occult
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An Unhealthy Attraction
One evening, I attended a lecture by a group I'll refer to as the International Serenity Society (not its real name). The speaker was a stocky, handsome woman named Velda, who had a mixed bag of technical data and psychic techniques. I was captivated by her presentation and made a date for a special counseling session.

The following morning Velda explained how she would help me contact my "spiritual guides," a process that involved much concentration.

Sensing my uneasiness, Velda assured me, "You have nothing to be afraid of. These guides are spirits who have been with you ever since you were born--and even before that. They are committed to helping you as long as you are on this side."

"You are a very old soul," she told me, "a master who has returned from many lifetimes. You didn't have to come back this time, but you chose to."

"What are you trying to tell me?" I asked.

"That you are a prophet," she answered, "with strong visionary capabilities--gifted in intuition, but confused in the feeling part of your psyche." Before dismissing me, she urged me to attend the summer camp of the International Serenity Society (ISS), which would be held at a place called Spirit Lake.

I attended the camp. But I was a cauldron of conflicting thoughts and emotions when I returned.

What I didn't realize was that the compulsive woman inside me was finding a "high" in these experiences. Psychic phenomena--offering experiences such as altered states of consciousness, trances, even the exaltation of becoming divine--attract people seeking a mood change, and they can deliver just as effectively (and addictively) as alcohol or drugs.

I was drawn by the intrigue and spiritual euphoria promised by the ISS. Once I agreed to be the Montana representative, our home became the destination of a steady stream of visiting ISS "counselors."

Desperate for help with my out-of-control drinking and the eating binges with which it alternated, I began calling them for advice. To each I described my inability to concentrate; the mocking, sinister voices in my head; the hideous faces that zoomed in and out of my mind whenever I closed my eyes.

Months passed, and the voices and faces became more insistent. Nothing could shut them out--not alcohol, not the cakes and other sweets I'd gorge on in the middle of the night.

One day in desperation I found my daughter's silver crucifix in her bureau drawer and clutched it for comfort. But that didn't help, either.

Nor could any person help. My husband was bewildered by the change in my appearance and my enslavement to the group's practices.

One day when I was out, Brent and Lisa threw out what they could find of my ISS literature. They explained when I discovered the loss that it made me "act funny."

I ached to be a real mother to them, but I was totally consumed with self-hatred and self-pity. I spent endless hours in bed with the covers pulled up over my head and the drapes closed to shut out any prying rays of the sun.

I later learned that when the compulsive woman seeks help through involvement with a cult, her behavior will often get more and more out of control. Such was the case with me. I had everything to live for, yet something inside me was pushing me straight into a dark pit.

Hitting Bottom
It was at the bottom of this pit that change for me began. In August 1978, totally defeated by addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs, I attempted suicide.

At the insistence of my psychiatrist and my husband, I entered Montana's hospital for mental disorders at Warm Springs. It was one of very few facilities in the state then available to treat people with addictions.

The turning point for me occurred in this hospital, but it didn't come through medication. It came through a group of women 150 miles away in Billings, Montana, who were praying for me.

The Billings intercessors prayed that God would send someone to me. I believe today that another patient at the hospital, Karen, was that person.

On one occasion, she had approached my bed, and I could hear her crying. "Oh, Sandy, does Jesus love me? Does Jesus really love me?"

Some instinct in me longed to comfort her. "Yes, Karen, Jesus loves you."

Holding her in my arms, saying the words she needed to hear stirred something deep within me. In an instant I had changed from a totally self-centered individual to one with the tiny beginnings of a caring heart for others.

There had been a supernatural change in my spirit. My life turned around dramatically, and a few weeks later I was released from the hospital.

This experience marked the beginning of my recovery. Soon after, I gave my heart to the Lord.

I underwent more than one deliverance session with my pastor and a prayer team, in which I renounced all involvement with the occult. I repented of my idolatry before the Lord and confessed each and every practice I'd dabbled in (a long list).

With these acts of obedience, I received God's forgiveness, and an enormous load was lifted from me. The heaviness I'd carried for so long, which I thought was normal, was gone.

Expressing my gratitude to God and worshiping Him brought tremendous relief. Clarity returned to my mind, and the world took on a beautiful patina that had never been there before.

Today, I am overwhelmed at how far I've traveled on the recovery road. Along with millions of others, I am still on a journey.

Years later I attempted to contact Karen and the Billings women. I had no difficulty reaching the prayer group, but the institution had no record of the patient I knew as Karen, who I believed was God's emissary, sent as an answer to the women's prayers.

I have learned to build up my spiritual resources and take nothing for granted. I've learned how to deal with temptations when they assault me and always to keep my eyes on the One whose name Karen had called out from the pit of despair. I give God thanks and praise for setting me free.

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