Episode Summary

Mark is a gay man who was with his partner for 15 years, legally married for five. His partner became involved in QAnon, and Mark noticed a change in his personality that he suspected was connected to the right wing extremism. In June or July of 2020, Mark discovered Q merchandise on his partner's desk and began to learn more about the conspiracy theory. He heard rumors that it involved Hillary Clinton drinking the blood of children, but even this seemed too far-fetched for him to believe.

Quotes We Loved

  • The Danger of QAnon: "I understand how Hitler came to power in a way I never did before. Before QAnon, before I saw it happen to someone I loved and respected and cared about, who is now just not the same person."
  • Dealing with a Partner's Conspiracy Theories: "Find your own way to validate your experience. Don't wait for them to acknowledge it...It's going to be a while before they really reconcile with what they did and how they damaged you."
  • Conspiracy Theories and the Fame Model: "Conspiracy theorists generally feel powerless, and they want to be the hero. They want to be the hero that comes down from the mountain with the secret information that can save the world they want to be. They're a victim and a hero at the same time."

Read podcast transcript

Antonio [00:00:00]:

On this episode of Escaping the Rabbit Hole, my guest Mark and I discussed his husband that fell prey to QAnon, their rocky marriage due to conspiracy theories and the most toxic thing in therapy and self help. Can you guess what the most toxic thing in therapy and self help is? Stay tuned to find out.

Speaker B [00:00:18]:

Welcome to Escaping the Rabbit Hole, hosted by former conspiracy theorist Antonio Perez, author of Converting Conspiracy Theorists. Antonio looks at conspiracy theories from multiple angles, such as how do conspiracy theorists impact their family and friends? How can they escape the grip of conspiracy theories? And why do they fall down the rabbit hole in the first place? You'll discover strategies to set clear boundaries with people stuck in dangerous conspiracy theories and improve your mental well being. Here's your host, Antonio Perez.

Antonio [00:00:51]:

Aloha, this is Antonio. Thanks for joining me. Are you still guessing what the most toxic thing in therapy and self help is? We'll get to that in just a moment. First, allow me to introduce my guest, Mark. Welcome to the podcast.

Mark [00:01:05]:

Thank you.

Antonio [00:01:06]:

Now, can you give me kind of a brief background of how things came to be?

Mark [00:01:15]:

Gosh, where to start? Okay, well, I am gay. I was married to a man. We were together about 15 years, legally married five of those after it passed in the US. Of course, and I lost him to QAnon. I first discovered he was into it near the start of the pandemic. I knew for sure in June 2020, although I now suspect he was into it before that. I had noticed a personality change, just seemed angrier. I had noticed things, but I didn't know what was causing it until I think it was either June or July 2020. I discovered Q, and on merchandise on his desk, a T shirt and some bumper stickers. And at that time, I only knew a little bit about QAnon. I had heard that there was this new conspiracy theory online about Hillary Clinton drinking the blood of children. I thought that was so far out, even my husband wouldn't believe it.

Antonio [00:02:30]:

It's comical. Yes, it's comical until you look back and realize that the whole eating eating baby blood, it goes back to the Jews.

Mark [00:02:44]:

Yes. And I come to understand that until.

Antonio [00:02:47]:

Later, when these people talk about the Hollywood elite, like I wrote in my book Converting Conspiracy Theorists, when these people talk about Hollywood elite, I'm like, that's a clean way of saying the Jews.

Mark [00:03:04]:

Yes. And so for the next year and a half or so of utter hell, honestly, the worst years of my life easily went back and forth with argument, with screaming fights to just not talking about it, and lots of stages along the way. Ultimately, I asked him for a divorce in July of 2021. I moved out in September of 2021, and the divorce was finalized in November.

Antonio [00:03:54]:

Sorry for when you say stages, do you mean stages? Of grief that you were going through.

Mark [00:03:59]:

Correct. I mean, there was for a long time, there was fighting and arguing. It was really nasty. He started posting really hateful, awful shit on Facebook. As we got closer to the 2020 election, my phone was blowing up with friends and family saying, what is going on? Did somebody hack him because of the things he was posting? And that culminated the morning of the election, 2020. And at this point, I thought Trump had it. It looked that way.

Antonio [00:04:44]:

That morning, I was sweating bullets like a lot of people were.

Mark [00:04:49]:

Yeah. At that point. And so I woke up, I got dressed, I packed a bag, and when he woke up, I was already ready to go. I said, I'm out of here. I want a divorce. Congratulations. We've got President Trump. You got your way. I left and went to a hotel for two days. And in that time, we did not speak. We exchanged a few cautious texts. That was it. And after that, he got off Facebook. He stopped posting on his Facebook and that and I cooled off, and I thought, maybe this is salvageable. So I came back from the hotel. That was that friday evening was Saturday morning that Biden was officially, finally declared the winner. But he had cooled off. He had stayed off Facebook. He had deleted some of the most poisonous things he had posted. The worst one that I recall, and I said, if you had posted this stuff when we were dating, we would not even be friends, much less than a marriage. The worst one I can recall, when the fly happened in the debate with Pence.

Antonio [00:06:10]:

Yes.

Mark [00:06:10]:

Okay. He posted a meme with Camela and an arrow pointing at her genitals saying, this is where the fly came from.

Antonio [00:06:24]:

I'm not discounting that. I've seen way worse.

Mark [00:06:27]:

I know, but it's just absolutely vulgar stuff. Pepe frogs leading Hillary to the electric chair.

Antonio [00:06:33]:

That's bad. That kind of brings back a point. I don't know if you've ever if you ever noticed how if you have a conservative comedian versus a liberal comedian, liberal comedians are generally funnier. A lot of conservative comedian, it's just about like, how can we own this person? It's just not funny. No, it's just not funny. A lot of the memes, I'm like, Come on. I'm like, you guys, try harder. I mean, I've seen a couple of memes, and they make fun of Biden. That was kind of funny. But most of it's just not funny.

Mark [00:07:04]:

Yeah, it's vulgar.

