Head held high, nostrils flaring, his senses were heightened as he assumed a powerful stance, watching his new environment with increasing intensity. Within moments he let out a loud snort and pranced in place, his red tail flying high. I held his green lead rope tightly in my hands, as I spoke gently to him. Slowly he calmed down.
Dickie was a beautiful chestnut Quarter Horse, with a white blaze down his face and a white sock on his right front leg. He stood sixteen hands high and had a most endearing nature. He moved through his paces with such elegance and grace that it was as if he was moving in slow motion. He wanted so much to please me, and I wanted so much for him to be happy. I can't express how deeply I adored this animal.
It was late afternoon on May 12, 1980 when my horse, my dog, Josie, and I pulled into the driveway of our new home on Norris Avenue in Sacramento, California. For years I dreamed of purchasing a home where I could keep my horse with me. This dream was now coming true.
I couldn't possibly afford horse property in the bay area, so I journeyed to Sacramento, where I knew the property was in my price range. Bristol Labs had a sales position open in Sacramento, so I was able to make the transfer.
In Sacramento a realtor showed me a small 2 bedroom 1 bath home painted a horrible mustard yellow with black trim. My realtor wholeheartedly tried to get me to come into the house to look at all the particulars. But I was much more interested in the land than the house itself. The 1/4-acre parcel had two beautiful plum trees in blossom. I immediately began planning where Dickie’s stall would go within the white fence corral that I would build for him in the huge front yard. I ended up purchasing the property for $65,000. One of the first things I did was paint the house white with charcoal gray trim.
My dog, Josie was having the time of her life running around the property trying to catch my neighbor's chickens. The chickens ran under the fence, and I gave her a good scolding. She had never seen chickens before, so she would need some lessons in etiquette. Josie was part Irish Wolfhound, part German Shepherd, but she looked just like a large "Benji" type dog. We’d been together for seven years and were inseparable.
I removed Dickie's green blanket and wiped the sweat off his back. Since his stall and paddock were still only visions in my head, I put him in the back yard temporarily. It was way too small to be his permanent home.
Upon awakening the next morning, I saw Dickie's face staring at me through the bedroom window. My insides melted with happiness. This scenario would recur in the living room as he poked his head through the open sliding glass door, wanting some loving attention. It was fun having him in the back yard, until he started chewing on the house like a huge termite. I thought, "There goes $65,000 down my horse’s gut!" So I contacted a contractor immediately.
The contractor was around my age--thirty years and his name was Max. He was 5'8' with dark curly hair and had a rugged, blue-collar look. We decided on what he would build. We envisioned a large stall made of redwood, painted white with a dark gray trim--the same color I was going to paint the house. He began working right away.
Although he had this rugged demeanor, he was introspective and sensitive. I was intrigued and quite attracted to this aspect of him. Late one afternoon, I lit a "joint" and climbed up the ladder to the roof of Dickie's stall and offered him a hit. He took a long deep drag. Lying on top of the roof, we got pleasantly stoned. I then invited him into my house for something to eat, and with the eyes of innocence, I seduced him. We made love passionately that day and for the next month there wasn't a day that went by when we weren't together.
After a couple of months he began telling me about an organization he belonged to called Scientology, but I didn't want anything to do with it. It sounded too esoteric for me, and I wasn't interested in any type of church whatsoever. He didn't press the issue but, shortly thereafter, brought over a book called Dianetics that was put out by Scientology. I was an avid reader so I told Max, "Well, It does look kind of interesting. I'll read it."
This book spoke about chains of similar incidents that happen in your life, but unless you get to the engram which is the very first incident on the chain you won’t be able to resolve the problem.1 This usually meant stepping into your past lives.
I had been going to a psychiatrist off and on for two years for agoraphobia, but without any progress at all. Dianetics sounded like it could possibly help me. The next day when I saw Max, I said, "I might like to try some auditing." Auditing involves a list of questions or statements that guide a “PC” or Pre-Clear into the unconscious realm. A PC is a person who is not yet cleared, because their engram has not been processed.
Max's blue eyes smiled gently as he said, "I'll contact the church tomorrow and I will let you know when you can meet with an auditor." An Auditor is a spiritual counselor that guides you and observes your reactions on an E meter, which is a skin galvanometric instrument that measures your responses to various questions. This, in turn, tells the auditor whether or not to continue a process. I hugged and surrendered into Max’s arms. I was scared.
7:30 p.m. the following evening was when I had my first appointment. Max picked me up in his dark blue Ford pick up truck, and we drove to 16th St. in downtown Sacramento. It was cold and dark outside, the same way I was feeling inside. Scientology was so foreign to me, and seemed so esoteric, that I was feeling very uncomfortable. I remember sitting in the waiting room feeling that I was on LSD. Through my eyes everything looked like a thin film of a hallucination. I was trembling inside, partly because of the agoraphobia, which intensified everything.
The first person I spoke to was a woman, a little younger than myself, named Sharon. She was about 5'4", 120 lbs., and had a wonderful, friendly smile that helped settle me down. She interviewed me and asked some very personal questions. One being, "Have you ever attempted suicide?" When I answered, “Yes,” I had to sign a waiver that Scientology would not be responsible if I attempted suicide again. The drugs I was taking were another issue that had to be dealt with. To be audited you could not be taking any type of mind altering drugs. At the time I was smoking grass, taking handfuls of Valium, Atavan, Dalmane, and other similar drugs for anxiety and insomnia. I was more than willing to go off of them if Scientology could get rid of the phobia, which they were certain they could do.
It cost $75.00 an hour to have auditing. Because I had just purchased a home, I couldn't afford it. Sharon suggested that I have auditing from a student and it wouldn't cost me anything. I was all for that, so Sharon walked me to Ernie's auditing room. Sharon introduced us and left quietly.
I was a little put off by Ernie's young appearance and the way he carried himself. He was "a young" twenty-nine years. He had long pitch-black hair, a very lanky body, and was slightly round shouldered. He didn't seem too sure of himself. He asked me to sit down and hold two cans that were connected to the E meter. He said, "Squeeze the cans please." He looked intensely at the screen of the E meter. Once again, "Squeeze the cans please." I did, and he said, "Thank you."
When I feel really nervous or threatened I leave my body, and that is what happened next. I said to him, "I'm out of my body. I feel very uncomfortable and strange."
