I was in an abusive relationship starting when I was a senior in high school that lasted until I was 25 with someone who was 11 years older than me, welcome to the Secret Life podcast, Tell me your secret, I'll tell you mine don't don't don't. I'm excited to share that. I'm speaking at the sober voices flow event on October two Sober voices was created because you deserve to be seen because it shouldn't be this difficult to find people on this journey and because it's been way too hard in this global pandemic and we all deserve more connection. Liberation, enjoy this fall. It's an incredible four day event starting on September 30 with 76 speakers covering over 20 categories topics including mindfulness, mental health, love, friendship, intimacy, longtime sobriety 12 step recovery, sober, fun, nutrition, parenting and more.
Use my code secret life 20 to get 20% off. You can find the link in the episode notes when I first started my recovery 11 years ago, I struggled through the textbook like material on the subject. I wanted to make the addiction and the recovery from an accessible and relatable to more people by telling it in an entertaining way. If I can help just one person find a solution or at least realize they're not broken or alone. Then writing this has been worth it. You can pick up the book, Secret Life of a Hollywood, sex and love addicts exclusively at amazon or signed copy at Secret Life novel dot com and the best way to support our podcast is to subscribe and share. If you haven't left a review or rating on apple podcast yet, please do. It will help more people find our show and if you want to be a guest, shoot me a note at Secret Life podcast at iCloud dot com, enjoy the episode. Welcome to Secret Life podcast. I'm Brianne Davis camp today, I'm pulling back the curtains of all kinds of human secrets. We'll hear about what people are hiding from themselves or others.
You know those deep, dark secrets you probably want to take to your grave. Are those lighter, funnier secrets that are very, very embarrassing really. The how what, when, where and why of it all today? My guest is Amanda. Now Amanda. I have a question for you don't don't don't what is your secret? I love this game. I don't feel like I'm a particularly secretive person because I'm such like a blabber mouth and just too chatty for my own good. Yeah, I'm an over sharer uh without a shadow of a doubt. Um but I do have a secret and it's sort of on the darker end of that spectrum that you were talking about. I was like, can I come up with some sort of funny secret about like how I shaved my pubes or something, but we're going dark, so dark, so dark. Do it. Okay, so my secret, which I just started writing about for the first time in my life, like last week um Is that I was in an abusive relationship starting when I was a senior in high school.
That lasted until I was 25 with someone who was 11 years older than me. And it took me a while to recognize that what was going on was abuse. You know, obviously we grow up with the narratives that abuses like when someone is smacking you around, um or just like always physically hurting you. Um and the some we're getting dark early on, but I even remember thinking like, I almost just wish he would smack me in the face. So I would like, know for sure that this is abuse. No, I understand that. I I when I say, you know, I've dealt with emotional incest and I'm like, I wish sometimes it was physical, so I could then identify it easier because when it's emotional abuse or it's mental abuse, it's very gray and you're like, wait, that did that just like you question your your instincts, right?
Exactly. And now that I'm an adult, I'm actually the same age now that he was when we started dating, He was 29 and you were what, 17, 8? I was 18, I had just turned 18. I was a senior in high school. Where did you meet him? So he was my friend's older brother who lived in California and I grew up in Baltimore and um he would come to visit once a year for christmas and I was always a very precocious child. I liked to impress adults with my grown banter, not even wisdom. I just like to tell a dirty joke and have the adults laugh at like, oh how adorable this, like, and I'm very, I'm small to as a human, so like, here's this like four ft tall, 12 year old kid. I just loved having like a zinger to pull out of my pocket at the grown ups table at a dinner party, you know? Yeah, I mean, even with the pubes comment when you first said, you're like shave my pubes, I was like, whoa, we're going there, I love that because I have a dirty mind too.
But there's something about, you know, we like to impress, we like to shock for the shock value 100% like it wasn't even about sex, like because I would be making these jokes and I was like 10 years old, it was really just for the conversational Camaraderie to loosen people up to shock people, like that's all it was. Um and when you're a kid like you kind of have this built in trust that adults are going to take care of you, you know, like you have this would hope, but that's not true true with us. Human beings were cuckoos. Exactly. And so I just, you know, I never assumed that um someone and I guess this says a lot about my childhood that I was surrounded by people I could trust generally in childhood that I assumed that no one would ever take advantage of me, especially because I am a skeptical person, extremely skeptical person. This is like what informs the work that I do as a writer, Like I am just always questioning um things around me in society and culture, whatever, that are assumed to be just how it is.