Antonio [00:07:07]:

And I think the difference between liberals and Republicans or Trumpers, not even Republicans, are just flat out Trumpers is. I'm not happy with everything Biden does. I've been kind of disappointed here and there. Like, come on, we do need younger people. But in my closet here, you're not going to see any Biden shirt. I am not making him my identity.

Mark [00:07:32]:

That's very true. And you always hear that from them. You just love biden. No, I don't. I didn't want Biden. I didn't want him to win the nomination, but I'm going to get behind him and support him, and he's miles better than Trump.

Antonio [00:07:50]:

And here's one of my conspiracy theories in 2020. November 6. I woke up, my heart's pounding. I'm like, oh, my God, this is nuts. If Trump runs again, he's a narcissist. He doesn't care about the Republic Party or Democrat Party. He is going to destroy the GOP, and it looks like that. I'm like, we might want him to run. I hope I don't curse us, but he might.

Mark [00:08:15]:

It's awful risky, but I could see a scenario where DeSanis gets the nomination, and Trump goes off on a tear and forms a third party and splits the Republican Party down the middle.

Antonio [00:08:27]:

Or he just says, Everybody vote for me. I'm like, okay, cool. I'm with that.

Mark [00:08:31]:

Yeah, because DeSantis has none of the well, Trump has charisma to the people that like, Trump, I certainly don't get it, but DeSantis has none of that.

Antonio [00:08:45]:

What was your perspective about mental health growing up versus now, after everything, even, that you've gone through?

Mark [00:08:54]:

I believed in mental health care and all that. I went through a time in my 20s when I was in therapy for some issues with depression. Matter of fact, we'll get to that. That was one of the killing blows of the relationship. I had some pretty bad times in my twenty s and late 20s, early 30s, but I come through that. I've been out of therapy for a while, and then that was another stage along the way. I went into therapy over this to pick up the narrative where we left off. After I came back, I asked him to go to counseling and work on our marriage, and he said, Well, I'll consider it in three months. I just want to get back to normal. And it didn't occur to me until after the conversation was over. What that was that was in three months, the inauguration would have happened, and at that point, he believed the whole thing would have come about the storm and all that. So that was just I didn't figure that out until later on. But that was just complete disingenuous bullshit on his part. Yeah, he thought by then I'd be eating crow, and he'd be proven right.

Antonio [00:10:08]:

Under if back to normal meant me back when you said back to normal, meaning me back to believing in all this.

Mark [00:10:18]:

No, I think he meant our normal routine of go about our jobs, our daily lives, go out to eat Friday and Saturday, and our normal routine, see our friends do all the things that.

Antonio [00:10:32]:

We used to do in regards to mental health. One tool that has made a phenomenal difference for me, actually, two tools. One is called Core transformation. People are reading this. You can get the book. It's easier if you can find a practitioner that does it. Cord transformation. It's a hypnosis process that works on the idea that every behavior we have, it's there for a reason or there's a function behind the behavior. For me, I used to have a horrible fear when I was in the bathroom. If I turned off the light, I would get this panic that would run through my body. And I thought to myself, wow, what if there's a serial killer behind the shower curtain? And that made sense in my old apartment when we were on ground floor and there was windows. But this apartment now there's no window, so serial killer couldn't have got in there. And it's very, I guess, narcissistic to think that somebody's waiting for me hours on that in the shower to wait just for me. Besides the point. Long story short, we had a neighbor that was killed, I think it was like five or six for years I had horrific nightmares. It was bad. I use that particular process on myself, and like I said, it's easier, so many guides you through it. But when I use that on myself, it took the fear I had, the fear of is there a serial killer behind the curtain? Was it wasn't really trying to scare me. It was trying to protect me. Hey, there might be a serial killer. Be safe. I can't describe the process now, it's too long. But I took that fear and by working with that, the quote unquote part of me that caused it, the unconscious part of me, we got it to a point of like one, I think it was wholeness. And that right there, that fear vanished. It took about 45 minutes to an hour to do the process. It was hard to remember everything. So it's very trans inducing. It felt like a really big daydream. So when I got that phenomenal result, I thought to myself like, oh my God, this is a holy grail of change work. Sadly, not every change I've made with that process works as good as that. I have made some phenomenal changes. I got rid of trauma from our neighbor being killed when I was little. So now when I go to the bathroom, I can turn off the light. It was crazy being 30, 45 now, but being 37, turn off the light and getting to the point where I'm like, oh my God, panicking. Being in the dark. I guess social norms say you should not be a 37 year old man scared of the dark. Besides the point. With that being said, I had to use core transformation on I've had a couple of behaviors I've had to do like two, three, four sessions. Another great session I did is I have a loved one that's been using meth on and off for 13 years or so recently. They cleaned up and then they relapsed. Thank God they cleaned up again. The last time I kept trying to save them. I'm sure like your situation. You're probably trying to save your ex husband. I was trying to save him. Trying to save him. I use this process of myself and I was able to get to the point. Now when I think about this loved one, even now, I'm not panicking in my chest. So, yeah, anybody listening? The book core transformation is really good. It can introduce you to it if you're in therapy, ask a therapist about using it. And it's real similar to something called Ifs Internal Family Systems, which is like kind of inner child work. Another great tool that's much simpler to use is Wop. I kind of call it the one sentence goal setting trick, which is almost hype, but it's the idea that a lot of people think that to set goals, we just have to be positive. And it's very toxic. People like the self help. Just be positive. Be positive. Be positive that your husband's going to be all right, that you have to be realistic with whoop it stands for wish Outcome Obstacle Plan. The w is. What's your wish? You could think maybe in your case, you want to be calm. When you're dealing with a conspiracy theorist, o is Outcome. Like, what's that going to do for me? You close your eyes, you visualize that outcome, visualize maybe being calm, and maybe it gives you a sense of freedom or whatever it is. And then the second O is obstacle. What internal obstacle would prevent me from getting this goal? You visualize it negative. And this is where most self help people don't want you to focus on negative, but you focus on the negative. You focus on the internal struggle or obstacle that prevent you from getting that. And then P is plan. You create Implementation Plan, meaning if if X happens, then I will y, if this struggle happens, then I will do this. If, let's say your obstacle is fear of confrontation, you say, if fear of confrontation, then I will take three deep breaths. If fear of confrontation, then I will go for a walk or whatever it is. And Whoop is a free tool. You can either get her book Rethinking Positive Thinking or you can just Google Whoop and you can figure that out.