He said, "I totally understand."
I became enraged and said, "I'm so sick of people saying they understand, when they don't! I've explained this to doctors for years, but all they do is give me more drugs to pacify me." I don't know why I so adamantly pointed the finger at the doctors for giving me drugs. I'm really the one who asked for them. I guess I was just feeling helpless.
He looked at me gently and was not at all taken back by my anger. He pulled out a book called The Tech Dictionary. It contained the entire Scientology lingo, and he pointed to the definition of an "out of body experience."
I thought to myself, “My god, someone does understand;”
He asked me a series of questions and after he was through, he said, "Your needle is floating." I found out later that this was a good sign. It meant you weren't hung up on a situation or question that was asked of you. During the time of his questioning his face and demeanor kept changing like a chameleon. Before he put his auditor's hat on he looked ugly and rather feeble to me. He now looked kind of cute with an aura of confidence he didn't have when I first walked in.
He said, "You know you need to go off the drugs, before we can continue?"
I acknowledged him and said, "Tomorrow I will contact a physician, so I'll know how to go off of them safely.” We said our good byes, and I walked out to the waiting room. Max helped me put on my black sweater. He put his arm around me as we walked out into the cold night.
A week later I had an appointment with Dr. Liebowitz. He specialized in drug rehabilitation. I was embarrassed to see him, because I called on him professionally. I was a drug rep addicted to drugs. The nurse escorted me into an examination room. I don't think I noticed one object in that room, because my nerves were on fire. In came Dr. Liebowitz. He was a man in his fifties with long grayish brown hair and a thick waxed mustache that would curl up on either side. I thought it looked ridiculous, but it suited his rather odd but personable personality. He spoke to me with great concern and compassion. I was surprised. I thought he might treat me with disdain.
He wanted to prescribe a drug for me to take that would ease the withdrawal, while I was tapering off the tranquilizers and sleeping pills. "I will not take anymore drugs. I'll come off the tranquilizers only to be addicted to these. No!" I said. I was livid. He couldn't make me understand his viewpoint.
I got into my company car--a gold Impala, Chevrolet and sat there for a moment and said to myself, “I am never going to see a Doctor again.” They don't know what they're doing. All they want to do is drug you. I drove off and went home.
I would be my own doctor. The drug I was taking primarily was Valium. I would cut my daily dose from 100 mg down to 90 mg and then every few days, I would continue cutting it down into small increments. I know this dose sounds alarming, since the average dose is 5 mg 4 times a day, but that's how addicted I was. I asked several doctors throughout the years, "Why do I need to take such high doses now?" Never once did I think of addiction. They more or less said the same thing, "Your body just needs more." At that time physicians weren't aware of the seriousness of this class of drug. At least, I don’t think they were.
Later I told Ernie, "No matter how bad things may get, do not call a doctor." Except for seeing him, I was going to do this alone. After a couple of months I started to lose my patience. I wanted off these drugs. I started going off the drugs quicker than I had planned to. It was humiliating for me to think I was addicted to anything. I also wanted to begin auditing. Finally I said to myself, “No more tapering.” I went off the last few mg abruptly…and I paid the price.
During the entire withdrawal period I was very ill, which included dizziness and severe pain in my joints and inside my skin. But now something frightening was happening. I was in my home office crouched on the floor, feeling that my insides were literally being pulled outside of my body. I grabbed the book Dancing As Fast As I Can2 by Barbara Gordon who at one time was agoraphobic and also went through Valium withdrawal. A friend of mine had recommended that I read it. I read it, but I didn't identify with her at all. I was in complete denial of my own addiction. I could not believe this was happening to me. Doubling over in pain I paged through her book and found the part that speaks of her withdrawal. I screamed out, “No! No! This can't betrue.” This can't be happening to me”! I cried out as my guts were being torn in every direction, and my skin and bones were throbbing in pain. I felt as if I was constantly falling, but my body had nothing to do with it. I thought I was dying. I got to the phone and called Ernie. He answered and I cried, “It's happening”!
He said with great concern, "I'll be right over."
Within an hour Ernie, the man I would be dependent on for some time to come had arrived. He had me do some processes with my body that would help the withdrawal process. My memories of the processes are not very clear, but I do remember walking to the wall and Ernie would say "Thank You." Then he would tell me to sit down and again say "Thank You." This was repeated over and over again until he noticed a change in me. I was so ill that I didn't notice any shift in myself, but I continued doing the processes. The process was to help me stay focused and in present time, which was supposed to help the withdrawal. Who knows, maybe I would have been worse, but I can't imagine. I was once again amazed at the way his presence seemed to change when he would lead me into the processes. He was like two different people, not only in appearance but also in personality.
The days went on and the withdrawal was not getting any easier. I couldn't sleep at all, and all I could eat were a few saltine crackers a day. Ernie brought me over some vitamins and advised me to take them, but it was impossible for me to get them down. I've heard that after a certain amount of time without sleep that you will automatically sleep. I found this not to be true. My eyes would not close. It was as if they were pried open by some invisible force. I had not one minute of sleep for a month.
During this time I had no desire whatsoever to take another pill. In fact I was extremely angry that I allowed drugs to do this to me. I took two large brown paper bags from the kitchen, and with determination walked over to the bathroom and cleaned out my medicine cabinet. I threw away bottle after bottle of Valium, Atavan, Dalmane, Tranxene, Miltown, Robaxin, Seconal, Nembutal, Quaalude, and more. Being a pharmaceutical rep the physicians gave me any prescription that I wanted, and I was able to get them in stock bottles. I had two full brown paper bags of downers that I later gave to Ernie to dispose of.
Ernie faithfully continued to come to my home each day leading me in various physical processes. One day he found me in the dark hallway of my house with a damp towel draped around my head. My head felt like it was exploding inside, and any light at all felt like a lightening bolt penetrating my skull. He told me to sit back against the wall. With his forefinger he touched my big toe and asked, "Feel my finger?"
I answered, "Yes."
He replied, "Good." This went on as he touched each toe on both feet and then went up to each finger on my hand until--to my utter amazement--the pain vanished. I just couldn't believe such severe pain could be relieved by such a simple and natural method. I hugged and thanked him deeply.
