Canadian NXIVM Survivor Explains How She Healed After Leaving Cult

Sarah Edmondson said she was "blown away" by how many people got in touch with her to ask for help.
Sarah Edmondson with her husband Anthony "Nippy" Ames, also a former member of NXIVM.
Sarah Edmondson with her husband Anthony "Nippy" Ames, also a former member of NXIVM.

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.

View this post on Instagram

This is me in my happy place @hornbyisland . On the Heliwell bluffs. We go every summer. 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. 🌲 Nature, meditation, proper therapy, normal routines, establishing new family traditions, CBD oil, hot epsom salt baths, body work are some of my new tools in healing and recovery. 🌈 I am sharing this now because I am blown away to find out how much my story and @theVow_HBO has been helping people recover from their own history of trauma. For some - they are simply fascinated with cults and how they work - but 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. I have been sharing resources privately but now want to share a very important list that is based on what @bonniempiesse shared with me when I had just woken up and left. I have since narrowed it down but I can’t thank her enough for putting this together. Also, to @ph383 For re-formatting it for my website. I wish I knew how to do stuff like that 😆 Finally, the most important aspect of my healing is healthy relationships with people who love me for me. ❤️Thank you to @cavecaroline for being an unbelievably top notch friend, for always coming on frantic walks with me to calm down and for capturing this moment. Link in bio- I hope it helps you in some way…. 🙌 #healing #therapy #PTSD #cbd #edibles #picoftheday #hornbyisland #selfaware #support #strongertogether #cultrecovery #cultawareness #NXIVM #iGotOut #theVowHbo #thingsihavetimefor #onwardsandupwards

A post shared by Sarah Edmondson (@sarahedmondson) on

“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.”

Sarah Edmondson with Bonnie Piesse and Mark Vicente, both former NXIVM members who are also heavily featured in "The Vow."
Sarah Edmondson with Bonnie Piesse and Mark Vicente, both former NXIVM members who are also heavily featured in "The Vow."