Speaker B [00:16:12]:

To get instant access to the newest episodes of the podcast and the first three chapters of Antonio's newest book, go to www.escapingtheravethole.com and enter your first name and best email and smash the button that says Get the podcast.

Antonio [00:16:29]:

What's the one idea that you think the majority of people get completely wrong about? Conspiracy theorists.

Mark [00:16:35]:

I think they think that conspiracy theorists are crazy. And they're not well, not crazy in that sense. They think that conspiracy theories are remote, something that can't happen to them. And I don't think I could go into it, but I've seen a lot more experience, and I don't mean to come off arrogant, but I think I have a little more critical thinking background, a little more, okay, what is this person's agenda? When I read something and okay, do I trust this? Does this sound accurate? Does this sound reasonable? And if it doesn't, okay, where do they get this? Why should I trust this person? I think I'm more of a skeptic, but I think people hear the complete extreme of QAnon, the stuff about drinking babies blood, and Michelle Obama is a man or whatever other far out beliefs and think that these are just wackos that believe this. They don't understand that, no, this is spreading. And it's infecting a lot of people who are gullible, who are easily led. And it's not just some weird thing online. It's your mom, your soccer moms, dads, lots of baby boomers that maybe aren't electronically that didn't grow up with the Internet. Your average Joe going about their day doesn't have a relative one in Q, and on doesn't know of Q. And on personally don't understand that. It's way more than the crazy blood drinking, cult bullshit stuff anymore. It's the antivax. It's the all gay people are groomers and pushing the antitrans and how the Republican Party is at best looking the other way, and in many cases, Marjorie holding their hand, marjorie Taylor Green, et cetera, exploiting it or believe it themselves. And what I have said to people, and most people dismiss me as alarmist. I understand how Hitler came to power in a way I never did before. Before QAnon, before I saw it happen to someone I loved and respected and cared about, who is now just not the same person. And that's one thing I've told him, that's one thing I've said when I confide to my friends. I told him directly, as far as I'm concerned, we're not divorced. The divorce was just legal bullshit we had to do for me to get out of this. As far as I'm concerned, I'm a widow. Because he threw my face when I made the promise. When we exchanged those rigs, it was forever. And I made a promise, and I stand by that. I said, as far as I'm concerned, the person I made that promise to is not the person standing in front of me. And I'm not breaking any vow.

Antonio [00:20:22]:

Sorry for your loss. How does he reconcile a lot of this bigotry with all gays being groomers when he's gay?

Mark [00:20:34]:

Have you ever very dismissive of that? It's a little hard to say because we are not on speaking terms anymore. He has been told not to contact me, that I do not want to hear from him. And when I left the antitrans stuff, it was whispered about, but it was not like it's been this past the past six to eight months where it's really getting bad. So I don't 100% know. I do know I still snoop on his Twitter feed, and he has posted some anti trans stuff. I think he sees trans as different from gay. I knew a few trans people in the I used to perform in the Gay Men's Chorus, and I had a few trans friends, but he rarely, if ever, socialized with them. Didn't really know any trans people, and I think he sees that as different. I did ask him at one point, trump says horrible things about gay people. Any point that's all made up that's the media just making you think that? I saw a Trump rally and there was a drag queen. He sees one token drag queen at a Trump rally, and Trump's okay, he totally buys the bullshit.

Antonio [00:22:04]:

After everything you've gone through, what are the new rules you have for your relationships, be it romantic, family, or friends?

Mark [00:22:16]:

I do have ads on a few personal sites, and it just says, get lost. If there's a whole if you are maggotrop ananon QAnon, think Hillary Clinton drinks baby blood, blah, blah, blah. Believe in the Sara Gessar aliens. Watch Fox News. O-A-N-N there's like, a whole string of things. Just get lost.

Antonio [00:22:39]:

Which is sad, because there's legitimate conspiracies out there. Things have happened. The government's done some shady stuff, but then they extrapolate that to mean everything. Well, like aliens. I personally believe in aliens. I think it's very real possibility there's a big leap from aliens to people are eating babies.

Mark [00:23:00]:

Well, and when I say alien, thing I know is the universe is vast beyond my comprehension, beyond anybody's comprehension. And add in the credible real scientists now believe there could even be multiple universes. I think it's only a fool would believe there's no possibility there's something else out there in the world now, something else that has the capability of interstate stellar travel and reaches us.

Antonio [00:23:29]:

I don't believe you know what's wild is you know how the government just came out within the past few months, and they're like, there's UFOs. They kind of declassified stuff. The Q one on nut jobs aren't focusing on that.

Mark [00:23:43]:

No, they want the fairy tale.

Antonio [00:23:45]:

Yeah. And it's weird for you to fantasize about pedophile. It's weird. Which brings it up in let's see if this is yeah, this is my author copy of the book I wrote, converting Conspiracy Theorist. Basically talks about the craziness that I went being a conspiracy theorist. In part of the book, I talk about something called the fame model, F-A-M-E which I believe is what keeps people trapped in conspiracy theorists, which makes sense for me. Some of the people might disagree. Fame F stands for feeling powerless. When I was a conspiracy theorist, I had real bad depression, grew up. I was suicidal. When I was 21, I think it was that was right around when I was getting into the conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theorists generally feel powerless, and they want to be the hero. They want to be the hero that comes down from the mountain with the secret information that can save the world they want to be. They're a victim and a hero at the same time.

Mark [00:24:50]:

Exactly, yes.

Antonio [00:24:51]:

A is apophenia. That's basically connecting the dots. That's when you see one thing and your mind is just racing around. M is Misinformation, which is everywhere, and then E is external locus of control. Locus of control. Psychology concept that states that focus control might be better. Is your focus on the outside? Is it the big, bad, scary illuminati? Is it the outside force is controlling you, or are you focusing or controlling the inside? Does that make sense?

