The stages of leaving

From helping many people through their journey away from Multi Level Marketing, I have noticed common themes. I have attempted to describe them here. Have you been through these stages? Would you add any others?

Trigger

There is often a single event that unsettles people. This trigger goes against their personal ethics or crosses a line that is important to the person. For example, someone finds out that Younique is not as animal friendly as they were led to believe or they witness an upline encourage lying. Perhaps they find out the CEO is a homophobic tax evader or the charity the company supports is a sham.

Whatever the trigger is, it is enough to upset the person on a level where they cannot deny the wrongness of it.

Dawning realisation

Once someone has been awoken to the trigger they are more easily able to see other troubling things around them. They start questioning like never before. Niggling doubts become real concerns. The nagging upline can now be seen as the bully they are. The little lies they have been encouraged to make are now seen for the deceptive recruiting tactics that they are.  The rep becomes more and more horrified at what they have become involved in.

Fear

The fear at this stage is real. Timeless Vie looked into the fear that is instilled into MLM members. The fear is probably worse the longer someone has been involved in the company. They will have been faking it to make it. This would have involved presenting the image of success to their friends and family, telling them they are making money. They will have had conversations with friends and tried to persuade them to join them in this successful venture.  If they then decide to leave, they will lose face.

The worst fear will come from the realisation that friends will have been lost due to the MLM. Often people are encouraged to ditch their friends and family if they are less than totally supportive. They could have unfriended people and upset long standing friendships. Slowly their friend groups will have been replaced with their MLM family, their Senesisters, Y-sisters, other family/group name of belonging.

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It’s a bit culty actually. People spend a lot of time with their MLM ‘family’ and feel a real connection with them due to the immense amount of time they spend with them. The slow backing away from friends and the encroaching influence of the MLM group creeps up on people and they can feel quite isolated when they realise how alone they really are.

This isolation can be worsened when people left their normal jobs (‘sacked the boss’) or if they have mental health issues.

There will also be fear from the thought of how the upline and team will react. They will have seen people leave the team before and heard how they were treated. They may have witnessed the blocking, isolation and character assassination that often occurs to the traitors that leave. They are blamed for their failure and lack of commitment to the group. Again, the cult vibes surface here. The excommunication and vilifying of outsiders is a feature of cults and MLMs.

Action

In this stage, the person decides that they can no longer continue in the MLM and they have to do something. They know it will be hard to take action but they know that they must. The question here is what they need to do. Do they stay members and let it fizzle out? Do they have a raging argument with their upline? Do they just delete and block everything and pretend it never happened? Do they tell an old friend and seek some perspective? Do they contact Bot Watch, Elle Beau or Timeless Vie for support and advice?

There is no simple answer here as each person’s situation will be different and their ability to cope will vary. I would strongly advise, whichever tactic people use, that they stop spending money on the products/ training/ any MLM activity. Take time to decide what to do, but stop trying to make it work. Once you have gone this far down the decision making process, you will not be happy in MLM any more. The visor has been lifted and you can no longer pretend it might be ok. The person will be OK, but not if they stay in MLM.  It can be harmful to keep trying to lie to yourself and knowingly lie to others to recruit.

 

Consequences

This is the part where people have to deal with the upline, contact head office, admit to friends what happened. Sometimes people need to admit to partners about the money that they borrowed or face their downline and try to make amends. They need to deal with friends who can no longer quite trust them due to previous attempts to recruit them and the perception from friends that they were seen as a way to make money. There must be the problem of coming across people who are thinking ‘I told you so’.

This part can be very isolating and can be difficult when you have been told repeatedly to just follow the plan and to reject the ‘normal’ way of working by having a J.O.B. So much hope and energy and money will have been invested in the dream of succeeding in the MLM. The actual process of leaving will be unchartered waters and can be very scary.

Healing

This is a very important part.  People need to be able to sit back and lick their wounds. Often a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression could be worsened. Previously strong people might be feeling fragile. Their belief systems have essentially been shaken to the core and everything they were working for has come crashing down.  Sometimes a reaction can be to start blogging and becoming an active voice against the MLM can become all-consuming. The anger and distress can be overwhelming and people seek to channel it.

If you have been through anything like this, it is very important that you slow down and take time to process what has happened. Please realise that you have been subjected to many techniques designed to keep you in the company, spending your money and working every spare minute to send money up the pyramid to the owner. You have been manipulated and it will take a lot of healing to overcome the damage.

If you have a friend who has been through this process, be gentle with them and allow them to talk about their feelings. You may have to occasionally step in and offer  a different perspective when their faulty logic shines through. They may blame themselves for things that happened that wasn’t their fault. They may have a negative view of themselves and their abilities. Be gentle with them and be patient.

Please contact Bot Watch if you need help, support or advice.

Some other articles you might find useful on this site are

How to help someone in an MLM,

How to leave an MLM,

How to be a Bot Watcher,

Why do people join MLMs?