I had taken my three week vacation, so I could withdraw from the drugs (talk about the vacation from hell!), but I knew I needed more time off, so I had to call Kay, my district manager to let her know what was going on with me. My heart pounded when I dialed her number, because I had to tell her my secret. I was honest with her, and to my astonishment, she totally understood. Like Dr. Liebowitz, she was sincerely compassionate. It was my own disdain and humiliation that I felt for myself that caused me to expect the worse from others.
Kay said, "Please take care of yourself, and let me know if there is anything I can do for you. I'll send you the paperwork for a leave of absence. And do not worry. No one has to know about the drugs." This was important, because my job would have been in jeopardy. It's just not OK for a drug rep to have a drug problem.
I was grateful that I had my animals to take care of. It gave me some control knowing that I had some type of responsibility. It also gave me more determination to pull through this. It took every ounce of energy I had just to walk to the corral and feed my horse, but it gave me such pleasure to hear Dickie whinny and gobble down his green alfalfa. And Josie, my shaggy haired mutt had always been my faithful companion and love. I also owned a hen that was white with black spots. My neighbor who lived in back of me owned a couple of dozen or so of chickens. They were always squeezing through a hole in the fence and coming onto my property. For some reason I fell in love with this spotted hen. The owner was aware of my affection for her, so she gave her to me.
A few days into my drug withdrawal Josie killed her and for the first time, I agonizingly hit my dog. I was devastated and Josie whimpered and sulked, but she never again chased a chicken. The next day when I went out to feed Dickie nine baby chicks appeared from behind the hay bin--five gold, three white with black specks like my hen, and a sickly black one that turned out to be my favorite. Obviously they were my dead hen's babies. I just melted. They were so divine. I took a laundry basket from the house and placed them gently inside. I put them in the laundry room, because it was the warmest part of the house. I was now their mother, and I would save their lives as well as my own.
When I began going off the drugs I was also tapering off seeing Max, because he had a problem with jealousy. If he came to the house and I had a male friend over he would turn red, boiling over with anger. I had a hard time understanding this, because he received so much Scientology counseling. I assumed he was all "fixed." That's how naive I was and how cloudy by perception had been because of all the drugs in my system.
When I was going through a very rough part of my withdrawal, Max came over. I didn't want him to see me. I was so sick and terribly thin from not eating. I also had black circles under my eyes and looked rather frightening. He didn't want to acknowledge that I was so ill. He would look at me with this love glaze over his eyes. I knew he really wasn't seeing me, and I don't mean just my sick body; he wasn't seeing me. He only saw this projection of a beautiful woman that he wanted to have and love. It was as if he was looking over my head at a figment of his imagination. In my mind I was saying, “See me!” I wanted to be seen for who I was. I realized he couldn't do this, so I didn't want him around. Later I found out that he left town and went back to drinking. This was the first time I became aware that he had a problem with alcohol. I also found out that he was married. I was getting more confused. In my cloudiness I thought Scientology made you perfect.
One evening I started to panic and decided to call my parents in Los Angeles at 1:00 o’clock in the morning. My mother answered and I cried, "I'm going through drug withdrawal!" She was very calm and said she would come to Sacramento.
I told her, "No, I don't want anyone with me." She didn't argue with me, because she knew me too well. She and my father called weekly to see how I was doing. Each time they called they were very calm, until a month later when I told my mother the withdrawal was over. She then broke down and cried.
Even though the major withdrawal symptoms were over, and I able to eat and even ride Dickie a little, I could only sleep for an hour or two. But I was determined to become totally independent again. I called Ernie and told him that he didn't have to come to the house, that I was ready to drive to the "Org" (Scientology Organization). I was so disoriented that I had to pull off the road and calm myself and think where I was. I was very confused and turned around. After about fifteen minutes I got more oriented and I got to the Org. Somehow, I got there.
I was not yet ready for auditing, because I was not rested enough. Another rule was to have at least six hours of sleep. So Ernie continued to do physical processes that would help me get into present time. He would simply have me look at things and acknowledge me by saying, "Thank you” or “Good." Or he'd have me sit in a chair across from him and mirror his hand motions, and once again, always an acknowledgment of "Good." I was starting to see a noticeable difference now. Things began to look clearer. The part of me that resists being told what to do came up as well, but I fought it. I was still too ill not to fight it. I needed help.
I had already taken two months off from work, so I had to try my best and get back to calling on physicians and pharmacies. I put on my best navy blue business suit, pulled back my long dark hair in a barrette, and put on make-up. My make up, however, could not cover the black circles under my eyes nor hide my pale, thin face. And nothing could hide my uncontrollable shaking from the agoraphobia. Being so tired and ridden with anxiety, I felt I was walking through the "twilight zone." Everything seemed strange to me. On top of all this I was feeling very unethical selling drugs. I had no choice. I had to quit.
Kay came to the house a couple of weeks later after I told her about my situation and why I was resigning. Kay was my age, medium height, light brown hair, and her face seemed to have a perpetual smile that was adorable. She was the only woman that I knew who took over a so-called "male" job and retained her femininity and open heart. With my permission, she brought over the rep that would be taking my place. I went over the accounts with her, and everything seemed fine until she took my company car. It hurt a lot. I was left without a job or a car, and I was still so sick. Ernie came to my rescue and loaned me one of his cars, an old Chevy that I later ended up buying from him.
Since I was getting physically stronger, Ernie said my next process would be the "Purif," a Scientology process that is an intense purification program. It entailed an exercise program, ingesting large amounts of vitamins especially Niacin, which was increased on a gradient and large doses of various minerals. It also entailed sitting in a sauna for hours a day. Scientology claims that the Purif helps to get rid of any residual drugs left in the body, and this residue could go back years. So it wasn't just dealing with the tranquilizers I had taken but all the uppers, grass, and LSD I had taken throughout my lifetime.
The cost was $1,000. At that point it wouldn't have made any difference if was $100,000. I had no income except disability. Once again, Ernie came to my rescue and loaned me $1,000. I accepted it, because I knew I could pay him back when I got well and returned to work. I really believed Scientology would heal me. I truly felt Ernie did as well.
I was to have a partner on this adventure. Her name was Nancy. We would spend many hours together sweating and eating cold green grapes in a hot sauna watching all the residue of the drugs run down the drain. But the first thing we had to do, after we gulped down our vitamins and minerals with a large glass of milk, was to run a mile. Both of us were not runners, so we dreaded this part, especially when the mornings were already hot from the summer's sun.