Mark [00:25:30]:

It does. And I don't know if I got the whole concept of the control, but the other three are him to A-T-I.

Antonio [00:25:39]:

Mean, I've done nothing.

Mark [00:25:43]:

My own therapist analyzing him, and I would say the F. What was the exact phrase it stood for?

Antonio [00:25:51]:

Feeling powerless.

Mark [00:25:52]:

That is definitely him. He grew up we got together, he was in his mid forty, s, I believe, and he was still not out to his parents.

Antonio [00:26:09]:

He was what?

Mark [00:26:10]:

He was still not out to his parents at the time we started dating. Matter of fact, I more or less pushed him out of closet. He grew up in A and my precious, by saying I loved his parents. I did. By the time I knew him, his dad was a calm down older man, very loving. But he was very tough on him growing up. In my opinion. He won't thank me for saying this, but in my opinion, several stories he told me about him were abuse. Certainly mental, emotional abuse. Occasionally.

Antonio [00:26:48]:

He didn't see it maybe I'm reading into it, but he didn't see it as abuse because it was just normal to him.

Mark [00:26:56]:

Yes, that's how to give you an example, he tells a story about being smacked. He said something at the dinner table. They had guests, and he said something that it says father, and he was smacked hard enough to knock his chair over. Well, to me, that's clear cut physical abuse to him, that's just how people in the country discipline their kids in the area he grew up in. And that was perfectly okay, and I was just crazy. Matter of fact, he would get very hostile when I told him, no, that's abuse.

Antonio [00:27:30]:

I'm not a therapist because everybody throws around the words trauma response. That might be a trauma response, but keep in mind I'm not a therapist, and I'm not really qualified to speak on that, but this is my two cent.

Mark [00:27:41]:

Yes. In the meantime, his mom and again, his mom was a very wonderful, generous woman. I loved her to death. She has passed on in the middle of all the Q and on bullshit. That was another big blow. But she was also very much into presenting the perfect family to the world. And that's a lot of pressure on a kid.

Antonio [00:28:08]:

Oh, yeah.

Mark [00:28:09]:

And having a gay kid definitely did not fit into that, especially we're talking this is the wonder.

Antonio [00:28:16]:

Did his parents ever refer to you as his roommate?

Mark [00:28:21]:

No, it was past that by the time we came out. He came out. I think it took a long time. His mom never rejected me. It took her a long time to get used to me and to consider me an actual son in law. Although she was always kind. His dad went through a period of not speaking to us for years before we reconciled. And by the end of his dad's life, I considered him a father. I really did love the man, for all his faults.

Antonio [00:28:56]:

So it sounds like if they were alive now, you'd be closer to them than the ex.

Mark [00:29:03]:

Correct. And I still am close to some of his other family, still see them socially, honestly, more than they see him.

Antonio [00:29:11]:

That's scary. I was going to go back when you said that you didn't quite understand the idea of external locus of control. A good metaphor is who's driving the car? Are you driving it, or are you a passenger?

Mark [00:29:25]:

Okay.

Antonio [00:29:27]:

A lot of people fall in that idea. So there's a fame model and going back to different kind of therapy, at least for me. Parts work, core transformation or things like ifs phenomenal tool to put you back in the driver's seat.

Speaker B [00:29:48]:

Is your mental and emotional health being affected by a loved one trapped in conspiracy theories? If so, discover how Antonio can help you set clear boundaries and reclaim your mental well being. Book your free 20 minutes consultation. Call by going to www.escapingtherrabbithole.com. Call that's www.escapingtherrabbithole.com.

Antonio [00:30:10]:

C-A-L-L. What do you miss most about your ex?

Mark [00:30:21]:

I miss the person he used to be. I miss the supportive person that was always there, that cared about other people, that wasn't angry all the time, was fairly was pretty happy go lucky. And I just missed having somebody to talk to and was actually interested in things that matter and not nonsense online. I missed the kind person because there were so many little light bulb moments of this isn't the person I used to know. One example that happened where it was just like, ding. This isn't edit that out, please. This isn't my ex. Because there were so many little light bulb moments of this isn't the person I used to know. One example that happened where it was just like, ding. One day there was a horrific accident very close to our house with a flip police car, and he was caught in the resulting traffic jam and called me to tell me he was stuck in traffic. He passes it, and what he says is, I see the police car. Well, now the taxpayers get to buy another police car.

Antonio [00:32:18]:

He said all the taxpayers get to pay it. Oh, yeah. That's kind of weird.

Mark [00:32:22]:

Yeah. Not. Oh, my God. This looks horrible. Not, oh, my God, I hope that officer is okay. Not, oh, my God, I hope that officer is going to go home to his family tonight. No, the taxpayers have to buy another car.

Antonio [00:32:36]:

Was that before his descent into the rabbit hole, or was that after?

Mark [00:32:40]:

That was after. It was one of those moments where no, this was long, deep into the marriage was falling apart. But that was one of the moments where I was like, the person I married is not him anymore.

Antonio [00:32:55]:

Yeah, I'm sorry to hear that. It's mentally draining for people.

Mark [00:33:00]:

It is. It was just exhausting to live with, to tiptoe around the beast constantly. And you found me on the reddit Q and on casualties board with people. Most of them talk about their queue, just won't shut up about Q. We were not that that was not my experience. We just well, no marriage is perfect. Long before Q and on, we were conflict avoidance champs.

Antonio [00:33:37]:

There were struggles, but you guys didn't address them.

Mark [00:33:39]:

Right. I mean, every marriage has its no marriage is perfect. And so we didn't have fights. And when QAnon came along more often, we just didn't talk to each other about it. We avoided all the trigger topics, but it's very exhausting to do that, especially when you've got Trump taking over the news. In a way, it wasn't like this in the Bush years or the Obama years, where politics was everything to everybody. Twenty four, seven, and that's all anybody can talk about. And at home, you can't talk about any of that. Well, the attack on the Capitol and you don't dare bring it up at home because you don't want to hear what he's got to say about that.

Antonio [00:34:27]:

Oh, you mean when peace loving patriots were set up? Yeah.

