise for one hour each day. We were served very healthy, but tiny portions, of almost exclusively raw foods. We had to complete workshops and group exercises and physical challenges. We were broken into groups and encouraged to challenge one another on our weaknesses and obstacles and negative thinking.

Along with the lectures and confrontations and lots of screaming were mandatory death-defying outdoor stunts. We had to climb treacherous mountains. Rappel down steep hills.

My personal nightmare was completing the Tyrolean Traverse across a rocky ravine. We were harnessed to a rope that was fastened between two mountainsides, and with our bodies horizontal, had to pull ourselves from one side to the other, hand over hand, over that yawning abyss.

I am afraid of heights. I won’t even go on a Ferris wheel. 

Despite the complex system of knots and pulleys that (supposedly) kept you from plunging to your death, I was convinced I would die. I froze right in the middle, and I as dangled in the air and listened to the roaring water below, I screamed,

“HOLY FUCKING SHIT MOTHERFUCKERS I HATE YOU

YOUR MOTHER SUCKS COCKS IN HELL

MOTHERFUCKERS GET ME THE FUCK DOWN FROM HEREEEEEE

FUCK

FUCK

FUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!!”

I can still hear my profanities echoing through the mountains.

 

One night, while we were in our groups doing some bizarre personal transformation exercise, I noticed several assistants building fires in all the indoor fire pits. As the room gradually heated up, I thought to myself, “They’re gonna make us get naked.”

They did.

We all had to take off our clothes, and one a time, stand in front of our group. If there was a point to this exercise, it escapes me.

At this point, several people left. I remember one woman was doing the Intensive with her son, and she adamantly refused to stand naked in front of him.

 

Each night of the Intensive ended with a dance party. On that night, people began taking off their clothes. We had all seen each other naked, so it just…happened. Hundreds of people, dancing naked, whooping like wild Indians.

It was liberating yet scary, empowering yet vulnerable and totally, totally joyous.

 

One afternoon, back at the center, I saw something that disturbed me greatly.

I was working in the kitchen. The staff forgot I was there. In a room behind the kitchen, the Leader was furious at his staff and screaming at them.

And then he began to hit them. They were in a row in front of him, and you could see that they had been trained to take his blows without fighting back. He hit them savagely, punching them in the face and stomach. Men and women alike.

I fled from there. I was confused and sickened. I discussed it with my boyfriend. All the other doubts that I had pushed away, surfaced. It was time for me to leave.

They did not let me go without a fight. They called me over and over, for weeks. They wrote letters. They came to my apartment.

I contacted other people who had left the organization, and they confirmed all my worst suspicions. The leader was just another charismatic, greedy New Age imposter. Although he had facilitated many breakthroughs, he had done so accidentally while seeking his main objective – Power and Money.

 

I did not return to my prior life easily. I was constantly agitated, sad and disoriented. The world around me looked strange, almost as if I was on LSD.

I had to get deprogrammed.

That’s what it takes to reverse the brainwashing of a cult. I had to go to exit counseling – counseling with a therapist who specializes in helping to loosen the bonds of cult.

I saw my deprogrammer for about 2 months. About a month in, the hallucinatory after-effect of sleep deprivation, social fear, and reinforcement from all the groupthink wore off and I felt like “me” again.

 

I don’t announce to people, “Hi! I’m Samara and I was in a cult!” Because I didn’t recognize it as an established cult, like the Hare Krishnas, and ask, “Can I please join you and dance around airports?”

I was in pursuit of something higher, and I got lost along the way.

I’m still a little lost. I’m still finding my way.

But never again will I surrender all my power to a group, to find it.

 

 

Have you, or someone close to you, ever belonged to a cult?
What other crazy things have you done in the name of enlightenment?
Talk to me. I’m listening.

Good Time

April 29, 2015 — 121 Comments

shooting gallery 2

I’m king of this blood-haunted room,

Grand marshal over the endless parade of junkies, thugs and whores waiting to be immunized against their sad life stories

 

Cops crawl the streets like flies on shit and fiends need to bang their dope quick, don’t need to get popped holding a dime bag

They need a place to shoot, a sheltered squat with a stash of needles, where other dope fiends can help them hit a closed up vein

So they come here cause it’s close; cause they too sick to make it home or cause they just can’t wait

They come here for a good time

 

We the best shooting gallery down town,

Boneman, Double D and me run the place and we sell new needles for 2 bucks and bleach if you wanna clean your own

Stupid ass junkies be sharing shit and injecting each other with death,

sharing the lethal hardware of contaminated needles

 

Dope fiends always on the hustle, always on the grind, steal and sell their mama’s radio and forge her welfare check

I don’t need no fucking hustle, I make mad bank off these crack heads,

2 dollars to get in, 2 dollars for a clean needle, and all the pussy I want

Bitches come in sick, slogging through trash heaps out front, climb the rickety steps into this burned out hollow of a house

Crying and moaning they ain’t got no money and I give ’em a taste after they suck my dick

 

I won’t do no dope, I smoke herb but I ain’t about no junkie life

so I always have plenty, bitches come here knowing they can trade pussy for junk

Boneman wishes he could get pussy like I do, but he’s a dumb junkie hisself,

He lives here, his soul drained away through the tiny holes in his veins

His bed a moldy cot in a ratty gallery.

 

But tonight me and Double D getting all the pussy we want,

Tonight, we are KINGS

This is our palace, gouged walls, charred beams,

Dirty bedsheets hung over what once were windows.

Outside, trade in crack and dope busts the streets as wide open as a carnival midway,

50 dealers walk up and down, ten dollar bags in their socks,

Inside, candlelight distorted human shadows huddle together next to grimy walls,

“Cooker friends,” in solidarity for a moment over glassine packets of powder and a bottle cap,

and some bitch wrapped in blackened rags moans on a dirty mattress.

 

Tonight, they all here for a good time

 

Later I’ll go home and find mom passed out in her own piss;

an empty Colt 45 bottle rolling by her side and a Hi Point 9 mm under her pillow

My mom and her fucking men; the parade of drunken scumbags who came in and out of our lives, who came in and out of me

The one who fucked me when mom left to get scratch offs, smokes and a 40 down the block;

she’d come back and hear me crying, ass split and

let it go on a whole year cause he made good money running numbers

 

She was wasted drunk the day Julius fell out the window

My baby brother J was leaning against the screen and

people said mom was too drunk to pull him away from a loose screen

but it wasn’t

The morgue doctor saw the hole in his brain; a clean shot, a stray bullet from a playground shoot out caught him in the head and

He fell hard against that screen.

Already dead.

Still, he had no business up against that window watching gang gunfire,

And I hope to god I catch my mom without her Hi Point one night cause I would like to kill her in her sleep,

slam a pipe down on her skull and spill her ugly brains onto the pillow

 

But tonight we having a good time

 

Fucking dope fiend bitches coming in here like crazy tonight, sick and moaning and broke, and I fuck them and throw a five dollar bag at them

And the men look at me with hollow eyes

Wasted and ruined, breathing in urban grief like it was oxygen

One lame ass fool is whining that his works is too dull; he can’t get a clean shot and he

pushes it against his thick neck, wincing in pain

A trickle a blood runs down his throat, twisting like a river on a map

A map he uses to find the shortcut to death

 

Outside I ain’t nobody, I ain’t SHIT

but I got JUICE in here

If a white bitch come in here, Me and Double D, we both fuck her

White pussy don’t come in but once or twice a month

 

So this skinny white red-head bitch shows up,

I seen her before, little east village punk bitch,

She don’t smell nasty like the others, like piss and dead dreams. Her clothes is clean

She talks different too, like she finished high school.

I woulda finished high school too if I was a skinny white snooty bitch and she sound like she even went to college, yeah, she one of them community college cunts.

She smile at me, and I know she don’t mean ‘hello.’

She means ‘look at you, you dumbass nigger, working with dope fiends all day you ain’t never gonna be as good as me cause I’m WHITE’

She think she all that

She don’t need no money, she straight

But I’m gonna fuck this bitch anyway, who the FUCK she think she is?!

She ain’t better than NOBODY

She just a dumb ass dope fiend whore like the rest of ’em

 

I grab her arm and she turn around, eyes big, and she starts to pull away and I punch her face and stomach, HARD

Pull her over to the mattress and she try and crawl in between the mattress and the wall and I pull her hair, jerk her head so hard that I rip handfuls of red hair out her head

She screaming so I keep ripping red hair out her head, mixed with red blood, blood everywhere, her face, her scalp and I feel like an INDIAN scalping this crazy white bitch!

She just laying there, not even crying so

I fuck her hard and come all up inside her, I hope I leave little black babies in this bitch

But she look like she going away in her head someplace

Look at me when I fuck you!

LOOK AT ME BITCH!

I punch her face hard again so she knows who’s fucking her but her head turns up this time and my ring catches her SPLAT!  on her chin

Bust her chin wide open, wide, like my brother’s eyes when he fell 12 stories, wide as the Hudson river where we dump the bodies that OD

DAMN her face is split, blood and torn skin where her chin used to be, and that is gonna leave a nice fucking scar,

YEAH!

She gonna have a big-ass train track scar under her chin,

For the rest of her life, and

20 years from now she’s gonna be driving down the FDR drive, take the Houston street exit,

and pass by here.

Only it ain’t a shooting gallery no more, it’s a motherfucking yogurt shop

but she gonna pass it by and remember

Lift up her hand to feel that bumpy jagged scar

and remember this night

when she came in here and

we had a good time.

 

 

Talk to me. I’m listening.

Beer_Drinking_Woman-500x335 4

I’m the party girl, the smarty girl, that arty girl

That rock and roll child, toured with Nirvana

Born to be wild, dressed up in style

Party with rock stars, cool kids, out laws, in the raw

 

I’m the cool girl, the hot girl, the “it” girl, human tilt-a-whirl

The popular girl, wild child, live on the edge, crouched on a ledge

The sexy girl, men want to screw

Super talented chick, don’t you wish it were you?

 

One two three drink

one two three drink

one two three drink

throw ‘em back till I lose count

 

Envy me, copy me, fall for me; worship me

Beg for me, plead for me

If they want me they bleed for me

I’m the girl who takes all the chances, who dies everyday,

is reborn every moment, I’ll lead you astray

 

Pour me a drink and I’ll tell you my life

your envy so thick it could cut with a knife

White hot

Independent

Drinks are for free.

My options got options, don’t you wish you were me?

 

Dressed to wicked perfection in Jimmy Choo boots

Black leather and buckles in three different heights

Bold and

brassy

Inappropriate

Carefree

Druggy misadventures with Beasties and Flea

 

The Limelight

The Tunnel

The Mercer Hotel,

Partied in Vegas

New Orleans

Nashville was hell

 

 

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

    I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist, like it doesn’t exist

 

 

I’m the girl who’s shaking now, what have I done, what have I done?

I’m the girl who’s sobbing now, gotta unplug,

Hair matted down on one side

“just get home” on repeat

 

All those friends were not real they were props on my stage,

painted in the shattered strobe light now they all fade

Stop judging me, hating me, coveting my life

The years slipped through my fingers, a fool’s paradise

 

She’s the makeup smeared girl in a bathroom stall

vomiting out daddy issues against the back wall

Cutting white lines on the closed toilet seat

without smack in her veins she feels incomplete

 

Dance with me, sing with me, you’ll present like a king with me,

steal with me, deal with me; you won’t ever heal with me

 

The party girl’s wrapped in layers of numb

anesthetized to the hilt with cocaine and rum

Escaping at dawn from a loft I don’t know

How did I end up downtown? Did all of us go?

 

Remember that time she was sectioned in Queens?

She thought it was Manhattan or some kind of dream

A cop picked up her up for not knowing her way,

or where she was, who she was, or even what day.

Commited for 3 days for being insane –

a half ounce of coke does that to a brain

 

The hot MILF, the cool mom,

loses custody of her kid.

So cop a little more scag,

drop off the grid

Hot-bodied flame-haired

girl from the hood

She’s homeless in 6 months

But damn she looks good

 

But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes

    Keep my glass full until morning light, ‘cos I’m just holding on for tonight

 

Ready to fuck like a porn star, wanna have a good time?

send me your email I’ll fuck you online

Check your respect at the door cause you’re here to screw

and fuck my best friend, don’t mind if you do

 

Play with me, stray with me, put yourself on display with me

Stay with me, stay with me, I can’t bear another day of me

 

Play with me

Stay with me

Stay with me

Please

I can’t be alone I can’t seem to breathe

Post- party heart- crushing comedown at dawn

when the drugs are used up everybody is gone

 

Play with me

pray for me

Play with me

pray for me

 

The life of the party, she quietly seeks death

You’ve helped her this far – why not steal her last breath?

Play with me

Pray for me

Play with me

Pray for me

 

pray for me

pray for me

pray for me

pray for me

 

Have compassion for the people who seem to be having the time of their lives. It’s an act.
Talk to me. I’m listening.

 

The first time I heard this song, I thought Sia had peeked into my brain. 
The video is amazing. 

 

heroin 2

I snapped a picture of my surroundings and sent it to him, so somebody would know where I was.

“Pretty,” he said. “Where is that?”

“Downtown Newark.”

Downtown Newark, New Jersey is anything but pretty, but nighttime hides a multitude of sins.

“Are you going to score?”

“Yes” I  texted.

“Don’t be a dumbass” he responded.

“If you don’t hear from me in an hour-there’s a problem.”

 

An hour later, the most magnificent church bells rang in my soul as I bathed in the warm golden sunshine of a perfect life.

 

I was jolted out of my reverie by an obnoxious beeping.

It it was coming from my phone. I squinted, got a closer look.

7:45? AM?? Fuck. I’m usually up at 6:30. Get my kid up at 7.

My heart, thudding in my chest, slowed a bit when I recognized the reassuring sounds of his spoon clinking against his bowl of cereal.

I splashed cold water on my face. I was pale except the dark purple circles under my eyes. My hair was matted to my head from sweating profusely. I had a set of scratches on both arms.

I looked like a junkie.

If the shoe fits…

My kid was sitting at the table, eating his breakfast and looking at his tablet. I’ve taught him to be independent in the morning. But not so I can sleep off a dope nod.

“Baby, why didn’t you get me up?”

He shrugged. “Don’t sweat it. Can you make my lunch?”

He didn’t say anything about me wearing yesterday’s clothes. He couldn’t smell the dried vomit on my shirt. I opened the refrigerator door and the light hurt my eyes. Slowly, with shaky hands, I made his lunch.

Mother of the year

This is the last time I get high.

—-

NYC, April 1995

“Where have you been?” I looked up sleepily at Debby. It was 5 am and she had just let herself back into my apartment.

“I couldn’t sleep. I went to cop. You want me to fix you?”

“What day is it?” I looked at the calendar. “No. It’s Tuesday, right? I work today.”

I watched her prep her fix. I loved watching her beautiful, delicate hands do this. Her skilled fingers, the neat flick of her wrist – raised prepping a dope fix to an art form.

“Frenchie just got this in. This shit is supposed to be fire.”

She dumped the contents of her packet into a spoon, flicking at the small plastic packet until all the power tumbled out.

She added a small amount of water to the dope, making it the perfect consistency. She held a lighter to the bottom of the spoon, cooking the mixture to the optimum temperature. She always got it right – hot enough to burn off some of the cut in the dope – but never so hot that it damaged the heroin.

She twisted the cotton off the end of a Q- tip into a tic-tac sized ball. She dropped the tiny puff into the heroin and it swelled up like a sponge. She pushed the tip of the syringe into the center of the cotton, which filtered out impurities.

Slowly, she retracted the plunger until all of the heroin was sucked in.

Using her index and middle fingers she gently slapped a vein right above the crook of her elbow. She never had to pull back the plunger, like most junkies did, to draw blood up the syringe and make sure she was in a vein.

She never missed.

I watched her eyes take on that faraway look of exquisite pleasure, as her brain rode the waves of that first rush. Her facial muscles slackened, her body swayed. She looked at me and smiled.

“I’m…so…high…”

Those were her last words.

 

Her eyes rolled back in her head. She slumped to the floor. Her lips turned blue, then purple.

All in slow motion.

I did nothing. I was paralyzed with fear. I could not bring myself to touch her. I called 911 and babbled hysterically.

I could actually see a faint pulse throbbing irregularly in her throat. Her breathing was shallow. Her skin was the yellow color of cafeteria cheese.

She was dying.

She was dying, and I couldn’t bear to watch it.