Um and so I thought I would be like the last person to end up in a, such a stigma because I have to say like, you know, when people get abused, they don't really abuse like the weak people. It's like the people that are inquisitive that are willing to like look at all, you know, that are very intelligent. A lot of people I've spoke to are then put in those situations, they never thought they would be in. That is so true. And you know, I just finished writing this book about cults, it's about the social science of cults, what's it called? It's called cultish the language of fanaticism and it's about the language of cults from scientology all the way to soul cycle. So the wide spectrum of cults and it really wasn't until, I mean, I have been out of that relationship for many years now, but I've, you process it in waves. You know, like it's not like you get out of the relationship and it comes over you like a tsunami, you're like, that is exactly like, yeah, there was there was an initial feeling like I shot out of that relationship like a can and let me tell you.
Um but mostly because it just went on for far too long. Uh but I yeah, but it's not like I was able to immediately process everything. I am years out of it and I'm still processing and still, you know, understanding what happened to me and why. And the process of writing this book was actually extremely illuminating because in the book I'm trying to unpack the social science of cult influence like what causes people to join and stay in fanatical fringe groups, including some of the most notorious cult of all time, but also including groups that are more along that cult spectrum, like multi level marketing companies and stuff like that. Um and I believed that prevailing wisdom, those myths that people who wind up in cults are desperate, disturbed, you know, intellectually deficient are exact exactly, but like what you're saying, they're the same people that wind up in abusive relationships. You know, they're extremely idealistic people.
They're people who are seeking adventure. There are people speaking the truth to a lot of people I've talked to, you know, they're seeking the truth are real connection or understanding exactly wrapped because you can get manipulated and you know, the covert ways people use other people, you get blindsided by that completely and like in a cult context those techniques of manipulation would be called brainwashing or mind control and in an abusive relationship, they might be called grooming or gaslighting, you know, but it's all the same and when I realized that there are so many, I mean all of the cult survivors that I talk to you for the book were these, you know, young open minded people who joined up with whatever, like fringy spiritual group they wound up for literally the same reasons why I just, I decided to enter a relationship with this person is because like, everybody else had a boyfriend, everybody else was in love and I had never been in love in love and I wanted to experience that and you know, I wanted I thought that this was like my path, like my purpose, you know, I it was I was going to be special.
This person was this much older, charismatic person was telling me that I was a genius that I was that I had some old soul, do they use this? So you're just wise beyond your years, you're like special and unique and I just have this connection, Are we a soulmate? Did he know, you know, I'm like laughing because I work because I feel like that stuff is like almost cheesy, like I might have clocked that stuff, He was very clever. Like he met me on my level, he, I think he figured out what I wanted the world to see in me and he fed me that um and I don't think he was doing it on purpose, right? Like I don't think he meant to exploit a teenage girl. I think he just like like how the power dynamic felt and rolled and he, you know he was an insecure person and I think the reason why people gaslight other people is because they feel unstable in their own thoughts and emotions and so they feel the need to flip it around on the other person and make them feel crazy and make them feel invalidated and make them distrust their own perception of reality.
Um and so yeah, I think, I mean of course he without consciously realizing it, liked the feeling that I was this young person hanging on his every word. I was so I mean I was so easily impressed. Like I was 18 years old. I was just I just thought it was cool that he could book a hotel room. Yeah, you're like you have a credit card to book a hotel or you could get a car, you could rent a car. But here's my question I want to ask you before we get too far ahead. What did people in your life? No, you were seeing him. Did you keep that a secret? Did people accept it? Like what was that dynamic when you started? Quote unquote dating? Yeah, so the secret at first was part of the fun. So our flirtation and I'm putting that in scare quotes for the listeners. I'm putting that in quotations because I didn't realize that's what it was. Our flirtation began over text message. I like texted him some joke. I stole his number out of my friend's phone one day while my whole friend group was all texting their boyfriends and I was like you all are so boring like I'm going to text someone and then I stole his phone out of are still his number out of her phone again just as sort of like a precocious joke.