Mark [00:34:35]:

And right about the time I finally left is when Putin invaded Ukraine. And it was like, if I had to hear him defend this violence, this attack on a peaceful country, and somehow he's going to say it's Russia's on the good side. I can't listen to that. That left very little to talk about in the marriage and just a lot of distance. The very first time we thought about Q and on, this was shortly after I found the bumper stickers in the T shirt. And I already knew enough to know I've got a problem. I had no idea how bad it was going to get. But the first time I said, you need to don't look at this stuff. Don't let it in our house. It's poison. It's terrible. And he said, okay, I won't post it on Facebook anymore if you'll shut your fucking mouth about it. And I couldn't even react because it wasn't a spoken rule. But we had always had this understanding. I mean, we both have foul mouths and use profanity, but it was over the line. We never cuss at each other. We never said fuck you to each other. That was just. Not allowed in our marriage.

Antonio [00:36:13]:

You know, it's crazy. He told you to shut your fucking mouth. But it's usually the conspiracy theorist we have to tell to shut off.

Mark [00:36:21]:

I know. And that wasn't it. And I don't say this is a good or a healthy or right thing to do in a marriage, but it was war and so kind of hilarious for a guy who worked in it. He did not have his tablet password protected, so I would spy on his text quite a bit. As I said, I don't say that's a healthy or right thing to do in a marriage. I would never have done it normally. But it was how I kept tabs on what his real thought process was and what was going on and the things he was texting to his cue buddies about me, about us, was just and in the meantime, I'm in the mode of I'm trying to save him.

Antonio [00:37:19]:

When he was talking about you to his cue buddies when he's talking to you about his cue buddies, do you think he saw everybody else as the enemy?

Mark [00:37:29]:

Yes.

Antonio [00:37:30]:

Okay.

Mark [00:37:30]:

Very much. He saw me as the enemy very much. Now I talk about he's just poisoned and liberal. He's got no. I knew which podcast he was listening to. Charlie Ward, Simon Parks, all of them. One time texted somebody yeah would really drop his panties if he knew I was watching Amanda Grace, who, if the audience doesn't know, is a radical Christian QAnon nut. But that was the way he would talk about me.

Antonio [00:38:10]:

It's a game for these people.

Mark [00:38:12]:

It is. It was like he took pleasure in baiting. That that was another have you ever.

Antonio [00:38:18]:

Played Dungeons and dragons growing up?

Mark [00:38:21]:

A little bit. Not much QAnon.

Antonio [00:38:24]:

I've always said that QAnon is dungeons and Dragons for incels or QAnon is dungeons and dragons for right wing extremists.

Mark [00:38:32]:

Yes is very much played to his need to be the star of the movie, the hero of his own story. I'm trying to save him, and more and more, he's becoming bitter. I felt like at home, I told you already, we didn't talk about it. We quote unquote got along by not talking about it. But there's always this undercurrent, and it would come out in any public situation.

Antonio [00:39:02]:

It would be, like uncomfortable.

Mark [00:39:05]:

Yes. He would attack me in public, and he knew I have a tear. I hate awkward social situations. Goes back to my history of being bullied in school. But if we go do that, we'll be here all day. But I have terror of awkward social situations, so I'm not going to fight with my husband in public. Among other things. I think if you're invited to somebody's house and you're a guest, it's very rude to have a fight with your spouse when you're a guest in somebody else's home. Yeah.

Antonio [00:39:41]:

It's very awkward.

Mark [00:39:43]:

Yes. So going to see friends and keep in mind this is all through the pandemic. So there was very little of going to see friends. That was part of why it went on as long as it did. But he would just say little things to bait me, little digs insults. Our best friends. One was at his side at groomsman in our wedding. His wife performed our ceremony, our best friends in the world, and they threw a safe outdoor Halloween party. 2020. He was so nasty to me that evening. And later on, on another occasion, I was over at their house by myself, and they said, he was so mean to you. And I had been so used to it. I was like, I didn't even remember him being him that bad that night. We were horrified. We don't know who that person was, and quite frankly, we don't want him back in our home.

Antonio [00:40:52]:

I don't like guessing on things, but when he was attacking like that, it sounds like he definitely had a lot of issues with his dad growing up, just how he was. Physical, mental abuse. Emotional abuse. Do you think he was almost acting? I was awake. Did you think he ever saw elements of his dad and you and he was kind of trying to attack that?

Mark [00:41:15]:

I never thought of that before, but that's possible.

Antonio [00:41:18]:

Not to give you any more neurosis, not to give you any other things to focus.

Mark [00:41:23]:

I'm long out. I'm past neurosis about it, but yeah, I'm not sure exactly. I can't pinpoint an exact moment I became the enemy, but I know I definitely was. By the end of things, he was just, yeah, another one towards the end. We had a favorite restaurant that we frequented, chinese restaurant. And he was talking to the waiter. I don't remember exactly even the incident, but the waitress messed up or something, and he's talking to the owner, and the owner said something about the waitress, and he looked at a Peter, an owner of a business that we frequent, not even a friend, not even a stranger. He goes, oh, well, this always keeps him in line and makes a fist. Which, let me emphasize to the audience, he never actually was physical. He never actually hit me. That was his idea of a joke because his ass would be in jail. I'm no victim, but that was the kind of humiliation I was enduring anytime we went out in public. That jokes about being a victim of domestic violence to keep me in line.

Antonio [00:42:56]:

That's weird. I'm actually writing. So the first book kind of is about me leaving conspiracy theories and how to communicate with people to help them, I guess. Get out. Second book is Coping with Conspiracy Theory. Well, the working title is Coping with Conspiracy Theorists. It's about how to manage your mental health dealing with them. I talk about something called the fake news trap. Let me know I'm going to go through the acronym. Let me know if this is very fitting for you. F stands for feeling trapped with nowhere to go.

Mark [00:43:34]:

Yes.

Antonio [00:43:35]:

Bingo. A anxiety about things getting worse.

Mark [00:43:40]:

Yes.

Antonio [00:43:41]:

Bingo. K is keep trying to save and rescue your loved ones.

Mark [00:43:45]:

Yes.

