Dearest Friends and Brethren,
Hi! My name is Rick Dupui, alias Watchman de la Mancha; and it is my great pleasure to inform you that I am now safely out of the Children of God group and have miraculously survived the ordeal with my sanity more or less intact -- ha! I would like to affectionately address the following brief history to all you ex-members of the COG who I sincerely pray will find the following account interesting and helpful. I would also like to direct this to any of you "hangers-on" who find yourself in that very uncomfortable state of sitting on the fence in never-never land where you seem unable to reality make a break with the COG or the past and, as a result, are unable to successfully reintegrate into the real ala world or forge a new identity for yourself.
It is my prayer that the following account may help in some small way to push you off the proverbial fence and to move you one step closer to full recovery, mental health and the wonderful experience of becoming a whole and integral person who is in full control of his own life and destiny. Kicking the addiction of a controlling religion such as the COG can be a difficult and psychologically wrenching experience and I know all too well how devastating the destructive phobia indoctrinations about leaving the group can be and how debilitating and tormenting the resulting feelings of condemnation can be and the havoc they can wreak in one's life. However, I am also convinced that the joy that comes with fully regaining one's own sense of freedom and true spirituality is well worth the effort and that there truly is "life after the Family".
I joined the Family in March of 1969 in Tucson, Arizona and was soon transferred to Huntington Beach to receive my initial indoctrination under "Dad's" direct teaching. At the young age of 17, I threw myself into the activities of the group with a great fervor and devotion; and for much of my first few years in the group I experienced emotional and spiritual highs that were like nothing I've experienced since. I had a keen sense of mission as I watched our little group grow from a small nucleus into a worldwide movement that was making history and the headlines and seemed to be having an impact on other contemporary religious movements and even on society at large.
I also found a tremendous sense of identity In the group as a "pioneer" and "trail blazer"; and I delighted in the challenges and adventure of fighting irate enemies and "persecution" while opening up new beachheads in major cities in the United States and, eventually, in Mexico, Central and South America. I was on-fire and gung-ho, and my own extraordinary personal experiences had convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Family was God's elite movement for this day and there was no-thing that anyone could possibly say or do to shake my rock-solid commitment.
Since my coming out of the Family five short months ago and having had the opportunity to listen extensively to the tales of other ex-members, I've come to see that while there are similarities in these experiences, there are also many distinct differences and that individual experiences of joining and leaving the Family vary greatly from person to person. Thus, as I've come to see that my own experience was indeed unique and that one reason I lasted so long is that as any role as a "pioneer", I was afforded the unique opportunity of a rare amount of freedom and liberty that kept me away from headquarters where most of the weird stuff was usually happening and where people usually tended to get screwed up and hurt the most. In addition, my position as a leader and my involvement in numerous "special ministries" made possible a very important element which is crucial to a person with my emotional and psychological make-up -- and that is the opportunity to express myself in creative and meaningful way.
The need for freedom and expression has always been very great in me and, as long as I was able to carve out a niche for myself in the Family which allowed me these essential elements, I was able to continue functioning and) in many cases, even prospering. However; later when I was forced into the position of feeling the full brunt of the totalitarian and authoritarian side of the Family in an atmosphere of overt control and manipulation, I eventually cracked -- and this is what led, thankfully, to my recent exit from the group.
Anyway, after ten exciting years in the group, things began to unravel after the RNR in 1978, and the Family as I had known it basically fell apart. Things, of course, had already been getting quite weird for a year or two before that; and this was slowly starting to erode that rock-solid conviction and perfect image I had had of the Family. Over the years, of course, as the Mo Letters had gotten increasingly bizarre, I had tended to "compartmentalize". In other words, I merely hung on to the basic conviction that my own personal experiences had clearly borne out that the Family was God's will for my life so that I simply took a lot of the weirdness and swept it under the rug, so to speak, so that I would not have to continually dwell on these potentially debilitating inconsistencies.
It was in '78 that I watched the group disintegrate into a lot of aimless little bands of very lost people who were indulging in heavy alcohol abuse as well as totally promiscuous sexual activities. I too drifted for a while, mooching off my in-laws as my own feeling of self-respect began to completely erode and I began to be ashamed of what I had become. It was at this point that I made a decision to take control of my own life and that I needed to earn a living and do something to support my wife and children whom I dearly loved.
