Join me on today's episode where guest, Alesia Galati, tells her full story (for the very first time!) of growing up in a cult with her mom and siblings. Alesia and I chat about how they ended up in the cult, what the cult was like, things that took place there, how she managed to leave, life after the cult and her healing process.
This episode is full of ups and downs as Alesia shares the good and bad of the cult and how much it has impacted her as an adult.
As you will hear from the episode, Alesia is such a wonderful woman and her story is full of empowering lessons that remind us that our past does not have to be our future.
I am so grateful that Alesia picked the Badass Moms Club to share her full story for the first time.
Alesia also has a podcast with her sister where they chat about cults. Her podcast is called Two Sisters and a Cult (pssttt...you need to check it out!!). Speaking of podcasts, Alesia is also a podcast producer and helps other aspiring podcasters to launch their own podcast!
Instagram for podcast production: alesia.galati
Instagram for Two Sisters and a Cult: twosisterscult
Facebook: Alesia Galati
Listen to Two Sisters and a Calt: https://www.twosisterscult.com/
Are you an aspiring podcaster? Check out Alesia's podcast program here: http://alesiagalati.com/launch-your-podcast-group/
As always, if you want to connect with me on Instagram: jeshessels
And if you have loved this episode, please do go rate & review on the platform you listen to!
Love you all
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When 18 Months Became 10 Years
Alesia’s mom was a single parent to 5 kids for most of her life, with Alesia being the oldest. Her mom was addicted to drugs for the majority of her life and the family lost her last year to her addiction. Her mom found religion when she was 21 years old and Alesia was 4 at the time. Alesia grew up in a small community of church going people.
When Alesia was 11 years old, her mom fell heavily into drugs and prostitution. She wanted to do right by her kids and raise them as good people. And so, she ended up moving from New York to New Jersey to attend a Women’s Program for drug-addicted women and their children. The program was great in the sense that it got Alesia’s mom clean, but there wasn’t really anywhere to go or anything to do there. While Alesia was there, she obtained her GED at the local community college, which is where she met her now husband. The program was supposed to be an 18-month program. But they ended up staying for 10 years.
Alesia left the program when she was 21 years old, knowing that something wasn’t quite right with it all. She moved in with her husband 7 years ago, knowing that she no longer wanted to be responsible for her siblings and her mom any longer.
The program facilities were set on about 50 acres of land. There was a lodge where all the women lived in a big camp style building. There was also a canteen, classrooms, gym, director’s house, maintenance houses, two staff houses, and a chapel on the land. It was free to be part of the program, but they encouraged you to give at least 10% of your income to them if you were making money.
Alesia feels that the program had a hand in her mom’s relapse. She doesn’t have an issue with organized religion as long as you can go home and live your life. But when the organization starts to twist their power and hold you hostage and never actually trains you in how to make your life better, that’s a problem. It was supposed to teach Alesia’s mom how to live in the world and make better choices, but instead it held her captive for 10 years and told her that she would never be able to live without the organization’s influence.
When it was coming up to the 18-month mark of the program, the organization changed it to a 24-month program, which Alesia found weird. After Alesia’s mom finished her two years that’s when she started going back to school. She was told that she couldn’t get a job on the outside and had to work in the school or teach classes for the women. It was a cycle of recycling.
After the program, some women did leave but they had this black mark placed upon them from the group. It was assumed that they would come back and that no one could survive out there on their own. There were always less than 100 but more than 50 people living at the organization at any given time.
Something Isn’t Right
For Alesia, it was a progressive realization that things were not right with this organization or program. To find yourself in a cult there is a massive amount of denial because you’ve invested so much of your time and energy into something that doesn’t align with your values.
Alesia was around 17 or 18 when she started dreaming big about what she wanted to do with her life. She never had any desire to do drugs or get pregnant at a young age like her mom because she watched her mom do those things. Alesia just wanted to go and be awesome where ever she was. The organization looked through everyone’s mail and monitored their internet activities. They noticed that Alesia was looking into schools and they saw that she wanted to live her life outside of the structure. Alesia was told that she had to go to Bible College or else she would go to hell. Alesia had never had an actual job except what was within the community and she also couldn’t drive. She had never had to do anything on her own and she didn’t know what to do. Bible College was paid for and she would have shelter and food on the table. What could she really complain about?
But as Alesia started to meet other people who claimed to be Christians, she realized there were other ways to grow up outside of this. That people were kind, weren’t addicted to drugs, and were living great lives. Alesia knew she could do that too. But why did she feel as though she couldn’t?
It took a year after Alesia’s mom left the organization for her to realize the extremeness of what she was part of for the past 10 years. They had left temporarily at one point throughout their stay due to Alesia’s mom getting in trouble regarding PG13 movies that weren’t allowed but her mom was hiding. This happened between Alesia’s first and second year at Bible College. At this point, Alesia’s mom was a registered nurse at the local hospital and they were living at one of the two off-site locations where staff lived.
