This is the real life story of Jen Ward’s surviving captivity. It is a harrowing journey from despair to freedom, marked by spiritual guidance and the loyalty of a beloved dog.

The beginning of a journey

April 1st is the anniversary of my escape from imprisonment. I had no clue I was going to leave. But my spirit guides were working with me in the dream state to prepare me for the journey. Part of the brainwashing during captivity was that all the Adepts that I loved so dearly, hated me and wanted me destroyed. So, my spirit guides would come to me in a more subtle form and show me life beyond the one I was experiencing.

I was shown my future apartment in a dream. My friend who helped me get home was in the dream as well. There was a dog I didn’t know yet in the dream. That is how I knew I would have another dog in the future. I would have to leave my current dog Shamus behind. But Shamus understood. When it was time for me to walk away from the property, Shamus instinctively knew not to emotionally pull me back. He somehow knew that if he did, I would die and so he knew to let me go.

A loyal companion in dark times

Shamus was torn because he loved me. But he was treated like royalty by the captor who thought my dog was an extension of him. So, I was not allowed to love my dog. I would get a heavy sigh from Shamus when I would steal his dog food to stay alive. I am not certain if he felt bad for me or was bothered because I was taking his food. I think he was actually leaving me some.

A couple days before I left the property, Shamus ran away to the neighbor. It was so out of character for Shamus that the captor said Shamus was possessed by me.

A year later when I was in the apartment that I had dreamed about, a tree told me that Shamus ran to the neighbor to get help for me. He was trying to save my life. He didn’t resent me for eating his dog food. He cared for me and was trying to help.

A test of will and strength

When I woke up that last morning on the property, I was having bed spins. My stomach was cramping. I couldn’t eat the dry quinoa the captor gave me because it was making me sick. I later discovered that an enzyme is released when you cook quinoa. It is not edible dry. The captor would only give me dry quinoa to eat. Eating it dry made me throw up. So, I was getting no food. I tried to soften the quinoa in water, but it was still making me sick. When I woke up that last morning on the property, I couldn’t stand for the morning walk around the property. I was having bed spins and blacking out. This made the captor angry.

For some reason, I got inspired to stuff my personal ID in my pants and put on my sneakers instead of my heavy work boots. The captor had my credit card, but I had a starter check from an old account back home. I thought that I could pay for a plane ticket with that check. That starter check was my magic ticket home.

When I wasn’t able to go on the morning ritualistic walk, the captor locked me out of the house. I sat outside and just waited for him to return. The dog would not go on a walk with him either, so he walked past me and locked me outside without a word. I sat there numb and terrified to leave. He had brainwashed me into thinking I would get debilitating Lyme disease and get gang raped by construction workers if I left the property. This seemed like a possibility because in my early days at the property, I did get Lyme disease, and he only allowed me to take one round of antibiotics. I could have still had Lyme disease for all I knew.

The road to freedom

When he returned from the walk, he would not acknowledge me. I kept calling to him like a pathetic child. My brain capacity had deteriorated so much from lack of nutrition that I thought I was a retarded boy at that time. I kept calling to him in a child’s voice, “I am going to go then. I am going.” I don’t know what I expected, but he did not respond. I went down the long driveway to the road. The dog knew I needed to leave. Shamus knew he could not go with me and I would not have the strength to leave if he pulled on me. I did not say goodbye to him. I could not. I had to survive. And I had to leave him behind for that to happen. A goodbye was too risky. Shamus and I both knew that.

It was exhilarating and terrifying as I stepped off of the property. I had to remember the long trek to the store. I was looking down along the side of the road for food as I walked. There was a ginger ale bottle half full on the ground. I knew it was urine, but some impulse in me wanted to try it just in case it was ginger ale. I did happen to find a chocolate candy kiss. It melted into my body as soon as it touched my lips.

A man stopped and offered me a ride. I backed away like a terrified dog but asked him from a safe distance if he had any food. Someone else tried to stop. I was weak and had no adrenaline. I took a wrong turn down a road where there was a construction truck. I passed it before I realized my mistake. The men were walking towards their truck in my direction. I was certain they were going to grab me by the arms and legs, drag me into the truck and take turns raping me, just like the captor said. But I was able to walk past them and get on the right route to the grocery store that I remembered driving to in the days before I was kept in the basement.

The struggle for survival and hope

I walked four miles to the local grocery store. I was emboldened with my starter check to go in and buy some food. I planned to make the check out for enough money to get to the airport and buy a ticket home. I collected a ridiculous amount of food into a cart. When I got to the self-serve donut display, I couldn’t help myself. I inhaled one donut and then another. There were workers who could see me eat the donuts, but I couldn’t stop myself. When I got to the cashier, they couldn’t cash my check because it was a starter check. I had to leave my cart full of food. I was screwed.