One week of enthusiastic job hunting with a carefully crafted resume and a meticulously rehearsed interview style landed me an executive position with the sales and marketing division of the Holiday Inn Hotel Corporation. As I threw myself into that career with the same fire and fervor that I had once reserved for "God's work", I came immediately to the notice of my superiors and enjoyed a, what was by all accounts, meteoric rise within that largest of hotel corporations. During this time, I had discarded completely the idea of ever returning to the Family. I merely looked on it as a closed chapter of the book of my life and because my coining out had so little stress attached to it, I experienced almost none of the post-cult trauma more commonly associated with ex-cult members.
The hardest thing for me was living with two identities. In other words, since I was somewhat less than honest on my resume and was working in a very conservative corporate environment in which image meant everything, I had to play this role and be this completely different person during my work and related social activities. And the only place I could be myself and let out my true feelings was in the arms of my wife, sweet Katrina, and in the company of my own family. My parents, thank God, were very supportive of me during this period; and my bond with them grew very close during this time out of the Family. This split identity syndrome began to eat away at me after a while because, in spite of the fact that I had a high-profile position that necessitated me being very active socially, most of my acquaintances were on a very superficial plane and I, of course, missed the camaraderie and in-depth friendships that I had known in the group.
The lack of a spiritual alternative with which to replace the Family was also difficult for us since we had been so indoctrinated against any churches and I didn't feel any inclination to reach out for this kind of fellowship or to find some alternate spiritual practice or belief. Besides, it seemed that making a living and raising a family took just about all the energy I had and there wasn't much time or strength left to contemplate spiritual matters or the deeper meaning of life. As time went on, the rough-and-tumble world of corporate politics began to wear on me; and there were several Instances when I was obliged to ignore my conscience and basic principles in order to protect my career in the company; and this proved disturbing and disillusioning.
When Faithy and Juan showed up in Mexico City in the summer of 1981, I was probably at my most vulnerable stage. Even though I initially resisted their advances, they proved their skills in recruiting and I eventually succumbed to their persistence. There were a lot of dynamics at work in my decision to rejoin the Fancily at that point. I must honestly confess that there was an element of escapism in that I wanted to be free from a lot of the pressures and frustrations of the "rat race", and the simple life of faith and the great sense of community very much appealed to me at that moment.
The video tapes that Faithy and Juan showed us, with images of all of these people I had known and loved through time years serving God together with their children, living in harmony and love (or so it appeared in the videos -- ha!) had a very powerful effect on me and it reawakened a lot of the deep emotions that had been pretty much inactive since my leaving the Family. Seeing all the little children on the video tapes "serving God" and doing their little singing numbers also made me feel I was denying my own children a great "heritage of faith" and I became convinced that rejoining the Family would be the most responsible thing to do for their well-being as well. Thus, along with the escapism, there was a very real element of sincerity in wanting to serve God again.
So, the combination of all these things led us to the decision to forsake all once more and rejoin the Family. The fact that this totally severed relations with my parents and meant me turning down an incredible offer from Holiday Inns only tended to confirm even more how this decision was "of God" and to bathe the whole thing in an aura of self-denial and religious martyrdom.
After a rather rocky start in Puerto Rico, I was asked to take over the MCV (Spanish Musica Con Vida) project which was in its infancy stages at the time. For the two-and-a-half years that I headed up the MCV offices I had an overall meaningful and exciting time together with the sense of mission and a tangible project that I could sink my teeth into and feel inspired about.
During this period, "the folks" (Mo and Maria) were buttering me up quite a bit and were apparently grooming me for a career in World Services as they were thrilled with the job we had done with the MCV office and were hoping for greater things in the future. However, a series of events at the end of my tenure proved that I still had this rebellious and independent streak; and my reluctance to follow some mindless orders from "Dad" himself led to our dismissal from World Services in December of 1983. This was my entry into that fascinating world of political intrigue and power politics known as World Services.
We were then more or less "exiled" to Central America where, frankly, I was thrilled with our new-found freedom; and we were once again able to operate according to our own faith. I was certain that I never wanted to go back into such a confining atmosphere as that of a World Service unit. It was here that I also had my first involvement with professional video production and through this became convinced that the Family could greatly benefit by using this very powerful medium. I began pushing for this in my communications with "the folks" .
