Sweating my brains out
I’m starting at part 12 not to be cute, but because it seems like the right place to start. A few people have asked me to write up my story from inside scientology, and I’ve approached it a few times and got nowhere. It’s something I want to do, but when I think about it I keep hanging up at one part of the story—an episode that I think explains a lot about me, my behavior and why I may seem quite different from the way I was in the seventies, when a lot of people in the cult knew me. I’ve labeled it part 12 because it’s # 12 on the outline I drew up to help me with my story.
I actually got into the cult in 1969 and later I’ll try to go into that and into how I think I got hooked, but for now, I’m going to skip to summer 1977 in Los Angeles. (Summer ’77 to the best of my recollection—could be off a bit. I was then qual sec at Celebrity Centre Los Angeles, having been promoted from the post of chief cramming officer in 1976.) The “Sweat Program” pilot had just come out. This was not the “Purification Rundown,” which came later, in ’78. The ‘sweat program,’ also called the ‘sweat out program’ was hubbard’s first stab at aggressively ridding people’s bodies of “drug residues,” in particular the deadly ‘ psych drug,’ LSD. According to hubbard, LSD residues lodged “in the tissues and mainly the fatty tissues,” and could without warning leak out and cause full blown “trips,” resulting in catastrophe. The mere presence of the residues could also prevent scientology auditing from fully working. Hubbard’s initial solution was to force the lurking impurities from the body through profuse sweating, exercise and reduced body mass. (See HCOB 31 May 1977, “LSD-- Years After They Have ‘Come Off Of’ LSD” for greater insight or at least a few good laughs. Sorry Indies, no offense intended.)
I and a lot of other staff immediately went onto the pilot rundown. I can’t find any reference in my library that says what was done in the ’77 pilot so, as best I can recall:
We did take a lot vitamins several times a day, though not as much as in the later ‘purif.’ I don’t recall any niacin burn. We also took cal mag and salt and a good amount of oil.
The program diet involved reduced food intake and plenty of fruit along with a protein supplement. The thing I remember most clearly was the prescribed ‘protein’ supplement. It was a concoction called ‘Progest,” which came in bottles. On the label it explained that Progest was “predigested liquid protein.” I think it was a grain or soy based extract. ‘Predigested’ may have meant protein that had somehow been broken down into amino acids, but who knows. I recall drinking a lot of this stuff daily. It was a sickening syrup. I think the rationale for progest was to ensure that we got enough protein despite the reduced food intake.
The ‘sweat out’ part of the program meant you exercised for an hour while wearing a rubber or vinyl suit. The suit consisted of tight fitting pants and shirt. I think there was a hood on the shirt. You started out slow and eventually worked up to an hour or more of “running/jogging” in this crazy suit. We did this daily and I and my ‘twin’ soon worked up to the point of alternately running and jogging for the full hour at a nearby high school track.
I mostly enjoyed the exercise. You normally got very little on staff. I don’t recall ever experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke, although many years later I learned that it’s possible in rare cases for people who are highly focused on achieving some athletic goal to suffer one of these without knowing it. I’m not saying that this happened to me, but I was hyper-focused on achieving the program ‘EP’ in the shortest possible time.
I can’t recall if it was toward the end of the sweat program or right after I finished it, but definitely near the end, very disturbing things began to happen. I was walking from CCLA on LaBrea to ‘the Wilcox’ (CC staff housing then in an old hotel in Hollywood at Wilcox and Selma) to have lunch. It was a sunny day. Suddenly I noticed that my vision was no longer clear. I was seeing floating translucent or dark shapes wherever I looked. I realized that these were ‘floaters.’ These are common and a lot of people have them—they are particles or other stuff that floats in the vitreous fluid that fills the eye. But this was a sudden occurrence and there were a lot of them in both eyes. The shapes looked like parts of small blood vessels and blood cells. I was more than a little shocked. I seemed to be hemorrhaging inside the eyes. I wondered if I was hemorrhaging in other places that I couldn’t see. I felt sort of dizzy and out of it—feverish--and realized that I had been feeling that way for days. But this was no big deal compared to what was to become evident to me over the next few weeks.