I ran out of my apartment and stumbled out onto the street. I had on no coat or shoes, and even though it was mid-April, it was only a raw, cold 40 degrees. I ran through the streets barefoot, wild and desperate, going nowhere.

The police and EMT workers arrived 11 minutes after I called 911. The 5th precinct was only 8 short city blocks away. But an overdose, on the Lower East Side? That’s how you clean up the streets. Human pesticide, as far as the police were concerned.

By the time we all got inside my apartment, Debby was dead.

 

A memorial service was held for Debby at St. Marks Church in the Bowery, the second oldest church in New York and a legendary performance space. Debby knew everyone, and everyone knew Debby.

Her memorial service was standing room only. Several of NYC’s leading punk musicians unplugged and performed acoustic songs.

Debby had introduced me to rock stars and gangsters, and heroin and lesbianism. She was the first and only woman I ever fell deeply in love with.

I wrote a spoken word poem, dedicated to her memory, and performed it at her memorial service.

It was the last time I ever performed spoken word in front of a live audience.

 

After the service I copped several dime bags of smack down on Clinton Street.

My boyfriend’s face, when he saw them, darkened with rage. He snatched the packets off the table.

“What?!” I demanded. “WHAT?? This is the last time I get high!”

Apparently not. He flushed the drugs down the toilet. He snapped my works in half and threw the pieces out of the window.

I kicked heroin cold turkey. There was no money for fancy rehab.

The plan was simple. My boyfriend would not let me leave the house.

The withdrawal was not so simple.

I had excruciating pain in every muscle of my body. For three days, I threw up violently, and had horrible bouts of diarrhea. I was weak and dehydrated but couldn’t keep food down. I suffered with severe flu-like symptoms; sneezing and sniffling and dizziness and fever. Sweat poured off of me constantly; I was dangerously dehydrated. Sleep would have been a welcome relief, but there was no way I could fall asleep. I had frightening visual and auditory hallucinations.

By the second day, my boyfriend had to call both his brother and his cousin – who played in a band with him – for reinforcements. It took THREE GROWN MEN to keep me inside that apartment and away from my dealers.

I turned into a snarling, cursing beast. In between raging bouts of excruciating pain and illness, I fought them with the strength of 10 men.

My boyfriend’s brother was a recovered heroin addict. I sobbed uncontrollably to him and said,
”This is what it feels like to DIE.”

He answered, “NO. This is what it feels like to LIVE.”

 

By the third night I was drained and exhausted, and managed to fall asleep at dawn for a few hours.

I awoke Sunday morning. My muscles had stopped spasming in pain.

My boyfriend pulled back the shades that had been drawn for days.
“Let’s get some air in here,” he said.

He opened the large casement windows. Just then, in the distance, church bells began to chime.

It sounded like life.

It was Easter Sunday morning. And like Jesus, I had risen from the dead.

All these years later, and sadness throbs through my body.

There is a price to pay for feeling broken.

I’m aware of how I’m perceived, but I can’t feel it.

Heroin renders me immortal. I am what all humans seek through religion and spirituality.

On heroin, I am my vision of myself.

I’m socially adept, moving fluidly among others instead of hiding in my room.

I’m the writer who inspires, rather than constantly crawling through the wreckage of her squandered life.

I’m a woman capable of love; of intimacy and relationships. Not someone who lets no one get close.

I’m the mother my child deserves, not the one who’s exhausted and impatient and irritable.
Not the selfish bitch who risked her life to get a fucking fix.

 

This is the LAST time I get high.

This IS the last time I get high.

THIS. Is the last time I get high.

 

What is, or was, your drug of choice? What finally made you stop?
Did you ever write a post you just weren’t sure you should write, but you did anyway?
Are you tired of your problems? Are you tired of mine?

Talk to me. I’m listening.

This is the most simple, most perfect, most beautiful song about heroin addiction ever.

white girl

January 5, 2015

 

stapleton 11

 

I haven’t performed spoken word in twenty years.

Actually, I avoided it as much as I could. It brought back some memories that I didn’t want to think of.

But somehow, this piece leapt off the page and needed a voice. So, I gave it one.

It’s about growing up white in an all-black housing project. You can read it – or listen to me speak it.

Today, on the Sisterwives blog.

Thank you for joining me as I step into my past and my future, simultaneously.

xo,

Samara