Every morning for almost two weeks, we would force our lethargic bodies to run one mile, which for us was like running ten. Except for one day. Nancy and I were running in the hot sun and I was complaining, "Nancy, I am so tired. There is just no way I can run a mile today." Then all of a sudden I felt like a gazelle. My legs were as light as a feather. I ran and ran and couldn't stop running nor could I stop the laughter and joy I was feeling.
Poor Nancy was screaming, "Will you stop already!" I couldn’t and met up with her later.
The Scientology organization rented space in a sauna at a local women's club. For some reason Nancy and I were always hungry. We would have a little picnic of Cheez it crackers and our favorite green grapes, as we sat in the sweat dripping from our naked bodies. I lost twelve pounds when I went through drug withdrawal. That was a lot of weight for me to lose, because I have a very small frame and was already very thin. During the Purif I gained a pound a day even with all the sweating. Nancy, no matter what she ate could not gain an ounce. She was so thin that a member of the gym asked me if she was anorexic--the same question a neighbor asked me before I went off the drugs. The drugs seemed to eat up the calories. I don't know the reason for Nancy's thin body. All I knew about her was that she was a lesbian and suffered terribly over this. She was hoping Scientology could help her become heterosexual.
The time spent in the sauna was no easy task. We had to spend six hours a day in there. Of course, we could go out and shower to cool off a bit, and we did this quite frequently. I was amazed I could withstand this at all, because I've always hated saunas. I would do anything to get well. I experienced a variety of things in that hot wooden box. One was actually feeling stoned--just as if I had smoked a joint of marijuana. I was told later that this was because marijuana was being released out of the deep tissues of my body. In fact, some people are known to have full blown out LSD trips from taking it in the past. Another time I felt the jittery side effects from the amphetamines I had taken ten years previously.
The time to complete the Purif, like any other action in Scientology, depends on the individual. There is something that happens personally to each person, and when that happens, one just knows it. A floating needle on the E-meter confirms this later.
Nancy was finished in an astonishing nine days. The norm is two to four weeks. She felt badly that she had to leave me alone, but I convinced her that I would be fine. And, indeed, I was because within a few days I was done as well. What I experienced was a "thick mass" leaving my head. I could see so clearly, as if I had put prescription glasses on for the first time.
I thought the major part of my nightmare was over, until I got a knock at my door one morning. It was a man from the health department. He was tall with thick blond hair and very personable. So I was shocked when he said, "You must remove your horse from the premises, because your property is not zoned for horses."
I said, "Oh, no, you're wrong. This is the only reason I purchased this piece of property, because it is zoned for horses." I told him the whole story how I came to purchase it.
He was very nice and understanding, but said, "I'm sorry, but there is nothing I can do. Although, there may be a possibility of getting a variance, because most of the property around here is zoned for horses. Give the zoning commissioner a call. But at this time, you have thirty days to remove your horse." He also suggested that I call my realtor.
I immediately called Ferna. She was the real estate woman I purchased my home from. She was in her early fifties with flaming red hair. When I told her about the situation and asked her what she knew about the zoning, she was in shock as well. She said, "I never saw the zoning papers. I just assumed it was horse property, not only because of the area it was in, but because you told me it was." I had seen the ad in the Sacramento B where it specifically stated horse property and had met with the listing agent at that time. This was before I was introduced to Ferna.
The next day Ferna and I went down to see the listing agent. He said, “I never placed an ad saying it was horse property, because I know it's not."
I couldn't believe what this man was saying. It hadn’t been that long ago when I was his office bubbling over with excitement as I was telling him where I was going to build Dickie's stall. I said to myself, “I can't believe how someone, who acted so nice to me, could be this cruel.” I must have repeated this twenty times to a couple of friends of mine as well.
My friend Steve said, "Laura (that was my name at the time), you have to understand, there are crooks out there. Start believing it!"
I went to attorney after attorney and finally found one who was interested in my case and would take it on a contingency fee basis. The first thing we did was obtain a back copy of the Sacramento Bee, and in black and white, it said, "Horse property." We brought this up to the zoning commissioner, when we requested a variance, but they still turned us down. With ad in hand we asked the listing agent to take back the property. To my astonishment, he still denied he placed it. We ended up taking him to court, which became a three-year process.
The stress of the litigation, and experiencing chronic insomnia, results in hallucinations. The red and orange carpet in the house (that I always detested) seemed to be coming out at me. The walls appeared to be screaming and closing in on me. I was so frightened that I called Ernie at 3:00 in the morning. He said calmly, "Sit on the couch (which I did) and feel the cushion. Are you doing that?"
In a shaky voice, I said, "Yes," as I felt and clutched the corduroy fabric.
He said, "Good. Now touch the coffee table." These types of processes were all trying to get me back into present time.
I said, "OK." This went on for a few minutes, and then he said, "I'll be right over." Josie and I waited for him on the driveway as I was petting Dickie. About twenty minutes later he drove up. Josie and I climbed into his car and went for a drive until it got light. I was afraid to go home until then.
This scenario went on for quite awhile. If I wasn’t with Ernie, I would find myself walking the streets at 2 or 3:00 in the morning, so I wouldn't have to be in the house. I no longer felt safe in this home that brought me such heartache. I felt safer on the street. Finally I was able to stay with friends, until I knew more about the direction the lawsuit was going. Although, I knew, no matter what, I had to get out of that house.
It was obvious to me that the lawsuit was going to take a long time, so I decided to sell the house, but with no luck. No one was interested in a home that had a stall and corral, but was not horse property. The only thing I could do was rent it out. My plan was to find a place where Josie and I could move into and board Dickie.
The mortgage on my home was $600. But I was only able to rent it for $350 per month to an eager young blond haired woman who had cash in her hands for the first and last month’s rent. I rented it to her without checking her references. Once again she seemed nice, and I was back into my naivete.
I looked in the Sacramento Bee and called on an ad placed by a woman looking for a roommate. She sounded pleasant enough, so I met with her at the home that she was renting in El Dorado Hills. Michelle was a few years older than I was, very attractive with long brown hair softly curled. She made her living as a bartender at a local restaurant in town. The home was gorgeous. I especially loved the sunken living room that had a large stone fireplace. I would have my own room and bath for $250. That same afternoon I found a stable to board Dickie. It was just down the road for $75 per month and was located across the street from Folsom Lake. I had many enjoyable days there riding Dickie bareback, cantering through the water, and jumping over every log I set my eyes on.