Um and I sent him something silly and from there we really started texting back and forth and we were living across the country. Like I was living in my parents house in Baltimore where I'm from because I was in high school and he was like working on a movie set in L. A. Um and so you don't tell me he was in the business. That makes it even worse. Yeah. Yeah, 100%. And like not doing as well as he wished he worked. So wow. Yeah he hook line and sinker. He wanted that attention in that validation completely. I was like this you know fresh faced beam of light that was like I'm gonna make you feel good about yourself while you're getting shat on by your bosses basically. Perfect. Oh yeah, oh yeah this is all crystal clear to me now. But I didn't even realize that he was like courting me, you know what I mean? Like I just thought, oh, like this is my friend's brother who's humoring me with a few rounds of text banter and even when this evolved into like late night phone calls that would last hours and now looking back, I know he had like a glass of whiskey in his hand.
Like I know he was just, he was treating this as like a romantic coy, you know, like flirty thing and I was just like, wow, I can't believe this cool guy wants to talk to me like just three hours at one am. But here's the thing. I always, and I love talking about it is like the texting the on the phone, there's this false sense of intimacy that is established, but you still really don't know the person. And I had this whole debate with one of my friends that's been damning strangers on instagram. I'm like, you do not know this person. And she was like, yes, I do. I'm like, what's his favorite color? What you don't even know those answers. And even if you did, you didn't know them and tell your in person with the person, you don't know completely. It was the perfect way to reel me in because you're exactly right. Like he was presenting this like really alluring versions. Yes. So, and I actually remember on that intimacy note when we would be on the phone and he would walk down the street to buy a pack of cigarettes at the corner store, whatever.
Of course he smoked. And I thought that was the coolest thing. Anyways, when he would walk to the corner store to buy a pack of cigarettes, I would over hear him talk to the person at the counter and those are my favorite parts of the phone call because it felt like a window into his actual life. Um I was like, who, like, who is this person and why do they want to talk to me? You know? Um and his voice would like, change a little bit when he would talk to the other person. Um and he would go from like, you know, clever banter mode to just like, I'm, you know, going about my business mode and I was just like, really intrigued by that. So then, you know, it came out that he was interested in me romantically is how he put it and I felt so stupid that I just went along with it. I was like, yeah, like you do. And do you think you did like him? Or you were just kind of, living in that fantasy of what was presented. I think I really liked what he represented adulthood again. Like, I was obsessed with adults.
I wanted the approval of adults and here was like this window into a new adventurous life. Like, I was about to graduate high school And this felt like, you know, the fast track to an exciting life, which I had always desperately wanted. Um so it wasn't so much him again, like I hadn't even seen him in person in a long time and like what 18 year old kid who's been like making out with other high schoolers is really going to be like physically attracted to a grown man, you know, like it's weird and I remember it feeling really weird but I just pushed past it again like for the bigger picture, but we did keep it a secret at first for obvious reasons it was taboo. Um I don't think he wanted his family to know. I certainly did not want my parents to know. I did not have this sort of relationship with my parents that I could like, you know, come to them with some sort of intimate secret, you know?
Um And when I finally did, yeah how'd that go? It was it was really uncomfortable. I remember when I first told my mom that like I had something to tell her she thought I was pregnant and it wasn't it wasn't that bad. Um But you know, I remember she did like get on the phone with my friend's mom just to check out this guy wasn't a weirdo. But of course how would how would his mom know what he's like in relationships, you know? Um And across the country or wherever everyday life and what he's doing and stuff like that. No, And I remember like, he flew to my hometown to have lunch with my parents. There is not much that they could have done, like their hands were tied. I was 18. Um, I was a stubborn person. If they had tried to control me, it would have been a worse situation and the parents are, you have no control. I mean, yeah, age and you're committed. I mean, I started acting out on my addiction when I was in eighth grade, so there was nothing my parents could have done to stop what I was doing.