Antonio [00:43:48]:

E emotionally draining conversations.

Mark [00:43:51]:

Yes.

Antonio [00:43:55]:

Go figures. Like, I've done my research and I was a crazy conspiracy theorist at one point. N is for news is not no longer feeling loved or connected to this person. E experiencing bigotry or hatred.

Mark [00:44:11]:

Yes.

Antonio [00:44:13]:

W was wrestling with persistent doubts, questioning your reality.

Mark [00:44:18]:

Yes.

Antonio [00:44:19]:

There were many times when I wrote that I'm coming from the angle of gaslighting where I never said that about black people. I never said that about trans people.

Mark [00:44:33]:

Yes. There was a lot of that. A lot of gaslighting.

Antonio [00:44:37]:

And then S is struggling with setting boundaries.

Mark [00:44:43]:

Yes.

Antonio [00:44:45]:

I think the first person I've run that through and you're like, Bingo. Bingo. Bingo.

Mark [00:44:49]:

Yes.

Antonio [00:44:49]:

It's pretty much everything.

Mark [00:44:51]:

Yes. That describes it quite well. Yeah, I don't think I mean, I talked to people about it. I have treasured a few very close friends that have some clue of how bad it was. I had a therapist for quite a while, and she got some of it, but I don't think anyone can truly understand what it's like to lose your loved one to conspiracy theories that hasn't been to been through it themselves. You can't imagine the hell especially someone you're married to that you live with. I think that's even worse.

Antonio [00:45:36]:

I think what people see is they see this person like, oh, my God, they believe that Hillary Clinton's eating babies. That's insane. It didn't start off there. It was a slippery slope for me. I was sitting at a bar in Michigan. I think it was right around the time I thought it was a relationship with a girl. It was just like a couple of one night stands. It was funny. I just thought this thought I think a relationship, even like a ten year relationship, is like a series of one night stands. You stayed with a person. This was like maybe a couple of month relationship. Anyhow that fell apart and getting depressed. I was in a bar, and there's this I still remember to this day, this old crunchy white guy had, I think, a denim jacket on, and he had a little pocket constitution in his pocket. That right. There should have been a red flag to run away. If somebody's out of pocket constitution, something's wrong. I'll go to my deathbed saying that.

Mark [00:46:39]:

One of the things I hate most about QAnon now having escaped it, is that it's now triggering to see someone waving a flag of my own fucking country or the constitution or things that should imbue me with national pride now trigger me. Because nine times out of ten, it's a right wing nut job.

Antonio [00:47:00]:

Yes. And there are tools to help do that, because it's not good to feel that.

Mark [00:47:10]:

No, it's not.

Antonio [00:47:12]:

This guy asked me, he's like, do you know who Alex Jones is? Like, no, tell me. And he just laid it out. And it was shortly after I was like looking up 911. I even fell into the Jews are running the world. There's the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It's basically document that it was supposedly from the Jews. Talk about how they're going to take over the world, blah, blah, blah, blah. The Russians put it I'm pretty sure it was the Russians put out like 19 five or something.

Mark [00:47:39]:

It was Russian written. Henry Ford did a lot of spreading it in America.

Antonio [00:47:45]:

Batshit crazy. What are some of the long term emotional or psychological challenges you face as a result of this ordeal?

Mark [00:47:58]:

It has left me with permanent trust issues. I feel like I just haven't really dated much since I left him. But any relationship now in the future, it's going to be hard for me to enter into a long term relationship because I feel like I just never know when I will wake up next to a stranger and I don't know how to get over that. Sorry, I very cynically joke about I will probably never be legally married again because of the financial strain that that put me under and the way the law it's very cynical, but I joke now. I don't know why gays fought so hard to get married. We didn't know how lucky we were when we couldn't.

Antonio [00:49:02]:

Well, I mean, don't worry. If a MAGA and nut jobs have their way, they'll dismantle that, yeah, this.

Mark [00:49:08]:

Is true, but that's private. I won't get into that. But let's just say the financial could have been devastating and I had to spend months tiptoeing around being playing nice to not come out of it financially devastated of what I've worked for all my life.

Antonio [00:49:33]:

That's good. Can you share any strategies or resources that help you cope with the stress and the strain of this with other people that are going through similar situation?

Mark [00:49:45]:

The first would definitely be the Q and on casualties board on Reddit.

Antonio [00:49:50]:

I'll have a link to that. If you're listening to podcast on my website, that's where I met Mark.

Mark [00:50:00]:

Yes. And you'll find lots of you are not alone. You'll find lots and lots of people going through the same thing you are. And the stories, I will warn you, take breaks because it can become like grief porn and it can become very mentally draining to read it over and over again, to read the stories. And there's 200 tragic stories for every one story of somebody that made it back and they got that relative back. But yes, it can be a very good resource. Also on Reddit, it's called cult headquarters. It's spelled Q-U-L-T headquarters.

Antonio [00:50:55]:

That's a great one.

Mark [00:50:56]:

They follow Q and on so you can keep up with what Q and on people are saying what's happening? Without actually having to go look at the poison directly just to keep an eye on what you might be facing that tool. As far as how to help your loved one. The work of Steven Hassan. His website has a lot of information about cults and escaping cults, which QAnon is, and how to fight with loved one or not fight the wrong word. How to talk to your loved one. Not to argue. Do not argue with them. Do not tell them they're stupid, they're crazy. That was the mistake I made at the start of things.

Antonio [00:51:47]:

And do not sorry for up. Do not try to show them evidence. Evidence does not work.

Mark [00:51:53]:

Absolutely forget.

Antonio [00:51:55]:

There's a great book I encourage everybody to get. I use some elements of this guy's book. In my book, converting Conspiracy Theorists how to Have Impossible Conversations. He coined this term called street epistemology, which I think street epistemology is the idea of help of helping somebody to rethink their beliefs in their positions by helping them to discover how they got to the belief instead of attacking the belief directly. There's a good example of using scaling question. A scaling question could be, on a scale of one to ten, how confident are you in the belief that Hillary Clinton's eating baits? And if they're like, oh, like an eight, you're like, oh, why didn't you choose a seven? To get them to they introduce doubt into it. How to have impossible Conversations is a phenomenal book. And I mentioned in my book that he mentions in his book about being calm when you're talking to your loved one. The problem is that he doesn't really show me too many techniques. So in my book, I have in Converting Conspiracy Theorists have a couple of techniques showing you how to be emotionally flexible so you can talk to your loved one without getting enraged.