Even though these figures sound low, my only income was from disability that barely came to $600. I still had my mortgage and taxes to pay on the house. My savings was depleted, and my credit cards had reached their limits. I had no choice, but to swallow my pride and request food stamps. I was so agoraphobic and so exhausted, that there was no way I could attempt to go back to work.
I'll never forget the first time I had to use food stamps. I held my head high, but I was shrinking inside. The clerk saw me shaking, and not knowing it was because of my phobia, she said kindly, "I had to be on food stamps at one time in my life as well." I smiled.
After all this humiliation, social services called and said I had to return the unused food stamps and reimburse them for the food stamps I had already used. I was not eligible for food stamps, because I rented my home. Even though I was actually saving money by not living there, it was still considered income. If I were living there, I would be eligible. I just couldn't seem to wake up from my nightmare.
One night I was counting pennies on the floor and was thinking of how I could make some money. I decided I would make brownies, little cakes, and cookies, and see if I could sell them at the "Org." It worked out fine, and I was able to make about $20 a day. Ernie started another business of cleaning homes that were under construction. So a couple of days a week, I put a bandana over my nose and mouth and swept and swept all the dust from the lumber.
My financial problems were far from being handled, so I decided to hock the only valuable piece of jewelry I owned--a gorgeous 18c gold Mavado watch that I purchased in Switzerland. I loved it, but I felt I could buy it back when I got well. I was so nervous about going into a pawnshop that I asked Michelle to go with me. We found a pawnshop in Old Town. The pawnbroker looked at my watch closely and said, "It’s worth $3500, but I can only give you $500 for it."
“$3500!” I said to myself. I only paid $250 for the watch ten years earlier. I didn't want to be too impulsive, so I told the man that I would like to think it over. I was also feeling terribly embarrassed about being in this situation.
Two days later I was going to put on my watch, but it was gone. I looked everywhere for it. Michelle said, "The boy across the street is known to be a thief." I called the police, something Michelle did not think I would do. When the police came over they asked me a number of questions about Michelle and did a background check on her. It turned out that she had been arrested for thievery in the past. When I confronted her about this she turned white, but insisted she had not taken my watch. There were to many things that happened since then that made me realize she had lied, so I knew I had to move out.
Money was still a big issue. I thought to myself, “Maybe I can find someone that needs a housekeeper in exchange for room and board.” Lo and behold I found an ad that stated just that. It also stated horse privileges. I called and made an appointment to see Mike, the owner of the home. He was a man in his forties with blond hair and a medium frame. He was quite friendly and owned five large German Shepherds, which was my favorite breed. Josie and the dogs got along fine, as they ran around on the large green lawn. The home was a large Spanish style one-story home with a huge barn in the back. When I mentioned Dickie he said, "The ad stated 'house' privileges, not 'horse' privileges. But since I have the barn it's okay with me that you bring your horse." He even moved my belongings, which included furniture that he stored in his garage. I thought how perfect this was, only to find out later it was too good to be true.
I was only there for three days when he invited me into the hot tub. I knew he wanted my job to go beyond house cleaning. He also started getting very weird about cleanliness--down right obsessive. Actually he was plain weird about everything. My senses were telling me something very strange was happening and to get out quick. Ernie came to my rescue again. He borrowed an old green truck, loaded all my clothes, furniture, and plants, and hooked up my horse trailer. Ernie also made arrangements that I could stay with Bob, a friend of his. I ended up staying there and renting a room from him. It was a rather dull looking house, but I had my own bedroom and bath at the opposite end of the house. I was able to get the rent reduced to $150 per month in exchange for cleaning the house. I found a stable close by where I boarded Dickie in a large green pasture.
Living at Bob's was probably the most stable environment I had in a long time. I was finally able to get enough sleep, so I could begin the more serious part of auditing. In Scientology there is a hierarchy of processes called grades. By completing each grade the PC will reach the goal of being "clear." This means that once you have reached the engram by processing the original trauma, all others are handled automatically. That was my goal, and I wholeheartedly believed I would be able to say goodbye to the phobia.
Ernie only had auditor's training on grade 0, and I needed grade 1 4, and then Dianetic auditing in order to become clear. (Grade 0 addresses communication. Grade I deals with recognizing and solving problems. Grade II deals with hostilities and suffering. Grade III looks at specific events in the past that are affecting one’s life in the present. Grade IV deals with breaking negative patterns. Dianetics uncovers the original engram.) There were no other student auditors, and I was still under financial duress. On top of this my tenant hadn't paid her rent in two months, and I couldn't get her evicted. The lawsuit dragged on. It was getting just too much for me to handle.
The registrar at the Org told me about Jim, a real estate manager who she was acquainted with. Jim was a stocky, African-American man who exuded confidence. He agreed to handle my property with the stipulation that I would pay him for his services when my lawsuit was handled. At that point my lawyers were sure I would win the case. It was just a matter of time.
Knowing that my house was being taken care of, I decided to move back to the bay area. I wanted to get out of Sacramento, which brought me so much pain. I found a room to rent in a home in Woodside where I could also keep my horse. I would be sharing the home with a man and his young son. I started baking brownies again and selling them, but it just wasn't enough to pay the bills, so a few months later I decided to move back home to Los Angeles and live with my parents.
With all the horror that was happening to me, I always found "gentle helpers." I had just met Lolly, a tall heavy boned woman, a little older than myself who was quite motherly. She took me under her wing, and with the help of a man she was dating, rented a truck and hauled all my belongings to Los Angeles including my horse.
My parents’ house looked picture perfect sitting on a hill overlooking a portion of Woodland Hills. It was nestled tightly among many other homes in this bedroom community. It was not easy moving back into my parents' home. I've always been very independent and was living on my own at sixteen. I was now thirty-one, feeling like a child again, ridden with pain, a pain my parents could never imagine.
My mother is an attractive petite woman of 5'1" with short red hair. She truly wanted to know about my life, but I felt invaded by her inquiries, so I told her little. My father is a handsome man, standing 6' tall with a full head of white hair. I'm not really sure what he thought of my demise, because we have never spoken about anything in depth. Unlike my mother, I wanted my father to have some type of meaningful conversation with me. Somehow the balance of communication was lost between my parents and me.