When I was cramming officer I used to be able to recall the title, month, day and year of any HCOB I wanted someone to read. I could usually also recall the paragraph where I thought a particular point was made. (Hubbard seemed to make perfect sense to me at that time, at least in the references I commonly used. Much later I realized that I was imbuing Hubbard’s writings and tapes with a sense of clarity and benevolence that came from me and not so much from Hubbard. You may have done the same thing. But that’s another subject.) I had a particularly good memory, could recall references, dates, people, names, faces, events, etc. easily and automatically. I took this for granted and assumed it was just an aspect of my theta self. As qual sec I often had to cover cramming. It involved talking to a lot of auditors and auditor trainees about things that had supposedly gone wrong in sessions as pointed out by the case supervisors who reviewed the auditors’ detailed, running written record of each auditing session. I would try to find out what really happened and correct any errors, or determine that there was really no error.
Now I suddenly noticed that the dates, titles and pages were not automatically there. I couldn’t come up with things I used to effortlessly recall. I had to look for things in the tech volumes. No big deal, but the realization that something was very wrong with my memory was devastating. I thought maybe it was something in restimulation, maybe I’d run right into my next level. Maybe I had some sort of flu that would pass. But suddenly a big part of me was missing. I was confused. Could this be some kind of brain damage? That was near blasphemy. There had to be some scientological explanation and remedy—some hidden snare I had triggered that could be defeated by upper level tech. But I wasn’t really sure. I was sinking far from shore.
Instead of getting better as I’d hoped, the memory loss was getting worse. That or I was becoming more aware of the breadth of the damage. Where I had been able to read and understand something without too much trouble, now I would read, understand and FORGET. Worst of all, I would meet people and next day find I had forgotten not just their names, but what they looked like. This was also happening with people I already knew—not with my closest friends, but with a lot of people I knew. I couldn’t recognize them or I would get their faces confused. Funny thing—I could remember a sense of what we had talked about, an emotional memory of the person if you will, but couldn’t connect this with the face. I would often have to wait until I got a cue from the person that would bring the emotion and shared past back and reconnect it with the face. This was really horrible. I was missing some mental parts and that wasn’t supposed to happen. I was supposed to be getting ‘more able,’ and helping others to do the same. I was very depressed.
There were a lot of other things happening at the same time but going into them would make this segment too long, so I’ll probably pick them up another time.
The memory loss has stayed with me, although it has improved some since I left the cult. I think it has helped not to be doing any more imaginary telepathic communication with imaginary “ body thetans.” I’ve also studied memory a bit and learned some memory techniques.
What I’m saying, what I’m not saying and why I bring this episode up first:
I’m not saying that the memory loss either was or was not somehow caused by the “sweat program.” I don’t know. I’m just saying that it happened date coincident with the sweat program. It could have been caused or promoted by the overheating, the diet, the imbalance of amino acids in the “progest,” etc. Could have been some unrelated disease or a combination of factors. I don’t know, and I won’t bore you to death with details of the research I’ve done to try to explain what happened. I am saying that the damage happened at a time when I was pretty sure I was immune to such things, because as ot three, I was “free from overwhelm.”
I have two reasons for starting my story in the middle. One, the memory loss makes me slow. I really have to dredge to remember details, names and episodes. I find it cathartic, but I’m kind of a tortoise, not a hare. Two, I just want people who may have known me to understand that if I seemed in the past to ignore you, it wasn’t because I didn’t care about you or thought you unimportant. I just couldn’t connect YOU with your face (or name probably) because of the damage to a certain region of my brain. I still have the problem, though to a somewhat lesser degree. Just remind me--give me some cues--and I’ll probably remember.