Mark [00:53:07]:

Yes. I'll go back to what you said about showing information. Yeah, forget it. Debunking. And this is the mistake I made learned from my mistakes when first got into this, and I didn't know anything about Q and on, didn't know anything about conspiracy theories and how to fight them. I would tell him, that's ridiculous, and he would send me things, and I'd Google them and debunk them in 5 seconds. I remember the most famous quote that I remember from him is, well, you can find anything to disprove anything on the Internet. After I debunked one of his beliefs, it's like, okay, well, there's nowhere to go from that, because no matter what I show you, you're just going to say, he would say, that's mainstream media. That's paid off by the cabal. If it doesn't fit their narrative, they're just going to ignore it.

Antonio [00:53:59]:

I'm rubber your glue.

Mark [00:54:01]:

Exactly. And it's very much like arguing with a five year old, so do not argue. No.

Antonio [00:54:09]:

Any other advice you have in terms of how to help people kind of cope with this or what strategies to.

Mark [00:54:16]:

Use the things I've heard the most. I have not seen them work, but I don't have anything better to offer is fill their time. Anything. Get them away from the poison if you can get them to delete it off their phone. If you have the techno how and your spouse doesn't to go into your router and block websites, do it. Do it. You're saving your spouse. Whether sneaking around in electronic means and spying on each other's text is not something I would describe about, I would not ever thought I would do to my spouse, and not something I think is constructive for most healthy marriages. You're at war. It's tactics. If you can do it, do it.

Antonio [00:55:10]:

Sorry. Imagine if we're in Nazi Germany and people are like, oh, I don't know if I want to spy on Hitler. He's a friend.

Mark [00:55:17]:

You do it. Exactly. Fill time as much as possible with good healthy activities. Doesn't have to be anything. You don't have to take them to fancy restaurants and wine time, walk the dog, go to the park. Anything that gets them away from their phone and away from the computer and gets their attention on other things. Anything that you enjoy and take mental breaks for yourself. Find an outlet that you can get out and get away from it for a while. I know that's conflicting advice fill their time, but also take time for yourself. But you got to find a way to do it because this can trying to save your loved one can take over your life and like on an airplane, save yourself.

Antonio [00:56:09]:

First therapy I would definitely recommend therapy.

Mark [00:56:14]:

Was very helpful to me. You need to find a therapist and I think this has become so common. I had to spend my first session educating my therapist about what QAnon was and what I was facing. She was very helpful, very understanding. But you might have to educate the person a little bit on what you're looking at and just how bad it is before you can actually start therapy.

Antonio [00:56:46]:

In regards of getting somebody to I don't have my phone here. Imagine if this was my phone. People listening, they can't hear, but I'm holding my phone up right now. These can be very addicting. There's a concept that I heard of from a Hypnotist friend called urge surfing. U-R-G-E surfing. Like surfing a wave. The concept of urge surfing is anytime you get an urge that comes up or craving, you just take some deep breaths to it. You just kind of inhale and exhale allow that urge to allow that wave to kind of go through. So in my book, in chapter twelve, conspiracy Theory Craving Buster, I mentioned about how you can use urge surfing to help them break the ties with their phone. Herbsurfing is simple. Let's say if you're addicted to Facebook or Twitter, you open your phone, you open up whatever app you're most addicted to and you set the phone in front of you, you're going to have an urge to be, okay, I got to touch and interact with it. You don't. Anytime a craving comes up, you breathe in and out. We do it for like five minutes or so just to start off. I think the way you can maybe convince a loved one to do that is you come from an angle of you're so addicted to your phone, and they're like, no. Most people he's like, oh, my God, you're addicted. You've got an issue. No, I don't. I can put it down. I can quit drinking whenever I want and go, I don't believe you. You kind of challenge them. Listen, I bet you $5 you cannot set your phone down for five minutes or a dollar or whatever, and then make it a game. You both sit with your phones. You have them open whatever app they're most addicted to, probably true social or Gabber or whatever, one of those dumpster fire telegram. You have them open it and they're going to have an urge to touch it. Just take a nice deep breath. Make it a game. You let them win one and then you just act, maybe indignant. I think the word is, let's do it again. No, I'm going to win. And you let them kind of play back and forth. So that might be one tactic to help somebody break the phone. But yeah, that's some good advice about just generally breaking the phone that Mark just mentioned.

Mark [00:59:07]:

And while you're talking about addiction, that is another thing. You are fighting an addiction, and I don't know about twelve steps and all, but understanding that a lot of times on a TV show I watch or something, and the miraculous TV shows where there's always a meeting five minutes away. But some of the concepts of Alanon, I think you will find apply to your loved one, too. They are an addiction. You are battling an addiction. And that model of thinking can help you understand, can help you have patience. Read up on the concept of detaching with love. That was very helpful to me. That also comes from Alanon or Alcoholics Anonymous. I'm sorry, that's what I meant. That means that you're there for them, you wait for them, but you don't make their focus of your life. You take time for yourself. It's very easy to slip into codependency when you're fighting this and saving them becomes the reason for your assistance. And that doesn't work.

Antonio [01:00:34]:

Talk to a therapist and help with codependency.

Mark [01:00:39]:

Yes.

Antonio [01:00:41]:

And here's a shameless plug. With that being said, I'm not going to say I have a great grasp on codependency. It's kind of funny, codependency. I'm like, yeah, I can hold on to codependency. I'm codependent with my codependency. After dealing with my codependency, I haven't gotten rid of it totally, but I've gotten a good concept of it, made some good changes. If anybody is interested in how I can help you to lessen your codependency with your conspiracy addicted loved one, if you go to conspiracyconverter.com, click the button that says Get started or you can go to conspiracyconverter. comCALL. That's C-A-L-L. Set up a time we can jump on zoom or phone, and we can talk about how I could possibly help you. One last question. What does escaping the rabbit hole personally mean to you?