I begged the manager to let me cash the check. Then I begged him to help me. He let me call my friend from my hometown who hadn’t heard from me the whole year I was gone. She thought I wrote her off and didn’t realize I wasn’t allowed to contact her. When I called her, she did not understand the urgency of what I was telling her. I could not get through to her. She kept telling me to go back to “my roommate,” put my foot down, and tell him to treat me better. She couldn’t fathom that I was starving, exhausted and had no energy left to explain. I raised my voice to her with as much strength as I could. “If you don’t help me Rita, I will die.”

The path to recovery

She kept telling me that was impossible to get back to my hometown in one day. She wanted me to go back to the property and have my roommate, the captor, drive me to the airport. She did not understand the urgency of my predicament or that what she was proposing was not an option. She told me it was a miracle she actually had the day off and that she was home when I called.

The store luckily had a Western Union money transaction at the front desk. My friend from my hometown was able to send me some cash to get to the airport. She gave me her credit card information so I could buy a ticket at the airport and have it waiting for me. With the money she sent, I bought a little black straight comb.

I went in the bathroom to comb my hair for the first time in months. I also wanted to wash my face and make sure there weren’t any tics on it engorged from the day before. On the property, I got used to not looking in the mirror. So, grooming myself was my first activity after stepping off the property to acclimate back into society.

I asked the manager if he had any food that the store was going to throw away that he could just give me. I was hoping for a stale sandwich or something to nourish my emaciated body. The manager came back with a frozen chocolate cream pie. I waited outside for a cab to the airport and dug into my frozen chocolate cream pie.

The final hurdles

When I got to the airport, they wouldn’t let me use the credit card information, so I hit a dead end again. As terrified as I was about being around people, I had to figure out what to do. I ended up having to call from the airport counter to purchase a ticket. I hoped that they had one for the flight I was hoping to board.

Waiting in line with my standby ticket, I still wasn’t sure I would make it home on the chosen flight. I was paranoid and desperate. I stammered in a childlike voice when I talked. I had a man’s very short haircut and wore a filthy work coat and snow pants. I must have been a sight because they picked me out of the line to go through the X-ray machine for extra security. I was terrified that someone was going to stop me from going home.

On the walk to my flight’s gate, I went to the bathroom and took off my work pants and threw them in the garbage. I took off one layer of clothes and was suddenly surprised to see how skinny I was. I had never been that small before.

The emotional flight home

When it was time to board, I kept looking up on the monitor for my name to appear on the standby list. I was the fourth standby. I watched as the first standby’s name appeared, then the second standby name, and then the third.

Everyone was gathered to board the flight and I sat under the standby display praying for my name to be called. I was not aware of how strange I appeared. I was not able to care at that point. I was rocking back and forth on my feet saying out loud with tears running down my face, “Please god. Please, oh please. Please let me get on.” A man in a pilot jacket handed me a tissue. It was so kind. A woman in a stewardess uniform came up to me and reassured me that I would make it the flight.

I watched as everyone else boarded the flight. There was no line left. I stood there alone under the display for standby passengers for what seemed like an eternity. I was not equipped to cope if my name wasn’t called. Thankfully, my name suddenly appeared.

I walked through the doors alone to get on the plane. I had to walk through an empty hall, down a ramp and out to the plane. I must have looked like a zombie. I was sobbing the whole way to the plane. I was all clumsy and awkward and walking with my mouth open and my eyesight so blurred I could hardly see. I made it into my seat and collapsed into heaving sobs. I could not stop.

The stewardess came over to see if I was all right. I started begging her not to make me leave. I was terrified she would find cause to remove me from the plane. The woman next to me was the helpful nosy type. She collected some information from me and explained to the stewardess that I had just escaped some kind of devastating abuse.

This woman next to me was very interested in my story. I didn’t mind. I was grateful for the attention and the distraction. She got me some extra juice from the stewardess and my whole stomach bubbled up from it. The juice caused excruciating gas pains after not eating for months.

When we landed, my friend was at the gate, but she did not recognize me. She kept squinting her eyes and trying to see the version of me that she remembered. She could not believe the change in my appearance. She was devastated at her own lack of understanding of the severity of my situation.  She drove me to her home with no more fanfare than that.

Healing and growth after escaping captivity

I have been spending the last few years coming to terms with how such an experience changed me. As horrible as it was, the changes that I endured were all for the better.  What I have just recalled is a marvelous life experience to have in the rear view mirror.

Perhaps me sharing this experience will gift the reader the benefits of such a journey without the need for them to walk a similar one themselves.

Jen Ward Avatar

Additional resources

Related content