Almost from the start, I received quite a bit of opposition from them. Once I began working on the End-Time video project, I received actual orders from the folks to cease these activities and I very politely declined to go along with this as I was already quite committed to the project, having received the help of various brethren to purchase equipment, etc. This independence got my nowhere with the folks, needless to say; and by the time I finished and was able to send out the project , I decided to give in and turn myself over to the local Family authorities who were at that time Seek & Servant. Also, due to the inherent unhealthiness of the COG lifestyle and the power I had as a leader over other people's lives In Central America, I began to feel genuinely guilty about some of the things I had done.
This guilt was a powerful force in bringing about my decision to "give myself up". In a tightly controlled and totalitarian religious system such as the COG, the concept of God is so closely intertwined with the system itself that it is virtually impossible to disassociate the two. In my mind, to yield to God was to yield to the Family; and the genuine guilt I was feeling about my abuses of power in Central America only tended to confirm that the leaders were really right about me, that I was desperately tripped off and needed to repent.
Upon my surrender, I was separated from my family and sent to Seek & servant's Home in Monterrey, Mexico where I endured seven weeks of "obedience and humility training" . In the past several years, the Family has institutionalized this concept of "retraining centres" and virtually every major field has Its own program of this type where errant teens and adults arc sent and subjected to intense emotional and psychological abuse in order to badger them into a place of total submission. In my case, by tile end of six weeks , they finally extracted a confession out of me in much the same way communist captors have done to their political prisoners in recent history. There are hundreds and perhaps thousands of other cults which employ similar tactics; but from what I've seen and read I'd venture to say that the COG are among the most brutal.
I, of course, ended up submitting totally and even sold all my audio-visual equipment and gave the money to the work as a further indication of my total repentance and state of yieldedness. Nonetheless, in the aftermath of all this, the hard reality began to sink In that r simply couldn't be a clone and that, again, being the kind of person that I am, I needed some kind of outlet for my creative energies in order to survive in the Family. I found myself in a terrible state. It was at about this time that I realized that I really didn't wish to remain in the Family anymore. On the other hand, I was emotionally trapped since I was of course very attached to my dear wife and precious children and since I didn't feel I had a viable spiritual alternative to offer them outside the Family, I felt like I was caught between a rock and a hard place.
This conflict eventually plunged me into the depths of despair and a state of depression which culminated in my return to my parents' house in early 1987 so that I would have time to assess the situation and contemplate a response. It was there at my parents' that I once again became enthused with the prospects of initiating an audio-visual ministry within the Family. I reasoned that if I could get some equipment together and produce some videos of real merit that the Family would at least tolerate this and I would thereby find a place of service within the Family that I could live with which would also allow me to stay with my family. My dear parents very lovingly financed my purchase of several thousand dollars worth of video production equipment, and I returned with this to Mexico.
Shortly thereafter, I was invited to attend the South American Teen Training Camp in Peru and after some initial resistance was able to convince Juan to allow me to send for my camcorder and began filming with the prospect of later putting together a series of videos covering the highlights of this event. I returned to Mexico with several hours of footage and was able to put together a series of videos which caused quite a sensation within the Family and eventually earned me an invitation to Japan from the folks themselves to come and produce videos .
Even though accepting this invitation entailed the "temporary" separation of myself and my family, Katrina and I both felt it was a real open door from the Lord and we, of course, felt certain that if it did blossom into any kind of a major ministry that she and the children would be brought over in the not too distant future. This assumption proved to be dead wrong. As I look back on it now, I have to honestly admit that they had every intention of separating me from Katrina and the rest of my family as they have done with so many other families throughout the history of the group.
Once in Japan, I found myself in a completely foreign and totally controlled environment, effectively cut off from all emotional support systems. with all incoming and outgoing mall being strictly censored. About a month-and-a-half after my arrival, Mo, Maria, Peter and company showed up at the school in Japan and a couple days later I received a personal phone call from Maria giving me counsel on a new PR video which she wanted me to produce for the work in Japan (interestingly enough, she mentioned she got the idea from watching the video the Moonies produced for their recruitment purposes in Japan!). I was also dealing extensively during this period with Peter Amsterdam (Maria's right-hand man) and also had contact with other members of the folks' personal staff.
It was during this period that I got to meet "Davidito" (Maria's son, then in his early teens) and saw him as being a poor little abused introverted boy who seemed to be greatly disturbed and very fearful. While at the school, Davidito briefly had the experience of getting out of what had been a cloistered and basically controlled environment and being able to freely associate with other young people his age there at the school. Unfortunately for him, he began to exhibit some "independent" and "cool" tendencies; and he soon disappeared from the school altogether. Sometime later, we received a Mo letter which explained his sudden absence. It was one of those horrible, vitriolic blasts in which Mo very harshly and cruelly took this poor young man apart while threatening him with the judgements of God and physical violence, etc.