As soon as I was settled in, I went to a Scientology Organization on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. I met with Jim, the registrar who was a young man of about twenty five. I told him about my financial dilemma, hoping that I could work something out, so I could receive auditing. He told me about Dick Rodgers, a man who was extremely wealthy that might be willing to give me a loan.
Jim called me the following week to tell me that Dick Rodgers would see me at 2:00 p.m. the next day. I was very nervous, but at the same time confident in myself, when I walked into meet Dick. He stood up politely, smiled, and shook my hand. I never expected him to be so young. He was only about thirty years old, slim, and quite good-looking with dark hair and a neatly trimmed mustache. I found out later that he inherited his money from his grandmother. I told him about the money I had invested in my house in Sacramento and that when it was sold (it was back on the market by then) or when the lawsuit was finally over, I would pay him back. Without delay he said he would loan me the money, because he wanted people to go "up the bridge." That's what it was called when one did the grades to clear. We agreed on the interest that I would pay on the loan, and he said the papers would be drawn up the following week. I was thrilled. Now, I could finally get the help I so desperately needed.
A week later I was introduced to my auditor, Bill who was a tall man with very thick blond hair. He had been auditing for seven years, and I was told that he was quite good. I would find out that he indeed was. Even though the phobia had not dissipated, I was becoming much more aware of my environment and myself. I went up the grades rapidly and was now ready for Dianetics, the process I had been waiting for. I just knew Dianetics would kill the dark demon that was possessing me the phobia. Dianetics would enable me to uncover my past lives and dig up the root of the phobia the engram.
Dianetics is basically past live regression (at least it was for me), although I was not hypnotized. Like the grades, Bill asked me a list of questions, statements, or words, and the processes that were taken up were the result of the E Meter’s reaction. I'll give you an example of the most powerful, and the most painful past life experience I had:
Beginning with each session the auditor asks if there is an “ARC break,” which stands for a break in affinity, realty, or communication. If everything is okay the needle will be floating. On communication my needle on the E-meter showed a charge, but I told Bill there was no break in communication that I was aware of. Bill then took out a list and asked me a series of questions. The needle showed a charge on the question about past lives. He looked at me and asked, "Is there a break in communication in a past life?
I said, "I don't know. I just see a black curtain."
He said, "Go to the beginning of the incident and tell me where you are."
"There is nothing except this dark curtain," I said feeling confused.
Again he said, "Go the beginning of the incident and tell me what you see."
I said, "Now I see a young boy around five years old hiding behind the curtain. He is terribly frightened."
Bill said, "Good. Now go back to the beginning of the incident, and go through it as far as you can."
"I see a young boy hiding in fear behind this black curtain. And now I see myself looking down at my body that is lying in a coffin. This is my funeral! I remember now. He was my child! My little boy accidentally shot me. Now I understand why I have been so adamant about not wanting a funeral. I told my parents that I didn’t want a funeral years ago.”
Bill smiled and said, "Your needle is floating." I was amazed when I experienced a thick mass leaving my head, the same feeling that I experienced when I knew I had finished the Purif.
That evening I sat in bed and knew I was clear. But I kept saying to myself in distress, “This can't be. I'm still phobic”!
I saw Bill the next day, but wouldn’t tell him that I was clear. Once again my needle wasn't floating when he asked if there was an ARC break. He took out a list of questions and nothing seemed to register. He excused himself. Later I found out that he consulted with the CS (case supervisor). When he came back in and sat down he asked, "Are you clear?"
The tears streaming down my face answered his question. Bill looked up at me and said, "Your needle is floating."
This was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. I told him crying, "I don't want to be clear. I'm still phobic."
Bill explained to me that the only thing I could do was to train to become an Auditor and do the OT (Operating Thetan) levels. Thetan, in Scientology lingo means Spirit. Scientology believes “The Operating Thetan” has cause over mind and matter. These upper levels were very hush, hush not to be spoken about to anyone. But I will tell you all about it a little later on in my story. I wanted to become an Auditor anyway, but I didn't know how I could afford to pay for all the training that was involved.
Again, I met with the registrar and we discussed the possibility of me going on staff. I would then be able to get some of my Auditor's training free and would also be given a small wage. I had no choice. I joined the Scientology staff. I also wanted to be part of an organization that was helping humanity. At the time I felt they were the only ones that could.
In the winter of 1982 I joined the staff, and shortly thereafter the shadow of Scientology began to introduce its dark countenance to me. I had the following schedule six days a week: After riding my horse in the early morning, I would go to the Org in Sherman Oaks at 9:00 a.m. and would take courses until 12:00 p.m. I found a little cubbyhole where I could study away from the group. Sometimes this wasn't possible, and I suffered immensely. From 1:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. I worked at a small branch of Scientology on Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills. It was imperative that we came to work on time or we would be punished, which I will explain shortly.
The Woodland Hills branch was a storefront office that was simply furnished with gray metal desks and gray metal folding chairs. The office consisted of a reception area and three small rooms: one private office for Allison, who was in charge of the branch, an auditing room, and one room for teaching the communications course. By that time I was qualified to teach the communications course. My students were the people that Allison dragged in from the street. Allison was a large woman of twenty-eight years of age. She wore her hair short and dyed it a reddish brown color. Underneath her pretty face, I could see anger and pain. She had been a member of Scientology for many years.
One of the procedures or TR’s (training routines) in the communications course is to sit directly in front of the student and say things that would push his or her buttons. The object for the student is to be able to sit there without expressing any emotion. This is important when one is auditing, because it teaches the auditor to really be present without reacting to the PC's (pre clear) disturbances. But, Scientology went way too far. They stressed this in all aspects of life.
One afternoon Pam, a woman who I had lived with when I was seventeen, walked into the office with her male companion. They were drunk and disheveled. Pam and I were very surprised to see each other. She and her male friend were homeless and asked if I could give them work in exchange for food. Pam was nineteen when I moved in with her. She seemed to have everything going for her. She was very pretty with natural blond hair and a milky cream complexion. She had a respectable job as a bank teller at Security National Bank and had many friends. She was also engaged to Blaine, a handsome attorney with a gregarious personality. They later married and had a child.
