Rod Keller watches Scientology social media for us, and this week he got wind of the death of a former Narconon staff member. As he looked into it further, Rod discovered a disturbing trend…
Karl Richard Tempest died on September 24. Karl had become a “student” at one of the Church of Scientology’s drug rehab centers, the Narconon Sunshine Summit Lodge in Warner Springs, California in 2012 after he experienced seizures as he came off an airplane after attending a family wedding. He was suffering from delirium tremens, a condition that results from a lack of alcohol after a period of heavy drinking, most common in those who have abused alcohol for 10 years or more.
Unlike traditional addiction rehab facilities, Narconon encourages patients to go directly from treatment to an unpaid internship, and from there to become a member of the staff, earning minimum wage. In traditional rehab centers years of sobriety and an undergraduate or graduate degree can be required to become a counselor.
After completing his Narconon program in California he became an intern there, and later became a staff member at Narconon Rainbow Canyon in Caliente, Nevada. He served as a course supervisor. Course supervisors in Narconon have the same responsibilities as they do in the larger Scientology organization. They sit in the courseroom and assist students as they study materials. In Scientology they supervise students of Scientology as they make their way towards Clear and beyond to the Operating Thetan levels. In Narconon they supervise substance abuse patients as they study the eight Narconon courses.
Karl was promoted to Director of Inspections and Reports, an executive position within the Hubbard Communications Office, or HCO. Commonly known as “ethics,” the position is responsible for handling real or imagined misbehavior, but is also the person responsible for compiling the statistics of any Scientology org, including Narconon. By all accounts he did not relapse in his four years at Narconon, and made many friends. He is remembered fondly, as many students credit him as the person who made their stay more bearable.
Karl left Narconon earlier this year and returned to live with his mother in Linn Creek, Missouri. His father recalls it was either because he wasn’t being paid or he wasn’t being promoted. His mother is the owner of Donna’s Ice House, a bar known for hosting live music events. On September 26th his mother found Karl had passed away on the floor of their home and called the Sheriff’s office. The Camden County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy, and the results may be available in a few months, but Karl’s father Joe Tempest is sure his death was related to his addiction. “Karl fell back into a bad crowd with people at his mother’s bar. He told me he was having seizures again and vomiting. I told him to go to a doctor, but he didn’t.”
Former Narconon staff who knew Karl are understandably upset, all the more so because this kind of news has become a common occurrence. I spoke with three current and former staff members who spoke with me on the condition they not be identified: “Amy,” “Beth,” and “Carol.”
Deaths at Narconon have affected Amy deeply. “Karl marks number fourteen since I’ve been home and it begins to take a toll on you when people constantly email you about deaths. I’m overwhelmed. It’s taken me almost a year to get back to somewhat normal and then this happens. I get flashbacks every day of that place, when I see or hear the words Scientology or Narconon I choke up and cry.”
Despite her negative associations with Narconon, Amy continues to believe in the value of the program. “Narconon can and has saved lives but has destroyed many in different ways. I’m a product of that. The program is amazing. I’m still going to stand by it ten thousand percent. I do believe in it.”
Beth agrees “Karl got me hatted up on the program so I could start working there. It’s been a rough year for our group as Narconon staff members because we have lost so many this year – probably about six or seven. Narconon has good standards and tech to get people clean, but right now they don’t have the right people who want to help. They’re just there for the paycheck.”
Carol is less positive about the value of the tech when it comes to addiction. “I know more people that have come out of there and died than any other place. They are liars who have a false success rate. They exploit kids in the first months of recovery, charge tens of thousands and pay their kids minimum wage. And do not have ANY aftercare. Karl may be an example of an addict who put the time and faith into Narconon and realized when he got home he had learned nothing. I have a problem with any institution that lies to get people there.”
Carol is right – Narconon does not provide aftercare. Quite the opposite, they encourage graduates to avoid counseling of any kind. Scientology opposes Psychiatry and mental health care, and non-Scientology addiction counselors are viewed as “Psychs” to be feared and avoided. They reject the disease model of addiction and teach that their program results in completely removing a person’s addiction and all cravings for alcohol or drugs. If a graduate is no longer an addict, there should be no need for counseling. This is contrary to virtually all other recovery programs, but is very attractive to a family considering a traditional 12-step program who fears that addiction will be with them the rest of their lives. The Narconon name “student” rather than “patient” is symbolic of their view of addiction is not a disease, but an obstacle to be overcome through study.
Narconon staff have identified several staff members who have died, including the death of Tabatha Fauteux, who died on November 6, 2015 during Narconon training in Hollywood of a heroin overdose. Jesse James Kitko died at his home in Noblesville, Indiana of multi-drug intoxication on November 15, 2015 after leaving Narconon staff.
Kevin Vavricka died of an overdose on March 25, 2016 four days after leaving Narconon staff.
While relapse by addiction professionals from traditional centers has happened, the relapse and death of up to fourteen staff members from one program is unheard of. Narconon’s advice to departing staff is the same as for all graduates – “Be Temperate.” The advice comes from The Way to Happiness, a booklet by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Narconon teaches that addicts do not need to live a life of abstinence.
A former staff member says that Narconon requested permission to make it clear that addicts risk relapse if they use drugs or alcohol, even in moderation. The request was denied by higher level Scientology officials because they hold that the words of Hubbard are not to be altered in any way, and so Book 8 continues to support temperance, not abstinence.
It isn’t known how many former Narconon staff have relapsed and died, not even among the graduates. They privately keep track of the number of friends lost, but avoid mentioning the causes of these deaths on social media. Some believe in a sort of code that prevents them from telling others what is going on in their group. “When people ask they want names. And that means we are telling on others and makes us relive stuff we don’t want to,” says Amy.
— Rod Keller
Fialkoffs finally rewarded for snowing NYPD and NYC schools
After years of working diligently to infiltrate New York City’s schools and the NYPD with L. Ron Hubbard’s quack drug theories, Queens dentist Bernard Fialkoff and his glamorous daughter, Meghan, have finally gotten their due. Last night in England at the annual IAS gala, David Miscavige rewarded the New York pair with Freedom Medals.
Gosh, we wonder if anyone at the NYPD or in New York media will bother to ask them, if they were simply pushing “secular” programs on New York City school kids, why were they just honored with the Church of Scientology’s highest award for doing “religious” work?
Donald Trump tweet implies Kirstie Alley’s support after she dumps him
We’re curious to see what Kirstie Alley is going to do, if anything, after Donald Trump this morning retweeted a supporter who included a photo of the actress that implies her support of the Republican candidate, when just the day before Kirstie dropped her support of “either candidate.”
Kirstie had been a big Trump supporter until Friday afternoon’s Access Hollywood tape catching Trump say of women who were star struck by him that he kissed them whether they wanted it or not, and that he could even “grab them by the pussy.”
After that tape went viral, some big names who had been backing Trump unendorsed him, including Alley…
Our readers noticed that tweet last night, and posted it in our comments section. But this morning, Trump retweeted a follower who included photos of “Women [who] love Donald,” including Alley…
We’ll be curious to see if Alley noticed, and if she asks Trump to take down the endorsement.
Audible.com has released the audiobook version of The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper and you can get the book for free if you’re signing up at Audible for the first time!
Read by the author (that’s us), the book tells the incredible tale of a journalist who was among the first to expose Scientology’s controversies, and nearly paid for it with her life. Go to Audible’s website for more details — [US version] [UK version]
To support the Audible launch, Paulette Cooper joined us for an “Ask Me Anything” session at Reddit on September 29, which covered a lot of topics about the book and about this website.
E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield