#112 Breaking Free from Silence, Abuse, and a Cult

Today's Guest: Sally Lotz

Today, I interview Sally Lotz whose early life was marked by the strict rules and limitations imposed by her family’s conversion to Jehovah’s Witnesses. In this oppressive environment, she endured abuse from her stepfather, forcing her to suppress her true self and become invisible. Sally’s journey stands as a testament to the power of finding one’s voice and using it to empower others.

At the tender age of 15, a revelation sparked within Sally when her mother discovered her non-Jehovah’s Witness boyfriend. Confronted by the Elders, she witnessed the stark disparity in how her stepfather’s actions went unpunished while her innocent connection with a boy resulted in harsh correction. It was during this tumultuous period that Sally discovered her voice, her means of expression and resistance against the injustices that plagued her life.

Writing became her refuge, an outlet through which she could share her thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution. Yet, even in her newfound solace, she had to conceal her writings, stashing them away in her school locker or disposing of them to avoid detection.

Free – 6 Steps to Getting Published https://www.sallylotz.com/download

Forced to leave home at the age of 16, Sally sought shelter with her father, where she experienced an entirely different reality. As an only child in her father’s care, she finally found a supportive presence, someone who listened and encouraged her to explore new horizons. However, the trauma she had endured lingered within her, manifesting as severe anxiety attacks and depression that confined her to the confines of her home. It was during this period of struggle that Sally, now a mother herself, embarked on a profound journey of self-discovery, unearthing her voice once more.

Now, Sally is a writer dedicated to crafting stories for children. Her literary works bear the underlying themes of hope, purpose, and compassion, offering inspiration to young readers while championing the underdog in subtle and captivating ways. In addition to her writing endeavors, she is currently a mentor and writing coach, running a program called “Write a Book in 30 Days: No Experience Required.” Sally recently published her fourth book, “The Truth Is A Lie,” a fictional work that delves into her experiences within the Jehovah’s Witness community, exposing the contradictions and control within the organization extending her support to women seeking to share their own transformative tales of life changes, epiphanies, and pivots. She believes that by helping others find their voice, she empowers them to overcome adversity and thrive, offering a guiding light amidst the darkest of times.


Sally Lotz is a writing coach, assisting women in sharing their own stories of transformation, guiding them through life’s challenges and pivotal moments. Sally’s journey stands as a testament to the power of finding one’s voice and using it to empower others, offering inspiration to embrace resilience and share their unique narratives.

Sally is a mentor and a writing coach with her program Write A Book in 30 Days – No Experience Required. Her 4th book, The Truth is a Lie, was recently published. She is passionate about writing and teaching other people how to create with their words. She also enjoys speaking to groups about writing, growing up a Jehovah’s Witness, or having ADHD.

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Transcript of Interview

Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #112 Sally Lotz
“Breaking Free from Silence, Abuse, and a Cult”  
(0:35) Doreen Downing
Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m host of the Find Your Voice Change Your Life Podcast. I invite guests here who have a story about what it was like growing up. And not having a voice, whether that was early childhood or whether they found themselves in a corporation where the tape was put over their mouth and they weren’t able to speak up.
It’s always some kind of situation that we get to learn about here on the podcast. And each episode also brings to us the journey that people have been on, and not only the journey, but the breakthroughs. And that’s why we get to hear them today with what they are currently offering. And today I have Sally Lotz, hello Sally. 
(1:30) Sally Lotz
Hi there. Thank you for having me. 
(1:32) Doreen Downing
Hi. Yes, I’m going to read a bio you sent so that people at least have a sense of what you’re doing currently. You didn’t start out this way offering what you do now, but we will hear about that in a minute. Sally is a mentor and a writing coach with her program, “Write A Book In 30 Days, No Experience Required.” Her fourth book, “The Truth Is A Lie,” was recently published. She is passionate about writing and teaching other people how to create with their words. She also enjoys speaking to groups about writing, growing up a Jehovah’s Witness, or having ADHD. We’ve got a lot to uncover today already.
I love what you just said that you are passionate about writing and teaching other people how to create with their words, and in a way, I do something similar, but it’s about creating with words that come from within. And I think writing must have that same idea. 
(2:38) Sally Lotz
Yes it does. And I can’t write someone’s words for them. They have to get them themselves from deep within, so that’s the part I enjoy doing. 
(2:49) Doreen Downing
I am just so relating to that already, and I’m sure my listeners are too, because words and our voice comes out in so many different ways, not just language that we are speaking, but language that comes and gets written, right?
(3:07) Sally Lotz
Correct, yes, and the way you feel and how you express it. Yes. 
(3:12) Doreen Downing
So I think Sally, you’re in the same business of finding your voice? 
(3:15) Sally Lotz
I think so.
(3:19) Doreen Downing
We’re here because somehow you found your voice and you can talk about what you do now, and you love what you offer and you’re passionate about it, obviously. But I always like to start from where the journey began because most of us don’t start out having support for who we truly are.
So if we could go back and just have a little intro to your early life.
(3:46) Sally Lotz
(3:47) Doreen Downing
Diving a little deeper into your life, where were you born? 
(3:51) Sally Lotz
Sure. I feel like the start of a therapy session here. 
(3:55) Doreen Downing
(3:56) Sally Lotz
And I have ADHD so I tend to tell too much, so I may edit myself, so I don’t do what I just did. So I am number five out of seven kids. But my mother converted to being a Jehovah’s Witness when I was about six. And already by that time, she was on her third marriage. And so her life was a mess. And so consequently, so was mine at the age of six. Being part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they’re very strict, it’s not what most people think.
They see these happy people coming to their doors who are dressed nicely, but there’s a lot of rules and regulations and everything is a no. Women do not have voices. Children do not have voices. And so that was the start of my journey into not having a voice. I didn’t get to decide that I didn’t want Christmas anymore.
I didn’t get to decide that I wanted to be a Jehovah’s Witness. I was told this is how it is now. So my home was also very abusive. My mom wasn’t that great of a mother and my stepfather was very emotionally, physically and sexually abusive. And for me, my way to survive in that house was to be quiet.
Because if you said things, you were noticed. If you did things, you were noticed. My mom used to tape my mouth shut in the car with duct tape. And I was very vibrant, fun, I sing, how I am now is how I was when I was a child. And so for a long time I had to not be that way. Then having ADHD on top of it, in school, I wasn’t always paying attention the way the teachers thought I should be paying attention.
And I also learned in school just to be quiet because I didn’t want to get called on and have to answer a question because maybe I wasn’t paying attention. But I was called stupid, I was called dumb. I was told I was holding the class back. And to top it off, we moved a lot. So I think I went to four grade schools.
I went to two junior highs and I went to four different high schools. And so all of this, on top of everything else, every time I would go to a new school, it was just to be silent, don’t be noticed, don’t make friends, cause there’s no point. I couldn’t be friends with anybody cause they weren’t a Jehovah’s Witness.
And then I knew we’d be moving again. So why make a friend right? So it took me a while. Did I answer your question?
(6:50) Doreen Downing
Yes. Certainly you did. And I think already we can go into so many different streams here of what created the situation for you to be so quiet. And to have that be a, it’s both a defense mechanism, of course, protecting you, but it’s also you don’t get a lot of chances to practice speaking up.
And that early life is where we start to find our voices and we start to find people who listen back to us. And that’s partly how we come to know who we truly are. So I think that as a whole, what you’ve just described in all the different arenas – the family arena is enough, I would say, but then the outer circle also of the religion that you were in, it was just so much.
So it just feels if I’m going to name this episode, it would be the big no. 