And it's just if you don't create those boundaries really early, like you get trapped in those situations and being a parent hard, so you don't have to justify your parents out. No. Right? So completely like my parents, they did that they did the right thing, but sometimes people will ask me like, why didn't they get involved or whatever. It's like they couldn't have, you know? Um, but again, like, similar to the cult comparison, I think they just thought, you know, okay, like here's our smart daughter that we've raised, well she's running off to do this thing that I kind of wish she weren't doing, whether it's striking up with potentially not so great partner or a not so great, like fringy group and I think they just like cross their fingers that I would get what I needed from it and come safely home, you know, right, That makes total sense. And if your child gets in one of those groups, the parent usually can't do anything about it, especially you know over age and you're like, your hands are tired, what can you do?
You can just keep saying, you know, we love you, we thought, you know, yeah, the more you push the more, you know, a child, especially a young adult pushes back and it was good that they remained close to me because I after, so I went to college in new york and our relationship was long distance and I had to get all these side jobs while I was in college so I could afford plane tickets to go visit him because he didn't like to come to new york because where he was going to stay in my dorm room, like it was weird. Um, and once he did have to stay in my dorm room and it ended in this explosive fight, I mean he was and he is an alcoholic and um, a rageful one at that. And so there were just situations when I think he, he understood that this was a fucked up dynamic and the appropriate and those burned bright for him when he was like staying in my dorm and he had to be like signed in every time he came in and signed out every time he came out and uh there are just like too many instances that I don't even care to recall when he would get just like so angry punch walls and later I learned I have a lot of friends who work in mental health and psychology and later I would learn that if someone is being violent around you, like even just with objects that's physical abuse to Yeah, it is, I had one person, you know, get that physical, like punching things near me and it was like my, I remember just like floating out of my body and kind of watching it and completely disconnecting because I just was like in this space where you're like, I don't know what to do.
Did you find yourself experiencing that where you were like, what is going on? Yes, I mean, I would be like hysterically crying, but I would also be totally floating out of your body exactly like you're saying. And I find that even now, like when I'm in an argument, like that doesn't even have to be that heated, like just your run of the mill disagreement, I still find myself slightly floating out of my body. Yeah, because of that conditioning, Yeah, trauma, like our body instantly goes to that, like I'm just going to disconnect so I don't have to exactly feel what is going on in this moment because it is abused any form of violence or screaming can be abuse totally um especially when it's coming from someone who is so imposing, like someone who is bigger than you way older than you claims to be and he would throw my age in my face all the time. And so when you and it's like, well whose fault is it, that you're dating someone who's this young, you know, let me go.
So yeah, so it was, it was another a couple other things that were covert. So if the listener is like hearing, going, hey, wait, I floated out of my body and the arguments, what other things did you realize that were similar to a cult situation that you experienced? That you can Yeah, I think, you know, he definitely the love bombing first of all, Yeah, that in a relationship again might be called grooming, but he created this sense at the beginning of the relationship that I was the only person in the world for me having done nothing special, like, again, we hadn't even met in person, but he was telling me exactly what I wanted to hear, that I was a genius that I had something big to say to the world. Um and that with him, like we could create something amazing and he would, you know, confide in me about the projects that he was working on and he wanted to get my opinion, of course, he didn't really care about my opinion, like what do I know about like some commercial that you're editing, Like I don't know.
Um but I yeah, so he just made me feel extremely special, extremely scene. Um and could and also like he he knew that I was young and that I was insecure and he would use my confidence as like puppet strings. You know, like when he was feeling insecure, which of course, like I wasn't emotionally evolved enough for perspective enough to pick up on. Like when he was having an insecure day in my mind, like how could he ever be insecure? He was this cool older guy who had a career in L. A. Like what did he have to be insecure about? But on a day when, you know, I just didn't realize that something had gone wrong and he took um he took like blows at work really, really hard. He just didn't have a lot of resilience, He didn't have coping skills. Um but he would come back and he would, you know, turn that insecurity around on me and he would like bring it home and if I wanted to talk to him about something, he would say just like some little dig um to make me feel bad about myself.
So like he's feeling bad so he wants to make everybody around him feeling bad. And I I will admit I used to do that in partnerships if I was having a bad day, I would then make everybody else have a bad day. So I didn't feel so alone and like the only person having feelings. Yeah, which is a portable, I sound horrible. No, no, but I mean, I think a lot of us do that and it doesn't make you abusive. I think when abuse enters the picture is when they have so much power over you and they know that you're not know I've abused people. I'm 100% okay with admitting that I was a horrible person for a really long time. But at least I know it and I worked through it. I'm just saying that's huge. Yeah, that's actually huge. And it's the way that you grow, you know, and I don't know that this person will ever understand what they did as abuse. Um And the other thing and this is really interesting, you know that like it's like a Maya Angelou quote, it's like when someone shows you who they are, believe them.