Anyway, the situation continued with me at the school having to fight with Peter and the other leaders there in order to get the equipment I needed to begin production and constantly having to do a "sales job" assuring them that their investment would be more than worth it once we were able to produce some good videos of high enough quality for the General Public which the Family could market in various languages worldwide .
This was fulfilled in the production of the first "Kiddie Viddies". Within six months, the videos had proved to be the Family's hottest outreach tool as well as the biggest source of financial income the Family had ever had (especially now that FF'ing was curtailed) .
To recount in detail the highlights of my four-year stay in Japan would take far more time and space than we have available here. But I can sum it up by saying that it was an incredible tale of manipulation and cult mind control in its purest form. Due to my independent nature, I ran afoul of the Family authorities on many occasions and received some very severe discipline in the way of demotions to "babe" status, worldwide rebukes in COG publications, severe restriction and two months spiritual terrorism as an inmate at one of the "victor programs" which was very similar in many ways to the time I had spent in Seek & Servant's retraining centre in Mexico. However, I must say they have refined their tactics with the net effect of producing an even more oppressive and brutal system of thought reform. The mental, psychological and even physical abuse of young people I witnessed while at this location in Yokohama was greater than anything I had observed several years before at Seek & Servant's Home.
Also due to the fact that I am by nature a very emotional person who was devastated by my loss of Katrina and our children, I soon began reaching out for a meaningful relationship with a woman. In many ways it seemed for me, being able to maintain close and intimate relationship with another human being was a way of staying in touch with reality in an otherwise very unreal situation, and it also helped me to maintain a measure of my humanity in an otherwise very inhuman situation. However, whenever I would get very close and intimate with someone, the relationship would be systematically and abruptly terminated as a means of discipline and control. So I went through a series of four consecutive relationships during my four years in Japan, each of which was terminated in this brutal and compassionless manner. Since two of these relationships initially involved children, the net effect of all this was to slowly transform me into the equivalent of emotional shredded wheat. It was the source of extreme psychological torment .
The thing that made it doubly devastating was that I was taking all these things as coming straight from the hand of God, and it finally got to the point where I simply could not understand how God could be so cruel or what exactly it was He was expecting of me. I had a number of very sincere ìrepentances" and tried desperately to play the martyr role. During the many periods in which I would totally subjugate myself to the group and their will, I would be praised as a "great testimony" and people would marvel, "Wow, Watch is such a new creature!" However, it was in such total violation of who I really was as a person and was having to constantly suppress so many emotions and so much truth about the situation that I was becoming an emotional time bomb, like so many in today's Family -- both children and adults .
The thing that kept me going in this incredible time was the sense of responsibility I felt before God in regards to the video ministry. The videos seemed so wonderful and wholesome, and we would receive reams of glowing testimonies from around the world regarding all the glorious victories being won thru tine distribution of these videos. So it seemed like no price was too great to pay and that thru all this suffering I was merely being given the very high privilege to suffer a form of martyrdom in order to help establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Whenever things would get really awful, I would always go back to that Mo Letter "Schtick" where Mo severely warned Simon Peter that if he left the MWM radio ministry that God would judge and probably kill him, etc. I felt that the video ministry was my call from God and that no matter how awful thing's got, I simply could not abandon it or let down the other people who were depending on my presence there.
However, at precisely the end of my four-year tenure in Japan, the situation had changed somewhat, since I was finally able to completely train someone who could take over much of what I was doing. At this point, I merely requested a temporary leave of absence and asked if I could go see my folks in Texas for a couple months, as I was feeling very stressed out due to all the emotional upheavals I'd been thru there in Japan and felt I needed a little bit of time away to rest and recuperate.
Far from receiving a reasonable response to this very legitimate request, this instead was the catalyst for two months of a horror almost too incredible to describe. I was put under house arrest, and this is where I saw the Family's supposed love turn into the most intense hatred one could possibly imagine. Thru sleep deprivation, exorcisms, hard labour and other incredibly harsh methods of mental, psychological, emotional and even physical abuse; I was reduced basically to mush and was hanging on to sanity by a thread.