(7:51) Sally Lotz
Yes. And literally got my mouth duct taped, yes. And what’s interesting is I am the kind of person who is always a voice for the underdog. My sister was getting beat up one day at school.
She’s two years older than me and I ran up and stood up for her and pushed all the other kids away. I had this voice, I just only used it when I really needed to. 
(8:17) Doreen Downing
I love hearing that even in the midst of the kind of constriction that you remember, you still have memories of breaking through to stand up for something and it was obviously something that mattered to you and your sister matters. I’m going to go back a little bit to the idea of being in that particular religion and everybody, even the child doesn’t have a voice. But what really stood out to me was not having the choice.
In a way we are brought into families of course, unless we think of it metaphysically, you didn’t really choose your family, but for now, let’s just say that, wow, there you are. No choice. And I think that is another dynamic that affects voice, being able to know who you are and to feel the freedom to discover who you are early on. And lots of rules. 
(9:17) Sally Lotz
Lots of rules. And I remember vividly, somebody’s mom calling to invite me to a birthday party. And I was so excited cause in first grade, it’s a big deal to be invited to the birthday party. And I remember my mom taking the phone out of my hand and scolding the other mother for calling me, inviting me because birthdays are the devil.
And she’s a Jehovah’s Witness and we don’t do that. And I was just mortified, and then I had to go to school, right? And face this child, and of course that just made me be even quieter. Cause I don’t want anybody to know that I was one of these, Jehovah’s Witnesses. 
(10:04) Doreen Downing
I guess if they knew or did that ever happen that they knew and they pointed you out?
(10:09) Sally Lotz
Oh yes, people knew because we would go door to door and a lot of times I’d end up at somebody’s door and I was like, it’s your turn to talk, Sally. I’m like, oh, I’m not talking. No. Yes. Yes. So a lot of kids knew. 
(10:27) Doreen Downing
Yes and how did they treat you? 
(10:29) Sally Lotz
I think that was one of the reasons why I stayed quiet and stayed out because I didn’t want that attention. Early on, I got teased about it a lot. I grew up just outside of Chicago and so my school was very diverse. I feel like I got picked on, is the right word.
And so I tried to hide even more. It was just it wasn’t a great experience and school should have been my outlet, right? To leave, to get out of the house, but it wasn’t, I didn’t really have an outlet. 
(11:05) Doreen Downing
That’s another thing that I think we’re talking about today and listeners here, is that there are traps. And it feels like religion was a trap, your family was a trap, and school actually was not an escape, it was also a trap. Sally, thank you so much for uncovering so much. There’s one more thing that I know it’s a little more tender and vulnerable, but abuse, and in terms of verbal, it sounds like that was happening as well as sexual abuse.
How did you protect yourself eventually? I know that you said something about being quiet, but your body is something that you can’t hide. 
(11:46) Sally Lotz
Yes. I was quiet, but also, like the story I gave where I stuck up for my sister, I stuck up for myself. And my stepfather would say something to me like, don’t tell your mom. I would go and tell my mom. And yes, not that she did anything about it, but it became clear that I was going to keep telling. And also, I had an older sister and she is actually the one who took the brunt of his abuse because I always shared a room there. The rooms that I was in, there were always babies, sisters, my mom’s bible students.
One summer my brothers slept on the floor on a cot cause we just didn’t have any room. But my sister always had her own room. And so I took the brunt of the physical and mental abuse, and she had the sexual abuse. So wherever he could wreak havoc, that’s what he did. 
(12:55) Doreen Downing
That’s a good phrase.
(12:57) Sally Lotz:
Yes. And the sad thing is that my mom knew all this was going on. My mom went to the leaders of the Jehova’s Witnesses. I call them a cult. I don’t call them a religion. I call them a cult. And they did what they do with women and children, and it’s, you need to just go home. He’s your husband.
We don’t report this to the police because that shames Jehovah, leave it in Jehovah’s Hands. Oh. And you don’t have a witness to this. The girls have to come in with somebody who witnessed it and face him. 
(13:37) Doreen Downing
So he was a Jehovah’s Witness also? Oh, okay. Oh, that sounds like so much. Also, you said cult. I will call it that for the rest of the time we talk today. 
(13:46) Sally Lotz
It is a cult. That’s basically, what I talked about in my book, that is what my book is about. It’s fictionalized. Yes, they call themselves the truth. They claim to have the one true religion. And so I say the truth is a lie. It’s my little play on words. Yes. 
(14:03) Doreen Downing
Wonderful. Oh, make sure to go get “The Truth Is A Lie” by Sally Lotz. 
(14:09) Sally Lotz
Yes. And my mom’s actions at that time in my life made me realize, as I grew up, that the voice was important because if she had just stuck up for her children and she stuck up for herself actually and said, no, this is not happening, you need to leave, or I’m going to the police or whatever, things would’ve been so much different. But she didn’t do that, and to this day she doesn’t, she denies anything happened. So that gave me just more ammunition as I got my voice to stick up for the underdog, to be the mama bear, to even people who aren’t my kids.
(14:52) Doreen Downing
Oh my goodness. Yes. I get it. And usually our parents could be good models for us, but sometimes the modeling is something that we then do the opposite of. And that sounds like what you did. 
(15:05) Sally Lotz