Mark [01:01:38]:

For me, it meant I escaped him, escape my toxic marriage. At one time, I would have said escaping the rabbit hole would be getting him to get out of it, and I don't. I still believe he might come back someday, but it wasn't on any timetable I could live with.

Antonio [01:02:07]:

It's not going to be on your terms.

Mark [01:02:10]:

No, there was just a post. Somebody on casualties said something about, my brother has made some overtures, but I can't accept him back until he acknowledges how much he hurt me. And I wanted to write until honey, that is years away, because here again, I'll use the Alcoholics Anonymous addiction number addiction model. I don't know how many steps it is, but making amends is way, way down is pretty far into the list.

Antonio [01:02:43]:

Yeah.

Mark [01:02:44]:

And that's what you're looking at. It's going to be a gradual process. Understand that if you get your loved one back and if you're waiting for that apology, you're going to be waiting for a while. And if you hang your hat on that you're already done, you should probably just exit the situation because that's not coming in any immediate future.

Antonio [01:03:10]:

And to go back on some of the therapeutic model I've used of core transformation, the idea of wanting the apology, there's an unconscious part of you or conscious part of you that wants that apology. If you're in that position where you want somebody to apologize to you, think about what that apology is going to do for you. It's going to give you some kind of emotion where you can have that emotion regardless. You can focus on cultivating that emotion, and they may never apologize. So don't beat yourself up over it. It's just not worth it.

Mark [01:03:51]:

Right? Find your own way to validate your experience. Don't wait for them to acknowledge it. Even if you get them back, even if they abandon the conspiracy theories, it's going to be a while before they really reconcile with what they did and how they damaged you. It's not even their fault. Before they're clear headed enough to even look at the way they've been behaving, what they've been doing to the marriage. Fictional. But there was an episode of the TV show mom, which was a great sitcom about what was the sitcom? Mom with Alison Janey and Anna Ferris. They were both recovering alcoholics. But there was one episode where Bonnie, the mother, hears this story from Christie's child of time. She did something awful, and they've always laughed about it when they've told the story before. And she has a complete meltdown when she hears the story. And she goes to her sponsor and says, why did this trigger me this way? We've laughed about that before, why is it making me sad now? Because you're five years out, and after five years of sobriety, you start to really see the damage you did, and you're clear headed enough to look. It doesn't all come back in one miraculous wave of realization. It's bit by bit, and that's what your conspiracy theorist is looking at. They're not just snap their fingers one day. I'm done with that. I'm not looking at it anymore. They might stop, but it will be a long time before they look at it completely clear headed and see what reality was for you in that time.

Antonio [01:05:46]:

I have one last thought on that, and we can stop the podcast. It's going for a long so I can talk and talk and talk. I love this topic. The conspiracy theory that got me in was 911. And coincidentally, that was the last one I stopped believing. I think it was a few months ago. I still had little elements of it, and I was on the conspiracy subreddit because I love kind of looking at that dumpster fire. Yes, somebody had posted a video of George Bush. It was definitely an edited video, but it was showing like, oh my God, look at this coincidence. They're proving that it was an inside job. My heart started like, racing. I'm like, oh my God. So I went and I look up and I looked up the video, I'm like, oh, it was debunked. And I don't know if I'm 100. So if I were to rate on a scale of a percentage from 0% to 100% of how much I believe in it, 911 being inside job, I'd say 5% maybe. I think over time it starts to kind of undo. And my other theory for one last thought, my other theory is that.

Mark [01:07:00]:

If.

Antonio [01:07:00]:

You can help somebody to rethink or dismantle the original conspiracy theory they got into, I have a feeling that would have that ripple effect I think would make them think like, we're wrong about that. What else am I wrong about? Just like Alex Jones gets people in. He says, if they lied to you about X, what else have they lied to you about? The question gets you thinking.

Mark [01:07:24]:

Yes, sort of on that topic, just randomly thought another resource, rational Wiki. It's Wikipedia, but it's Rational Wiki has a lot that you'll find useful of explaining the logical fallacies, the manipulation.

Antonio [01:07:45]:

That's the one. That's a little snarky.

Mark [01:07:47]:

It is snarky. It was written in response to Conservipedia, which is a conservative conspiracy theory version of Wikipedia, but it explains things like just asking questions and how that's a psychological manipulation tool. You'll start to see how the grifters and the Q and on promoters manipulate people with the psychological tactics they use, and you'll be able to fight back.

Antonio [01:08:16]:

Definitely do not show that to your.

Mark [01:08:18]:

Loved ones, because no, but it'll arm you to critically think and analyze information and see what these people are doing.

Antonio [01:08:28]:

Mark, thank you so much for being the inaugural guest on this. I don't know how this journey is going to be. I would love to be able to de radicalize a lot of people, but like you said, people have to come to on their own terms. Thank you so much and I look forward to talking to you again.

Mark [01:08:50]:

Thank you.

Antonio [01:08:51]:

And if anybody, if you have any questions or anything, you can contact me. Or if you want to be a guest on the podcast, if you're a former conspiracy theorist, if you're a therapist that works with conspiracy theorists, or if you are a family member of conspiracy theorists, please contact me.

Speaker B [01:09:09]:

Thanks for listening to escaping the rabbit hole. To get instant access to the newest episodes of the podcast and the first three chapters of Antonio's newest book, go to www.escapingtherbithole.com and enter your first name and best email and smash the button that says Get the podcast.

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Escaping The Rabbit Hole
Escaping The Rabbit Hole

Former conspiracy theorist, Antonio Perez, discusses how to deal with family and friends that have fallen down the rabbit hole.

About the Author

Antonio Perez, author of Converting Conspiracy Theorists, is a former conspiracy theorist.  He helps friends and family members of conspiracy theorists to improve their mental and emotional health, and to set clear healthy boundaries with their conspiracy theory addicted loved ones.

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  1. I got to this podcast from the link in the book that was supposed to lead to a “flexible” exercise. Where has that exercise moved to?

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