I was eventually put on a flight out of Japan as a complete mental, physical and emotional wreck. Although I was in such a bad state that I was suffering severe anxiety attacks during the flight home, I still tried to "witness" to others on the plane and at the airports , since I was so fearful that God was going to strike me dead and I figured as long as I was witnessing He might not do it. My parents were absolutely shocked to see the horrible state I was in when I arrived, as I looked very much like a P.O.W. camp survivor and I was not the same person they had known four years before,
One week after being back in the States, I realized that I needed professional help and was able to get in touch with a very qualified psychologist who began to take a very special interest in helping me . This man began to give me many hours of free counseling time and, when he finally heard the full story of what had happened to me in Japan, he was incredulous. This very experienced professional told me that in all his years as a psychological counselor he had never come across a case of such brutal tactics and such cruel and inhuman mind control and brainwashing. He told me it was his professional opinion that it was an absolute miracle, clinically speaking, that I could be sitting before him as a sane individual recounting my story to him, in light of all that had happened.
The crux of the whole matter in my mind at the time was the issue of whether the Family was really right or not, and I desperately determined that I needed to come to an honest and un-biased conclusion on this very important issue. Far from being an "enemy", I started out defending the Family to everyone I spoke with; and it was only as I verbalized all the horror that had happened to me and saw the reaction of other compassionate and unbiased human beings, that it began to dawn on me just how out of it the Family really is.
The last thing I wanted to do was cop out or get caught up in a "disgruntled former employee" syndrome in which I would attack the Family just because I had had a bad experience and was un-able to make the grade myself. So much about the Family still, looked so good to me: Look at all these dedicated people serving God and all these children are so dedicated. How could they be, so wrong? I fought and defended and had given my life to this group for over twenty years. How can I all of a sudden turn around and say it's all bad?
Well, the fact of the matter is that I can't say it's all bad because very few things in this life are that simple. Most of life, in fact, consists of complex issues in which there are shades of grey and variable factors to consider. Sometimes it feels comfortable to try and concoct some tidy little doctrine regarding our Family experience, but the truth is that each of us had very different experiences in the Family, some good and some bad; so it is neither safe nor accurate to make blanket generalizations .
For instance, as stated earlier, I had come to see clearly that my status as a leader and pioneer who was on the outer fringes of the Family made my experience somewhat unique in that it kept me a bit out of the mainstream and helped protect me from the horrible experiences that bad been happening to other people all along. It has shocked me to hear the stories of so many ex-members and to learn or the horrible atrocities which were committed throughout the entire history of the Family. Sometimes it's made me wonder, "Where was I?" It's not easy to admit that something you've given most of your adult life to is basically wrong.
However, while it is certainly hard to admit that I was wrong; I have found great healing and peace in facing and accepting the truth. I believe one very important thing for anybody who's been in the Family or any other destructive cult to realize is that we've all in some way been victimized and that we were honestly trying to serve God and do what we thought was best during much of our time in the Family. Needless to say, we all have to deal honestly also with our own responsibility for the things we, personally did which we know were wrong and immoral. In my case, I can thank God that I was fortunate enough to encounter some very fine human beings who were very loving and accepting in their approach to my experience and didn't condemn me or try to shove some other religious dogma or doctrine down my throat. If there's anything that someone coming out of a destructive cult needs it's compassion and understanding; and I'm happy to say that I was fortunate enough to make these type of associations to which I credit my relatively rapid recovery.
I was also greatly helped by reading very many good books on topics such as human psychology, cults and spiritual abuse which helped me to "demythify" my cult experience and to look honestly and objectively at what had happened to me. Also, hearing the horror stories of other ex-members greatly helped strengthen my convictions, particularly the stories of unspeakable terror and torture told by some of the children who'd been in the group such as Mene (Merry Berg) who was actually at the folks' house and later at a teen detention centre in Macau . Her true stories and the accounts of other ex-Family teens, as well as my own experience, helped confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Family has turned into one of the most destructive of the cults.
Certainly it was very hard for me initially to look at the Family as a destructive cult, since I always felt we were preaching Christ and, as such, did not rank in the same category with those that I felt were actually cults such as the Hare Krishnas, the Moonies, etc. However, one thing that really opened my eyes is when I started reading some accounts of ex-cult members from such groups as the Moonies and found that the spiritual dynamics at work were virtually identical to the things I had experienced in the Family. It was also interesting to read about other extremely severe authoritarian fundamentalist groups and to see that, again, across the board, the experiences of those ex-members were virtually identical to what those of us in the Family had experienced.