Yes. Yes. I tried. 
(15:09) Doreen Downing
Let’s move forward then. You tried, but one of the things I’m really pleased about listening to you today is this voice that feels like underlying you had a passion for what was right.
You had a passion for justice and that’s what it seems like you’re doing for people nowadays is helping them find their own self within. 
(15:34) Sally Lotz: 
Yes. Yes. I think going through the process of writing this book just made me really dig deep and really made me understand more about myself and also being single for the last six years I’ve really looked deep inside myself and getting these feelings of why am I the way I am? Why do I do things this way? And realize that when I’m talking to other people, they seem to just all of a sudden want to open up to me and tell me their stories. And I don’t know if it’s like an aura I have around myself where I feel like a safe place, but I had all these people all of a sudden just come to me with their stories of their, you can say survival, you can say self-help manuals, you can say their pivots or their aha moments in their lives and they want to share them cause they want to give back. And I just find, even if they don’t give it to somebody else, just doing it for themselves seems to be an incredible journey that they go on helps them to understand how they got from A to B and that they can keep going.
The A part doesn’t have to come along with them. It made them who they are and you can take it and embrace it and use it and not be angry, but move forward and use it for good. 
(16:58) Doreen Downing
What a fabulous kind of transformational message you just gave about the A to B and then move forward. I’m going to take a quick break and we’re going to come back and listen to your own A to B and how you left behind the A.
(17:15) Sally Lotz
(17:26) Doreen Downing
Hi, we’re back with Sally Lotz today and already having been very deep in her self revelations about trauma and abuse and a cult experience that she found herself in very early in life, and we’re going to now move forward and hear more about her journey out of that and how she, what you might say, woke up. So what happened next, Sally? 
(17:57) Sally Lotz
I realized around the age of 15, that things were not going to change in my house, that my stepfather was just going to keep on doing what he was doing. What happened was I actually had a little boyfriend, he was not a Jehovah’s Witness, and we went to school together and I say boyfriend loosely like we held hands, we went to the library. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere, so it wasn’t like this great big thing. We’d have lunch together and we had classes together, and back in the day we’d pass notes. Somehow my mom found out about this and she took me to the elders for counseling because this was wrong.
I was not allowed to be dating unless I was getting married. I needed it to be Jehovah’s Witness boy. And so I was mortified because I was asked to sit down and talk to two men who were much, much older. They were probably in their forties, but to me they looked like they were in their seventies. And I was asked extremely explicit sexual questions that never should have been asked ever, even if I was a grown woman, these two men had no business asking me these things. I played dumb, didn’t answer, did my old silent thing, which helped me here, and decided in my head, this isn’t right. Why am I getting punished for having a boyfriend, but my stepfather, who’s beating my mom, raping my sister, who knows what else he’s doing, is allowed to just walk around and go free. And so I didn’t get rid of my boyfriend. I went back home and my mom gave me an ultimatum of choosing Jehovah or my boyfriend. And to her dismay, I chose the boy. And so that meant I could no longer live in the house.
I had to leave. I ended up going to live in San Diego with my dad, but I didn’t know my dad very well. My dad, I would see him once, maybe every three years for a week. Because he was in the Navy and there was no relationship there. So that was a very scary experience for me, being thrown from a very abusive home into home, just, it was just a normal home, but I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know the rules. And basically I was an only child. I went from there and finished high school and then decided at the bright age of 19, you know that, that was a good, I should go ahead and get married.
I married the first person that I dated and by the age of 26, I had my three sons, which is what I wanted, I always wanted three sons, and that’s what I got. However, there came a point where I had such severe anxiety and panic, it had built up over time. I didn’t know what it was.
I couldn’t leave the house. So here I had three sons, I had a husband who did not partake in parenting. He did not help me with the kids. He worked a lot. And at that point I started getting counseling. And then I found out, I began to understand what was going on. It was that I had never dealt with my past.
I just buried it and all of that turned against me and became anxiety and all of this stuff. I kept going through the therapy sessions and I went a little bit on medication. I didn’t really want to, but I knew that it would help me to get through this. So I went on some medication and as I began to grow, I began to write because my therapist said, hey, why don’t you write, because you told me when you were a kid that you loved writing.
I said, okay. And so I just started writing some stories. Nothing big, just little poems, little things that when the kids were at school I would sit and just pop into my head and then as I was growing and becoming more of a woman and understanding myself, I also began to see what I had married.
And he was a verbally and emotionally abusive person, and he also did not like that I was changing and beginning to think and beginning to say things. And mind you, it was just being a normal person, but I was no longer being that submissive little wife that he wanted. Think of the Dugger family, that’s what he wanted. Remember the Dugger 19 and counting? With all the kids, that’s what he wanted. Yes. And I only had three. We literally went to the churches where they all had 10, 12 kids. And people looked at me like, you only have three. And so we got divorced and of course, what did I do?
I went and got married again, I didn’t learn my lesson, but I had been developing my voice and I was writing and I was doing things and working and just trying to build this life. And it wasn’t until a very good friend of mine who is a writer, told me, you need to be doing writing. You’re creative, you’re funny. You have things to say.
You’re so caring. And so it wasn’t until she sat me down and talked to me, her name is Kara, that I actually thought I could be a writer. And that’s when I started to write my first book. 
(23:51) Doreen Downing
I just want to stop right now and just go, hey, oh, I’m so excited that I’ve been holding my breath. 
(23:59) Sally Lotz
When did she do it?
(24:00) Doreen Downing
Did she finally break free?
(24:02) Sally Lotz
I did. 
(24:03) Doreen Downing
And that feels like you’ve been growing ever since and that now, through something that you loved when you were young and something that you used in your own personal recovery as a woman. And to find yourself, it feels like writing then now you know the value of writing and now it has to do with what you do with people.
You say, write a book in 30 days. What, say more about that. 
(24:31) Sally Lotz
Four times, I’ve done it four times. Yes, so the main thing is people think about writing a book for years. My last client, she thought about it for six years and I said why aren’t you writing? It goes, I don’t know where to start.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know, I’m not a writer. I don’t know anything about time. And I go, but listen, you’re writing about your life, right? And who better to tell that story than you? You tell the story for yourself. Stephen King said that you tell the story for yourself and all you gotta do is sit and write it.
She said, okay. And so basically what I do is I just help somebody through the process of getting started, laying out their time, figuring out how much to write every day, and then when they get stuck or they have a problem, we talk. I help them over hurdles, I help them brainstorm, I talk them down, off the ledge when they’re ready to throw the book away and they’re done with it.
Because these are all things I’ve gone through, I understand where they’re at and I understand all the self-doubt that comes up and all of the thoughts and feelings that happen. And on the same token, I understand how to take those thoughts and feelings and put them on paper or on your computer or whatever so that you can connect with the reader. The deeper you can go and the more feelings that you can put into your words, the more you will connect with somebody.
So she finished her book, by the way, and she was very happy, in 30 days. 
(26:13) Doreen Downing
What I get as I listen to you also feels wow, this is a mirror. What I do is listen to people what truly wants to be said. And then just what you said there about connection. It’s not just about writing. It’s writing and then the way that you are more real, it does resonate more with your listeners.
(26:36) Sally Lotz
I think so. I think the more transparent and vulnerable you are, even if you’re writing fiction, you use those same feelings and emotions and the more transparent and vulnerable you are, the more other humans will connect with you and connect with what you’ve written.
They can tell when you don’t do that. 
(26:59) Doreen Downing
What I was about to say is that I think that’s what you did today with me, is to be transparent and vulnerable, not holding back and just really fully expressing, exposing. And now what we get to see is, your own journey has led you to this passion to help others write their books.
We’re coming to the end of the episode and I was just wondering. I always like to ask, before we close, is there something that you feel you want to bring to our attention? Something that wants to be said? 
(27:33) Sally Lotz
I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. I’ll say that I am very passionate about what I do and I talk about it all the time, and I have no problem sharing with people or even talking to somebody if they just want to connect with me and they have an idea.
They’re not sure if it’s a good idea or not. I’m open to listening and giving a little guidance. 
(27:59) Doreen Downing
How do people who feel like they have this little idea and they want somebody to guide them, how do they find you? 
(28:06) Sally Lotz
I make it so simple. So my website is my name, so it’s sallylotz.com and I have a connection button. You can just click on my homepage. It says “Connect with me” and you fill it out and I get a little message and you get to pick the time and or you can find me on LinkedIn. Either way it works. 
(28:29) Doreen Downing
We’ll also have show notes for people who are checking out our podcast today. I have some last words I want to say. What a thrill for me to feel like in some ways there’s a mirror around us that you’re reflecting back to me, I’m reflecting back to you the importance of knowing who we are, but we have to go within, I mean that whole therapy or that whole counseling was you self-exploring, self-examining and then finding more, I guess you might say, potential that’s within that didn’t get to grow early in life, but we can still grow and that’s what we’re doing.
(29:14) Sally Lotz
Always growing. Yes. Nonstop.
(29:18) Doreen Downing
Unstoppable. So thank you so much, Sally, for visiting and sharing today. 
(29:24) Sally Lotz
Thank you. I really enjoyed this. 
(29:28) Doreen Downing
Yes you sound a little surprised. 
(29:31) Sally Lotz
I was a little nervous, but no, thank you. This was wonderful. 
(29:35) Doreen Downing
Yes. Thank you.

Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.