When Alesia’s mom was caught with the movies she had been hiding, she was asked to get rid of them or leave. At this time, she was married to the director’s brother. And they decided to leave and move to Arizona with Alesia’s aunt and uncle, who were the ones that actually brought them all to the camp originally.
They lived with Alesia’s aunt and uncle in Arizona for 2 months. But Alesia’s mom felt she couldn’t do it anymore and needed to go back. It was hard for Alesia’s mom to make decisions for herself and being at the organization, they made the decisions for you. There’s almost this lack of control where you don’t have to worry about situations because they tell you exactly what you should do. As someone who was un-diagnosed at the time with manic depressive disorder and who wasn’t receiving medication because the organization didn’t believe in it, it was easier for Alesia’s mom to be there and have her decisions made for her.
So, they went back. And Alesia’s mom was really happy to be back and they thought this was where they’d live for the rest of their lives. But Alesia’s mom did finally leave. Alesia isn’t sure what the catalyst was that finally made her leave, but it could have been because Alesia’s grandmother was getting older and her mom wanted to be there for her. A year after she left, Alesia’s mom realized that her mental health was the impact and the reason for her drug abuse. And she was officially diagnosed as a manic depressive and came to terms with what was controlling her life.
The word cult has only been around since the early 1900’s. Before that, these types of organizations were known as religions or religious movements. But the only difference between a cult and a religion is longevity. We all have these ideas of what a cult is. But really it can just be a more aggressive approach from your church.
Alesia dealt with mostly mental extremes as opposed to physical extremes during her time at the organization. It was the beliefs that were instilled in her that were the most negative. For example, she grew up believing that if she did yoga, she was opening herself up to harmful spirits because that is what she was taught. She had a lot of ideas instilled within her that she had to learn to let go of. And then learn to pick up the pieces that she felt were right.
Being at the organization created a warped view of how Alesia saw the world. And it was one that put mental health on the back burner and was based on one-sided information. The organization mentally warped how you act and interact with other people. And it was crippling in a physical way because you can’t live an amazing life. Alesia had this preconceived idea of what the world was like and what the people in the world were like. She had to let go of every idea that they instilled in her and figure things out for herself very quickly.
When Alesia first left, she found herself drowning a bit. What did she really want out of life? What was she even doing? What did she want to do? She moved in with her husband in June of 2013 and she got pregnant in September of that year. Alesia got a job at a manufacturing company and was there for 6 ½ years. Alesia knew she wanted more than what she saw her mom have. She began thinking about how she wanted to raise her kids and what kind of beliefs she wanted to teach them.
After her first child, Alesia struggled with postpartum depression. She felt lost, alone, and unsure what to do. Eventually, Alesia found an online community of women who were talking about this. And that’s when she realized that what she wanted was community, but one with a connection through interests and values.
A Mixture of Feelings
Alesia feels a mixture of positive and negative feelings toward her experience as a whole with the organization. As the oldest child of her siblings, she always took on the responsibility of mother. She was very conscious of what was going on, but was also in denial about her mom being on drugs. When they arrived at the organization, they would receive 3 meals a day and didn’t have to pay for anything. The confusion as to why her mom was giving away their money when they didn’t have food to eat at home wasn’t there anymore. Alesia was excited that she didn’t have to worry about anything and that her family would have food, clothes and shelter. The organization also encouraged her mom to go to school and get her GED and nurse license, which was a positive experience. Alesia holds on to the memories of having a sober mom and their time spent in nature as a family.
But there were so many things that were not good that Alesia has blocked out and refuses to deal with or recognize yet. Her brain will not allow her to pick that stuff back up again since she left. There were still good people there and people who may have genuinely cared, but they were not doing it correctly and not showing up the way they should have with the power they had. Alesia spent so much time blocking the good things and the bad things because she has such conflicting thoughts on the whole experience. Only recently has she come to learn that she needs to start working through this and go on a journey of self-discovery to figure out who she is and what her actual core beliefs are.
After Alesia had postpartum depression, she did a lot of metal health work and focused on gratitude. She started being more open to the universe and how things are happening, what she is feeling and allowed herself to feel those feelings rather than suppress them like she used to have to. Alesia started to open herself up to things that she previously hadn’t allowed herself to open up to due to years of brainwashing at the organization.
When Alesia’s mom passed away, Alesia invested in an energy coach. She found herself spiraling and knew she needed to get her shit together. She couldn’t focus on work or driving home and had a difficult time managing her emotions. Alesia’s energy coach is still extremely instrumental whenever she needs a spiritual boost. For Alesia, working on one thing at a time in an intuitive way is how she chooses to get through things.
More Strength Than You Know
Through her experiences, Alesia learned that she is stronger than she thinks she is and she can handle more than she thinks she can. Alesia wants other women to open themselves up to the universe, and open themselves up to the possibility that there are better ways or different ways to do things. She encourages women to open themselves up to all the possibilities that the universe has and sit in that. Don’t try to push it. Throw it out there. And go on with your day. You don’t have to be your past and you get to decide who you want to be. Your past does not have to be your future.