I me too. And I remember very early the first time I'd ever come to visit him in L. A. And he like took me to Palm springs and it all just felt so glamorous. I remember him telling me straight up as we were sitting by the pool drinking champagne. That's the other thing that's kind of cult is when you're applying people with mind altering substances, especially when they're under age. Like I am such a curmudgeon about underage drinking now. Not like if you're going to do it, that's chill whatever everyone does it, but like I'm never going to be the one to buy an 18 year old a beer at a bar and like sneak it to them because I just think it um I just think, it like delegitimize is the power of that age dynamic. Um like when you have a much older person telling you, like, I want you to get fucked up that and It's the opposite opposite sex and you guys are seeing each other and it's like, is that appropriate to give an 18 year old a drink that you're dating when you really shouldn't be dating?
Like the whole situation is just shady, shady, so shady and and he had an alcohol problem and so like, catching up was not good. Um So anyway, I remember sitting by the pool, like drinking and him telling me, you know, like, I just, you know, I should let you know, and he, and he phrased it in this almost very romantic veiled way, he was like, I, I need to let you know that I have moods, like I, my moods really fluctuate. I of course didn't know what that meant and that wasn't even like my age, that was just an incredibly mysterious thing to say. Um later I would learn that he just has depression and anxiety and untreated alcoholism, like he had issues and he would not do anything to address them, like, I'm not against dating someone with mental health issues or addiction issues, nothing like that. It's just are they working on themselves? Um So the end, so it had been seven years.
Um The relationship was where like roommates who didn't even like each other essentially. Um So you move, did you move to L. A. I did okay. I moved I right after college. I it was like the day after my last final and I did not want to leave new york, but I moved for him and I still live in L. A. And I love L. A. I live in silver. Like like my life feels totally different than than it did then when we were living on the west side. Um But anyways I and my family moved to southern California to so like everyone I have in my life is here But we had been dating for seven years and we just like really really were not happy. Um and his he didn't he didn't have as much of an effect on me by then as he used to because I was 25, like I was an adult and I could sort of like detach myself from the relationship a little bit better. We would still get into screen fights, I'd still cry all that stuff but it just didn't like rock my world the way that it did when I was a teenager.
Um But I might have been so desensitized by that time, you know what I mean? Like a part of you shuts down when it goes on for so long. It could have been that too. And also his drinking had improved by then, like um just he wasn't he wasn't going to a 12 step program or anything, but he, you know, it was just whatever he was, yeah, he was kind of dry um he was like, white knuckling through it um and so I, what happened was I got a book deal and that was kind of the beginning of the end, because this was like, the beginning of my real professional adulthood, like, i it became clear that like, I was going to just kind of like, have a bigger life than he was um and that, and he put it that way to me once, like, I was just destined for like, a bigger life than he was going to have, and he could not handle that very well. He was constantly um just, you know, verbally abusing me and my ideas and telling me that this book was stupid and that the industry was gonna, he told me the industry was going to eat me alive, um whatever, so um that was kind of the beginning of the end, I um had taken six months off my full time job, I was working as a beauty editor at the time, and um I, they let me go on book leave and for the final month of those six months I decided to go to Italy by myself, um I have like an obsession with Italy a speak italian, I've lived there at a few points during my life and um I had gone there once with him and it wasn't a good experience.
Um we we got along okay. But I just remember thinking to myself during that trip, which was years before, like I'm gonna go back by myself one day and like really assimilate and live the live here in the way that I want to. So I was like this is my chance. And right before I left he had been like disappearing without telling me he would like go to Palm Springs for a few days with his co workers. Um and it just became clear that this was really ending. So we decided to just sort of like soft ended before I left, not like full on like it's over. Um but we we like broke up in a sort of not that harsh, not that definitive, but like yes, we're broken up sort of way. So and he promised me that while I was gone, he was going to go to therapy. Like he was gonna, you know, we had gone to couples therapy like twice. Um but he was like and that therapist had recommend he go to his own individual therapy and he was, he was like, I'm going to do it, I'm going to, you know, he had like homework while I was gone.