After coming to grips with all these issues and searching my heart regarding what I should do, I became convinced that I could not simply walk away from the situation and I felt constrained to take some concrete action -- not only to try and rescue my own family from the group but also to do everything I possibly can to expose and oppose the evil which the Family is perpetrating in the name of God.
This decision led me to return to Japan in July where I actually was able to return to the compound where I had been living and personally face down the leaders there and confront them with the truth of what had happened to me and so many others. Needless to say, this caused quite a stir and commotion there as I was also working with a major Japanese news magazine in order to expose the group as well as to bring many of their illegal activities to the attention of the authorities in that country.
Although I was not successful in getting my own family out of the group, I had determined that no matter what the outcome, I was not going to let the group intimidate me, as I have a sense of responsibility that, extends beyond my own immediate family and I feel it very important for me to take a definite stand and to do whatever I can to protect others from joining the Family and to help others, especially the young people, to find a way out or that trap.
I am presently working with the authorities in several key countries; and it is absolutely amazing to see how God is bringing together so many people and situations to assist in these efforts at this critical time. It has also been extraordinary to meet go many genuinely concerned and compassionate human beings around the world who are helping to oppose and expose what the Family is doing, with no other motive than to help the young people who are victims of a destructive religious system which they did not choose. I certainly have no intention of spending tine rest of my life fighting religious cults; but due to all that I have heard and learned in the past several months, I don't feel that I can simply walk away from the situation with a good conscience. I believe it is necessary and right for me to dedicate my energy and time at this point in my life to assist this important work in any way I can.
On the bright side let me say that in spite of all the trauma and upheavals in my life, I have experienced a wonderful recovery and I am actually having one of the most meaningful and fulfilling periods of my entire life. I don't think I have ever felt more aware and alive; and I am revelling in my new-found freedom as well as having the experience of being able to literally rediscover so much of life all over again. It's also been comforting and helpful to realize that my Family experience has helped to make me a unique individual and that I now possess strengths and insights which are very special and valuable and which can be constructively applied to my new life. This can be said of all of us who were in the Family, and it is extremely healing to look on our cult experience as an asset, as something that can actually work in our favor.
Since I was a leader at different stages of my Family experience, I want to take this opportunity to sincerely ask the forgiveness of whomever I might have hurt or offended during my time in the Family. I know that many times I was very immature, selfish and insensitive; and there is no question in my mind that there were many times when I did or said things which may have proved hurtful to others. If anyone reading this is among those I might have hurt, then I ask you to accept this sincere apology.
On this very important topic of recovery, it has come to my attention that some ex-members have fallen into the trap of looking for another religious system to replace the one that they left. In my observation, this is one of the biggest mistakes that can be made. I believe one of the main keys to a full and healthy recovery is to rediscover the thrill of being an individual again and becoming a whole and complete person. It's certainly scary to have to admit that your old "road map" is outdated and erroneous and to have to formulate an entirely new "map" for the rest of your life; but at the same time, if taken positively, this can be very thrilling and challenging. Out in the "real" world, each of us has to take responsibility for our own destinies and discover reality for ourselves. But, again, this can be an exciting and fulfilling prospect. Receiving professional counseling from a qualified psychologist can be a great shortcut and has been a tremendous help to many of us. There are a couple of cult clinics across the country that have excellent psychologists on their staff who offer counseling at a very reduced rate . You'll be happy to know there are many excellent psychologists, both Christian and secular, around the country who are available to help.
Books can be an excellent source of comfort and guidance . The following are some that have been of help to me personally: The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck;Healing The Child Within by Charles Whitfield; Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steve Hassan; Holy Terror by Flo Conway and Jim Siegleman; Churches That Abuse by Ron Enroth (there's another excellent one on this topic called The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse); The Rape Of The Mind by Joost Am Meerloo; Thought Reform and the Psychology Of Totalism by Robert Lifton; and I've also found the works of Abraham Maslow and Victor Frenkle to be very thought-provoking and helpful as well.
Whether you seek counseling and support in a Christian or more broad-based environment, my advice is to seek out support systems that are very supportive and loving and allow a large measure of freedom and open-mindedness with regards to doctrines and belief systems, etc. Entering into a good fitness program is a great idea; and the boon of added self-confidence you can gain from such a program greatly promotes clear thinking and is an added defense towards succumbing to the temptations of alcoholism or drug abuse.
I sincerely wish you the very best ... and remember, today is the first day of the rest of our lives! May God bless and keep you! - Rick (Watchman).