Seeing her in this condition was a terrible shock and very disturbing. I felt terrible that I could do nothing for her. When she stumbled out of the office, I broke down in tears. Allison was furious with me and at the top of her voice said, "Remember your ‘TR's’!” I got a hold of myself and stuffed my feelings.
In order to keep tabs on how we were doing our jobs, we had to maintain STATS (statistics) on all aspects of the work involved. This included how many new people signed up for courses, the number of courses, the courses completed, and the list went on. Management believed something was wrong with us if we didn’t make our quota. No matter what the situation was, we weren't trying hard enough. At one point we had meetings every evening after work, sometimes lasting until 2:00 in the morning.
Stan, the head honcho of the Sherman Oaks Org, a dark haired man who must have weighed at least 350 pounds, would yell at the top of his voice. "What the fuck do you think you're all doing out there? Get off your asses and get to work! What would Ron think of you?"
Ron Hubbard was the God of Scientology. Before our meetings, a picture of Ron was shown, and everyone would get up and raise one arm like a salute to Hitler, and yell a sign of approval and worship. Because I was so phobic, I had my little corner in the back and was able to refrain from this deified worshiping. Even though I believed at the time that his work was invaluable, there was something about him that made me squirm.
Before I was allowed to come on staff I had to go through a security clearance by the way of the sanctified lie detector--the E Meter. One of the questions asked was, "Do you have anything against Ron Hubbard?"
The always serene and centered Auditor looked up wide eyed with a disturbed alertness on his face and asked, "What do you have against Ron Hubbard?"
I giggled and with a half truth said, “Oh, really nothing except that I don't like his shabby hair."
He looked down at the E Meter and now relaxed said with a smile, "Your needle is floating."
“Ooh,” I said to myself. I got out of that one and was even able to outsmart the E Meter. They would not have liked me denying him as a God.
As time went on our little two person branch in Woodland Hills was far surpassing (STAT wise) the Sherman Oaks branch. Allison and I were highly praised by Stan. But it was a lie. Allison was calling her friends, who were already associated with Scientology, to come into our office and take courses they had already taken. It was a farce just to make our STATS look good. Every time I would say something alluding to this, Allison would shoot me down with threatening bullets spitting from her mouth. I also got the impression that there was some alliance between Stan and Allison.
These same types of threats began to seep through the cracks everywhere in the Org. If you said something in regard to Scientology or Dianetics without referring to a book of Ron's, it was called "Verbal Data." Someone would write you up and then you would be punished. Punishments varied from having to work very late at night to doing tasks like cleaning floors and toilets…and always with a demeaning and demoralizing reprimand. The same thing would happen if you continued to be late for study or work. I began to realize that paranoia was pervading Scientology anyone could be your enemy.
Allison came into the office one afternoon and said, “I am transferring to Sherman Oaks." With excitement she continues, "Management wants you to run the Woodland Hills office."
Out of fear I was very hesitant to accept the position until she said, "You can begin doing Book 1 auditing." That did it. I accepted. Book 1 auditing is very basic. No E-meter is used and anyone can learn it from the Dianetics book. I felt this was more in line with my purpose of wanting to become an auditor. Management would also bring in two people to assist me: one a cute young boy of eighteen years who was clean cut with curly brown hair, named Brad. He was great selling books out in the street. The other employee was a scruffy looking woman of twenty-two years with long sandy-brown hair, named Karen. She would be my receptionist.
I decided that when I took over this position I would not fudge with the STATS. Because the STATS weren’t as good as before, I was in big trouble and was fiercely berated. Janet, my supervisor at the Org called and yelled, "No excuses. I want the STATS up! Also, Karen told me you have too many men calling you at the office!" It surprised me that Scientology men were attracted to me. I knew I was physically attractive, but I thought my nervousness and facial tics would be a complete turnoff. Karen was jealous of me, not realizing there was certainly nothing to be jealous of. She had no idea about the suffering that I was enduring.
Janet would not listen to my reasoning about the STATS, and I had enough of Karen's infantile behavior. I voiced my opinion. "I am really tired of all this. You are all more interested in numbers than what is really happening. New people are signing up for courses. I am not going to have people come in just so my STATS will look good!"
Janet wrote me up for treason. This was not good. I had to make my amends by working seven days a week with no extra pay. I also had to clean the toilets and the floors of the Org. On top of all that, I had to have a petition signed by all the staff members agreeing they would let me continue having auditing. The staff's attitude towards me was degrading and humiliating, and that was the intent.
The staff meetings continued way into the morning hours. I was lucky to get 2 or 3 hours of sleep a night. I still never once doubted that the technology had the answers to life's mysteries and to the horrible pain I was enduring day in and day out with agoraphobia.
After one of our long staff meetings, I arrived home at 3:00 a.m. in what I would call a "numb" state. I couldn't get to a feeling level. I took a shower and let the warm water drench my face. I must have stayed in there for more than a half-an-hour, trying to feel some emotion, but there was none.
I knew I had to make a decision, either to stay and lose all of my self dignity, but would have the phobia handled. Or I would leave and have this phobia for the rest of my life and the possibility of something terrible happening to me. I was told that many former Scientologists have had horrible disasters happen to them because they left the Church. I knew the answer. I had to take my chances and leave.
I told Janet that I was leaving the organization, because it was too difficult for me to work there with the phobia. She was very nice and understanding, which was not like her. The staff members always had me in a spin with their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personalities. I'm sure Janet wouldn't have been so understanding if I told her the whole truth. I had to draw up another petition and ask the other staff members to grant me this request. They all signed it and seemed to understand my dilemma. I had it a lot easier than most people leaving Scientology, because I wasn't very valuable to them. There was a lot I couldn't do because of the phobia, like go in the streets and sell books and other promotional activities. However, their kindness would not be long lasting.
I became very close to an Australian woman, named Liz who had been with Scientology from the beginning. Although she still had confidence in the technology, she could see how corrupt the Church was getting. There were even rumors that Ron Hubbard was being held captive and was being drugged by those who had taken over Scientology. Paranoia was running more rampant every day.
Liz gave me the name of an Englishman who worked side by side with Ron in the early days. She said, "Dave and many other old timers have left the Church and are in the process of opening a center in Santa Barbara. Here take his number and give him a call. He can help you."
I was overjoyed and began to feel hopeful once again.
The sign on the door said, "The Advanced Ability Center." This is where I found Dave sitting comfortably in his soft leather recliner. With a charming English accent he said, "I'm glad you could make it. As I said on the phone, I feel the auditors may have made some mistakes. We'll do some checking on the E Meter, and then we'll know how to proceed."
According to the E Meter, some mistakes were made. I would have to do some of the processes over again. I didn't care as long as I was on the road to freedom. I had faith in Dave, and he was kind enough to allow me to have auditing without having to pay up front. I told him all about the lawsuit. “How am I going to live here with no income”? I took one step at a time. First I wanted to see how much it would cost to board my horse. I looked in the Yellow Pages under boarding stables. The first place I called was located in Goleta, which is about twenty minutes north of downtown Santa Barbara. Linda, who was the owner, was asking $250 per month to board one horse. That was astronomical to me. I asked, "Would you happen to have any job openings at the ranch?"
It just so happened she did. I went down for an interview and was hired. The ranch was breathtaking and was secluded in a valley, rich in vegetation. My job was to bandage the tails of Linda's Hackney Ponies. There were nine show ponies. Their tails had to be bandaged at night, so they would remain high. I believe the tails were originally broken for this purpose. What people do for appearances! In the morning I would simply take them off. For this service, I was given a one bedroom apartment located in the barn and free board for Dickie. I was also given $100 a month for feeding them grain on weekends.
I hadn't been able to ride Dickie for months because he developed Navicular, which is a form of degenerative arthritis. I felt that by having him with me, I could give him better care. So this arrangement was ideal.
Knowing that I would still need more than $100 to live on, I had to find a job. In the Santa Barbara News Press, I found an ad looking for a manager for a one person office. I was hired.
Throughout my spiritual journey, when things looked the dimmest, miracles like these have always happened. The universe has always supported me on my quest for the self-realization.
My auditing began. I was becoming more insightful, but the phobia was still not getting any better. About that time I had a sense that there were disembodied entities around me. I confided to my friend Liz in Los Angeles. She said in her heavy Australian accent, "Laura, you are very aware. Most people do not come to this realization until they do the upper levels." She went on to explain that the upper levels were about auditing these entities, so they will leave.
Calmly, she continued, "I feel you need to tell Dave about this. Possibly you can skip a few levels and go right to OT3. This is confidential material, so please don't tell Dave I told you."
Dave gave me permission to do the upper levels. I was able to skip OT1 and OT2 that I believe basically explain about disembodied entities. I was excited when I walked into the course room and received my confidential packet marked "OT 3 CONFIDENTIAL." I opened the folder and read about the "Wall of Fire." This refers to a mass explosion that occurred seventy-five million years ago on this planet killing millions of people. The result was that thousands of entities were stuck together and were reborn in the same body.
“Wow,” I thought to myself. The packet also contained a number of lists that I was to use to audit these beings. Some of the questions were: "Who are you?" "What are you?" It was found that not all of the beings were from human bodies, but from animal bodies. Once they understood who they were, and that they could get their own body, they would leave.
I learned how to use the E Meter and became an auditor, which I wanted to be for so long. But never did I think I would be auditing disembodied entities inside my own body. I audited these beings for months, faithfully. With some of these beings, I had a very difficult time saying goodbye to. Remember these beings were like anyone else, but just didn't have a body. I kept auditing and auditing and auditing, and more and more beings appeared. And the phobia was no better. Ten years later I would find that many of these so-called beings were sub personalities or thought forms within my own being. Maybe all of them were. I really don’t know, because it was a very mysterious process. However, I firmly believe the “Wall of Fire” was a fabrication of Ron Hubbard’s imagination.
During this time two staff members from the Church of Scientology started coming to my office to harass me, because I was involved with the Advanced Ability Center. A tall dark haired woman said firmly, "You will pay the price for leaving the Church!"
I was really tired of their threats, so I got up and stood next to her and her male cohort and spoke at the top of my voice, "Get the hell out of here, and don't you ever come to my place of work and threaten me again!" With my energy alone, I pushed them out the door.
They stopped bothering me, but then started harassing my parents. That was it. I contacted a lawyer that was working with other ex-members on a class action suit against the Church of Scientology about such matters. That handled it.
Dickie's Navicular was not improving even though I began using a so-called "miracle drug" that the Vet prescribed. One of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make was to give my horse away. As I write this, I see that the pain is still very much alive in me. I did not have enough money to take care of Dickie in the proper way. He needed much more medical attention, which I was not able to give him. I met a man who was a healer that channeled energy to Dickie's leg, and it started to improve. I offered to give him Dickie if he continued the therapy and he accepted.
I was very unhappy. My horse was no longer with me, auditing was not helping, and I hated my job, which was sitting all day in a tiny office communicating to drivers on what times to transport disabled people. I was living each moment for the phobia. I had to get on with my life--somehow.
On October 5, 1984 I quit my job and stopped auditing. I moved back to the bay area and rented a room from a friend's mother until I found work. I wanted to get back into medical sales. I didn't know how I was going to do it with the phobia still being very strong, but I just had to. I wanted a career again. I wanted to have financial independence that I once had many years before. I wanted independence period--independence that would override the phobia. A few months later I indeed got back into medical sales. I was still uncomfortable with the indiscriminate prescribing of drugs, so I sold medical equipment and supplies instead.
It's only when we look back at certain life experiences, can we see the bigger picture. As I see it now this period of my life was an important step for me on my journey toward wholeness. It was a first class lesson in seeing the dark aspects of life that one has to embrace in order to evolve spiritually and psychologically. I was slowly leaving my innocence behind. It would be a long process, and would take me years to be conscious enough to see the dark aspects within my own psyche. I learned a lot about compassion. The pain I experienced opened my heart to all other beings that have to endure suffering. I definitely feel the time with Scientology was a precursor for later stages of my development. I do thank Scientology and Ernie’s steadfast devotion in helping me become drug-free. I feel some of the techniques that are used in Scientology are very helpful, but unfortunately I have seen them used to recruit souls in pain in order to control their lives and their money. I did not observe this at the Advanced Ability Center.
I won the lawsuit and was able to pay back the money I owed to Dick Rodgers and the Advanced Ability Center.