I was thirteen years old when I began seeking a spiritual life. I was dabbling in a bit of everything before I settled on the path of Native American Spirituality. A friend brought me to a small prayer circle in my area; the experience filled a need that I could not explain. I regularly began attending. The way that the women spoke of god and prayer intrigued me. I wanted what they seemed to have. So I showed up, with each circle and ceremony I became more attached to the idea they presented. We were all related, and everything had a life force. The years rolled on, and I became a staple at ceremony and gatherings.
As with everything there was a darker side to this spiritual path. Culty and militant in its definition. Based on my level of sickness I was attracted to this avenue instantly. I want to be very clear that Native American Spirituality is not a cult. There are many healthy avenues in which you can express yourself on this path. I did not choose those avenues. I met the leader of a group that practiced ceremony a few states away from me at a gather I attended. Her name was Elaine. I was taken with her instantly. She spoke of protocol and power. These were things I longed to obtain. The rules were set and rigid, in order to heal you must serve. My life had felt out of balance for so long, she spoke of being free through work and dedication. I decided she was the person I needed to follow in order gain knowledge; I would spend a couple of years traveling to pray with her on the weekends. Part of the cult mentality was that she was our leader. You are to take care of your leaders selflessly in order to get the prize. I was very good at this part, quickly I became a favorite. Based on this attention I was hooked.
My father died a month before my eighteenth birthday. Though we had not been close his death took quite a toll on me emotionally. I was visiting my mentor at this time of his death. The group rallied around me in a way that I did not believe was possible. They loved me well and by the end of my visit it was decided I would move in with Elaine. I was excited to be closer to this spiritual giant and even more thrilled to be escaping my demons. Of course, this was not truly the case. Shortly after moving in, I became Elaine’s student. Student meant I was her personal slave. The trade was my free will, for spiritual knowledge. The relationship was instantly abusive; I stayed because I was convinced this is how it was supposed to be. I had no idea that I had been groomed to believe that she was a spiritual leader, and I was nothing. My job was to take care of her, protect her and serve in silence. I did this well.
Things began to change around my twenty first birthday. The abuse was becoming more brazen, and those within our community simply refused to see it. While I was not the only student, I was the most equipped to handle the punishment. This punishment consisted of verbal assaults, emotional terrorism and public shaming. Sleep deprivation was used as a training technique my brainwashing was complete. Still, something inside me began to rebel. At this point, my marriage to a fellow member was in shambles. No matter what I did for Elaine it was not enough and I was wrong. At this point, I began to seek distance. Working extra shifts so that I could not attend the ceremonies and emotionally detaching. I felt trapped, four hundred miles away from home, and the only people I knew were cult members. It was a lonely and painful time. I was full of confusion and made very poor decisions.
After six years sober, I relapsed. It was an effort to escape for which I have no explanation. Relapsing was an unforgivable sin as far as my cult was concerned. I had failed them and was no longer of use. As a result, I was excommunicated and asked to leave the state. I did just that. At the time I felt my life was over, looking back it was the best gift I have ever been given. Though it has been a long and tumultuous road, I have lived through it. When I arrived home, I was simply a shell. It took hard work to connect in with my true self. I have had to learn to have a voice and to be my own leader. The assistance that those around me have given is immeasurable. Finding spirituality was not an option at first but after some time I was willing to search for that connection again. surprisingly I found it still remained in Native American Spirituality. I was finally able to attach with healthy people practicing traditional values. Today my life is complete, and I am truly free.