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What really happens at a Scientology rehab? Nick Lister dishes on the Narconon experience

Nick_Lister_Aaron2Hey, we’re still recovering from last night’s wild time in London. Thankfully, Aaron Smith-Levin has sent over a couple of new videos interview Nick Lister in their series, “Growing Up In Scientology.” We’ll let Aaron introduce them…

In this first clip Nick talks about his time at Scientology’s biggest drug rehab facility, Narconon Arrowhead, located two hours east of Oklahoma City. When it’s convenient, Scientology claims it has no relationship to or responsibility for the Narcnonon organization. At Scientology events, it’s another story — leader David Miscavige openly talks about Narconon as a branch of the church that’s intended to expand Scientology’s influence.

As Tony has documented many times, Narconon doesn’t actually deliver drug counseling, but instead puts its patients through Scientology drills — the same drills you get in the church itself. The rehab program is a sequence of three steps 1) Scientology’s “purification rundown” 2) Scientology’s communications drills called “Training Routines” and 3) basic Scientology auditing processes called “Objective Processing.”

The “purification rundown” requires participants to take extremely high doses of vitamins, including up to 5,000 IU of Niacin daily, do light cardio exercise, and spend up to 5 hours per day in a sauna. The idea is that one is supposed to sweat out all of the drug residue that has been stored in one’s body fat. Science has proven this concept to be completely false, but apparently doing this program can make some people feel better about certain things, or it makes people claim to feel better so they can stop the program.

“Training Routines” (or TRs) are communications drills. There are 11 drills in total. These include some famous ones, like TR 0, where two people sit in a chair and look at each other for two hours without getting up or speaking or moving, as well as the “screaming at an ashtray drill” where one holds an ashtray and screams commands at it such as “Stand up! Thank you!”, “Sit down in that chair. Thank you!” while manually making the ashtray comply with the commands. These drills are intended to make one comfortable with communicating to and controlling people.


“Objective Processes” are where one is asked to interact with their environment in various ways for hundreds of hours until they voice that they feel brighter, more in “present time” with their attention directed more outward and towards the future instead of inward or towards the past. There are many different Objectives Processes, but examples of the types of commands used are “Look at that wall. Thank you,” “Walk over to that wall. Thank you,” “Touch that wall. Thank you.” These commands are repeated to a person for hours at a time with the auditor manually enforcing the auditing commands if the person hesitates or refuses to obey.

You can see that the Narconon program is 100 percent Scientology.

After Nick was declared for associating with evil SPs, the Church pressured his friends and most of his family to disconnect from him. The Church allowed Nick’s mom, Sara Goldberg, to stay connected to Nick only if he was making progress on an exact series of steps dictated by the Church to get back into the Church’s good graces.

While Nick was grappling with that, he developed a drug habit which lasted a couple months. Once Nick told Sara about his habit, she arranged for him to go to Narconon’s flagship facility in Oklahoma.

In this clip Nick provides some details about his experience at Narconon, including rampant drug use among the Narconon staff (“successful” Narconon graduates?), the fact that the Church had shipped Nick’s supposedly confidential religious auditing files to the Narconon staff for their use (how can a secular rehab facility take receipt of confidential religious auditing files?) and that even while mid rehab Nick was being contacted by Sea Org members in Clearwater harassing him about whether he’d recently spent time with people the Church considered undesirable.

— Aaron


In this clip Nick describes what it was like to join staff at Tampa Org and what happened when he did. This is comedy gold.



Home of the brash, outrageous, and free

London turned out to be everything we hoped. Conway Hall was filled last night, and we had fun on stage with BBC reporter John Sweeney and the man who published our books, Humfrey Hunter. Conway Hall recorded the program, and we hope we did all right. The red tie we’re wearing came from Savile Row courtesy of some very generous Underground Bunker readers. And we all repaired to the Old Nick pub nearby after the show for some imbibing. Thanks to Jon Atack for making the trip down from Nottingham, and to so many other fascinating Bunker readers who told us how much they enjoy taking part in this ongoing experiment.


Conway Hall, before the hubbub…


With a personal hero of ours at the pre-party, Hartley Patterson…


Martin Padfield shows off his Sea Org tie!


Talking with Jon Atack at Ye Old Mitre pub before the show…


In the green room with our publisher, Humfrey Hunter of Silvertail Books…




We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, 7 pm (with Gregg Housh)

Sept 15: Barrett the Honors College, Arizona State University, ASU in Downtown Phoenix campus

Sept 23: Cleveland, Parma Heights Library, 7pm sponsored by Center for Inquiry – Northeast Ohio

Sept 24: Minneapolis

Sept 27: Portland

Sept 28: Seattle, Razzi’s Pizzeria, 7 pm, with Seattle Skeptics and Seattle Atheists

Sept 29: Vancouver, BC, Seven Dining Lounge, 7 pm

Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 26: Melbourne

Oct 28: Adelaide (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 30: Perth

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4)


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 5, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB 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 LA 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

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
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


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