Um and I flew, not just to ITaly but to this tiny independent micro state in Italy called san Marino and I lived in this beautiful little colorful bungalow with this with this sound marina is a jazz singer named Valentina and we became like sisters and it was in this like tiny medieval mountain town of course like three days and I met a boy who was like just the sweetest like small town italian boy, it was like Aladdin, he showed me the world, you know what I mean? And we just had this like really intense passionate affair, like fling right there was playing for the month that I was there, like all these kismet things fell into place like and it was just like the adventure of a lifetime and gave me so much clarity and when I landed I flew to new york, I was going to spend a week in new york with my best friend um and when I landed in new york I was on like the bus heading back from JFK to queens where she lived and I called him, we hadn't spoken at all, I called him and we like officially ended things, he had not gone to therapy of course, um he had moved out um and the break up itself was like so warm, so compassionate, so like just an exhale, you know, um like the relationship had been so fraud and I want to say to like and I have so many therapists friends, like my therapist friends have reminded me that there were good things in the relationship to like if there weren't good things and this is like a cult, if there weren't good things, I would never have entered a relationship with him and I would never have stayed for them.
Of course, I mean, but that's the thing we get tricked. It's a trick. It's like, yes, there's good moments and there's bad moments, but it's like if the bad moments outweigh the good moments, but we as you know, wanting to connect, go like, oh, they're shining light on me, they're giving me love and then a couple of minutes later it could be the dark, like it's that push pull of the back forth, which is hard to get out of completely and it's also just like you have this delusional optimism that one day if you just stick it out, things are gonna get better. Like getting a job or he gets confident or you get this like, things will get better maybe if you haven't really child or you get married, it will be better. And it's like, no, no, no. Like you cannot like hope for the future, it gets better. Like, you have to look now and I think that's what I loved having you on is to show like yeah, there's great moments, therapists say there's great moments, but the abuse is still there, it's still there and forth. The wishy washy, the the roller coaster is still there and that's not to say that if you have like a rough passion in your relationship, you should fly the coop like that's not it.
But if you spend your whole relationship waiting for it to get better, that's not good. And you know these ingrained human reasoning flaws will come into play like we have sunk cost fallacy like we think the longer you stay in something that means the longer you should stay like I've been in it this long, I can't quit now like to call things like I can't, I've been in this for seven years, I can't get out of this, this is my whole life. All my friends are here, everybody I know is here, I don't have any money. They have all my money. It's all Exactly. No, it's literally exactly that and so you know in realizing those similarities between my relationship and that leader and a follower, I was able to just have so much more compassion and empathy and understanding for people who wind up in a group like NexIUM or even like A Q. And on situation like yes they are doing awful unspeakable things but I like sort of get it. Yeah, I mean empathy and compassion that people get in situations where they don't feel they can get out of your manipulated and they shine a light on you and it feels like the best thing in the world and then they take it away and it's the most depressing and that that I love that you identify is the same as a bad relationship that isn't healthy.
Yeah. Oh my gosh! Well, talking about all this, like, I have not talked about this with a stranger other than a therapist ever. And um so it feels very feeling, oh my God, we're so over time. But if anybody wants to check out your book, check out your work, where can they find you right now? Um great, so you can find me on instagram at Amanda underscore Montella. I'm also launching a podcast in june about cults called sounds like a cult. Um it's called sounds like a cult. It's about the everyday cults we all follow. Um so, and then my book cultish, The language of fanaticism will be published june 15th available wherever books are sold, you can preorder it now. Um I also wrote a book called word slut. Then that's available wherever books are sold to. Yeah, well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing that secret and what you went through and how you got to the other side and I'm so grateful. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. And if you want to be on the show, please email me at Secret Life podcast at iCloud dot com until next time.
Thanks again for listening to the show, please subscribe rate share or send me a note at Secret Life podcast dot com and if you like to check out my book, head over to Secret Life novel dot com or amazon to pick up a copy for yourself or someone you love. Thanks again. See you soon. Mm.