The last few months have been pretty eventful for Sarah Edmondson.
She was one of the main sources in the HBO documentary series “The Vow,” which premiered in August. The show documented her 12 years in the group, which became her source of income and almost her entire social circle, and didn’t end until several months after she had been branded with the leader’s initials. In late October, that leader, Keith Raniere, was sentenced to 120 years in prison for charges sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy.
Edmondson, who’s based in Vancouver, has been open about her experience in NXIVM for years. She was one of the whistleblowers who first spoke to the New York Times for their 2017 investigation into the secretive group, and many Canadians had already heard about her experience on the 2018 CBC podcast “Uncover: Escaping NXIVM.”
But HBO introduced her to a whole new audience, and many viewers have turned to her for help, she said in an Instagram post on Tuesday.
“I am blown away to find out how much my story and [“The Vow”] has been helping people recover from their own history of trauma,” she wrote underneath a picture of herself with one of her two young sons on Hornby Island in B.C.
“I was quite surprised to find out how many people are currently in such a group, or even a toxic relationship and can relate somehow.”
She’s been dispensing resources and advice privately to people who have reached out, she said, but wants to share her thoughts more widely.
Hornby Island itself is a place she loves, she said.
“We go every summer,” she wrote. “It’s where I go in my mind when I am doing a guided meditation and am asked to think of my most favourite spot in nature.”
Some of her other self-care tools, she said, include meditation, CBD oil, “proper” therapy (NXIVM offered self-serving sessions that borrowed some of the language and tools of therapy), normal routines, long walks, spending time with friends, hot epsom salt baths and new family traditions, Edmondson said.
Therapy, meditation and long walks are often recommended to help with stress. The widely-claimed benefits of CBD are still unproven, although a professor from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. told the New York Times last year that the therapeutic benefits of CBD are “promising” because the compound is “relatively safe.”
She also posted a long list of resources about cults on her website, including books, articles, videos, movies, TV shows, and a list of therapist who specialize in treating cult survivors or other people who have been manipulated.
The list is based on one she got from Bonnie Piesse, another former NXIVM member who’s also heavily featured in “The Vow.” That initial list was very helpful to Edmonson “when I had just woken up and left,” she said. “I have since narrowed it down but I can’t thank her enough for putting this together.”