Updated: Feb 2
As I share my story, I do so not out of a desire for revenge or spite, but from a place of humility. I understand the value of storytelling as a tool for processing my experiences, learning from them, and growing in both my spirituality and humanity. And through this sharing, I hope to find resolution.
You may already know that I have grappled with feelings of betrayal, low self-worth, and a sense of not belonging. My journey led me to a group for women who are on a spiritual path, only to be rejected for simply being myself - a human being in my humanity.
To give you a deeper understanding of where I was coming from, let me provide some context. A little over three years ago, I found myself at the end of a five-year downward spiral. This was a time in my life that could be described as the "Dark Night of the Soul."
Struggling to cope with the difficulties that life had thrown my way, I turned to alcohol as a form of solace. I will spare you the details of the trauma and turmoil that I experienced during that time, but I will say that I am grateful for each and every experience, both the good and the bad, as they have shaped me into the person I am today.
In July of 2019, I made the decision to get sober and reclaim my power. The journey to sobriety has been anything but easy, as I was a people-pleaser, codependent, and an accommodator, constantly allowing the world around me to use and abuse me. But getting sober was the first step in my journey of self-discovery and self-actualization. I found support in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a program that has been a critical part of my story.
As a feminist, I have faced challenges within the AA program, which was developed in the 1930s when the dominant social structures were not being critically examined. The language in the AA literature, the Big Book, is outdated, with a patriarchal tone that has sometimes made me uncomfortable. However, these challenges have only served to deepen my understanding of myself and the world around me.
My story is constantly evolving as I continue on my journey of self-discovery. I write often about my experiences, my perspectives, and my growth. My hope is not to impose my views or beliefs on others but rather to offer insight into my travels and encourage others to trust their own paths and define their own realities.
Returning to the story at hand, I joined the spiritual women's group seeking connection, love, and spiritual openness. I longed for a community that was different from AA, where the focus was not solely on sobriety but on the shared journey of spiritual growth. At first, the group was a source of light and inspiration, and I thought I had found my tribe. But I was soon disappointed by the ego-driven behavior of the group leader.
As a witness from the sidelines, I have been observing this community for the past two months, ever since I decided to leave. Yet it wasn't until a week ago that I finally mustered the courage to share my story, to give voice to my experiences. The act of speaking my truth was cathartic, a healing process in its own right. To my surprise, many people read it and responded with comments, offering validation and support. I felt uplifted and content to leave it at that.
But then a woman reached out to me through a private message. Her story resonated with me deeply, as she was also searching for love on this unpredictable journey of life. She had faced numerous challenges, including emotional abuse from a member of this community. As a justice-seeker, I could not stand idly by and watch this woman, or others like her, suffer in silence. My drive for justice was overwhelming and I felt compelled to act.
So I sent a message to the fifteen most active women in the group, warning them of the pain and trauma caused by their leader's actions. I expressed my concerns that this leader may harm others and was unwilling to take responsibility. While my message may not have been perfect, I tried my best to expose the truth and bring awareness to a situation that was being hidden.
Many of the women responded with gratitude for my warning, but one woman accused me of harassment and being vengeful and toxic. This hurt deeply and I questioned my motives. Was I just seeking revenge against someone who had wronged me? Was I becoming toxic myself? Was this just a petty power play between women?
In the days that followed, I struggled with these thoughts and feelings, grappling with the idea that I may have caused harm by speaking out. Was it necessary? Was it kind?
Although I was no longer a member of the community and unable to post or comment, I still had access to read the messages of the other women. Some may argue that this was voyeuristic and potentially harmful to my well-being, and I would agree. It was difficult to confront the unkind things some of the women said about me, someone they had never met and knew nothing about.
But what I discovered through my observations was that this leader had created a false image of me, portraying me as a monster in the eyes of others. She continued to manipulate and deceive the other women, hiding the truth from them. I felt defeated and like a failure, having failed to help anyone, including myself.
The leader even made baseless claims that someone else in the group had shared the private emails of some of the women (which I had no access to). It was unclear what her intentions were, but it was a clear lie.
She claimed that I was not "awakened" enough to understand right from wrong, accusing me of projecting my own insecurities onto her and the group. She called me a liar and insinuated that she had gifts that I, and most other women, did not possess. She tried to turn the other women against me, trying to define my worth as a woman and a human being.
But this is where I arrived at a newfound sense of resolve. As I continued to read the messages, I realized that I was allowing this leader to determine my identity, to define who I was. I was falling into a rabbit hole, believing her words and losing sight of my own truth.
The moment arrived when she showed her true colors. It was a turning point, an unveiling of her humanity. I watched as she engaged in the very behavior that I had warned others about. She gaslit and humiliated a member of her community, revealing her vulnerability and her capacity for harm.
Yet, in that moment, I was reminded of my own humanity, and the shared struggle for dignity, acceptance, and love that connects us all. For no one is truly better or worse than another, and in this realization, I found my own strength and worth.
My journey towards self-acceptance and belongingness has taught me that love is an action, not just a feeling. And it is through the practice of giving love that I have found a wealth of love in return. This love sustains me, even in moments of darkness, and reminds me that all that I need is within me.
Forgiveness and love are integral to my spiritual path, for they are the means by which I seek to heal and grow, both for myself and for others. May I always strive to act with love as my intention, and may I extend forgiveness to myself and others for the complexities of our shared human experience.