Network Marketing is a cult.

MLM Expectation vs Reality

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How to leave an MLM

If you have made the decision to leave your Multi Level Marketing company, chances are you are filled with all sorts of emotions right now. And probably a few worries as well. Let me walk you through some things you can do to help yourself get out of your situation.

 

Be kind to yourself

More than 99% of people will lose money in an MLM, no matter how hard you try. It is not your fault that you did not become a successful millionaire like you were promised. It is not you that is the failure, the MLM system is set up to be like that. For the few to be successful at the top, the vast majority of people need to fail.

When you joined your company you were slowly and subtly subjected to techniques that changed the way you think. It is possible you ended up doing some things you were not proud of. Some people feel ashamed of some of the things they did and said and how they treated people.  Please do not feel that any of this makes you a bad person or that it is your fault it all went wrong.

You would do well to think of yourself as a victim of a fraud. Take some time to examine your thoughts and feelings and try to be kind to yourself. You have been through a traumatic experience that should not be underestimated.  If you are having trouble with your thoughts, you would do well to confide in friends and family or even seek counselling.

 

Reconnect with old friends

You may have unfriended people on social media or declined social engagements, withdrawing into your MLM. Perhaps you cut off friends and family that you thought were not being supportive of your ‘business’. These people cared about you and you may have pushed them away.  Maybe some of them unfriended you when you constantly tried to recruit them or persuade them to hold parties or buy products.

All is not lost though. Your good friends and your family will have seen what happened to you and they may well have been very concerned for you. They might be very upset at losing you. I have had some very distressed people contacting me about people they love who have been lost to them because the MLM took over their lives.

Reconnect with people that you have lost touch with. Don’t just add them as friends on Facebook because they might  think that you are still trying to sell them something. Send them a message or phone them. Explain what has happened and how you have left the company and you want to catch up with them. Chances are they will leap at the chance of meeting up and will be very happy for you.

Be aware as well though that relationships may be a bit strained at first as your friend could be wary and may not understand what happened. Be patient with them and explain you want to get back to the old you and you need their help.

Your upline

I think it best that you don’t tell your upline until you have formally left the company. There is always the chance they might persuade you to stay and you could be quite fragile at this point. Some uplines might be lovely about it but others could turn nasty. It is probably best that you don’t find out how they treat leavers until after you have left.  They may be charming at first and promise you things, sweet-talking you. Then they might turn to blaming you for your ‘failure’ and try to make you stay on a bit longer. Here are some things that were said to an MLM escapee.

“Thing is if you are 100000% dedicated and WANT it to work…. there’s no way you can fail

“Lots of people do give up. Everyone wants the success but not everyone is prepared to do whatever it takes. This business seriously changes lives.”

This is victim blaming. You cannot be successful just because you want it. You should not be expected to ‘do whatever it takes’ to make any money. You will have been having a bad experience because the system is designed for you to fail.  You are the gambler and the house has won again.

Your upline will most likely be finding it hard to recruit and make any money so you leaving is going to make their job even harder. They don’t want you to leave.

 

Cut all ties with your old company

Shut down your Facebook groups, unfriend MLM people that you do not know, and probably never even met. There are likely hundreds of them and they won’t even notice you disappear. Remove yourself from group chats, leave your MLM completely, do not even remain as a customer. Shut down any websites you might have set up. You need to make sure that you will not be tempted to join again. You do not need to see glimpses of special offers or news of a old upline doing well. You were tempted before and you could be tempted again. Are there any website or group fees that might be automatically renewed? Make sure you cancel them.

You need to protect yourself from having another go. Like an alcoholic giving up drink. You don’t want to have just one little drink in case you get drawn into alcoholism again. I think being in an MLM can be like gambling, hoping the next move will be a good one and you will be lucky this time. Throwing good money after bad, trying to win back more than you lost. The good feeling when you make a bit of money, ignoring the money you lost and will lose again.

You may need to assess for yourself who you cut out and who you stay in contact with. Perhaps a very good friend recruited you, or your sister. It is entirely possible to maintain good relationships with these people. You will need to think long and hard about how to deal with some people. If they turn nasty or start spreading things about you, delete and block. They can try and make amends when they see the light, but for now, you can do without that kind of aggravation and stress. They aren’t trying to help you, they are trying to hurt you.

 

Get rid of all your products

You might be able to resell a lot of it back to the company. They are obliged to buy back a lot of it, depending on which country you are in. Most MLMs have a ‘buy-back’ clause which is supposed to protect people from stockpiling products and being called a pyramid scheme. Have a look at your terms and conditions. You won’t be able to get all of your money back but it is worth a try.

If you are backing out less than 30 days from joining, you may be able to get most of your money back. This is to do with having a cooling off period when making an online purchase. Again, check your terms and conditions carefully.

Make sure you cancel any autoshipping agreements. These won’t automatically be cancelled when you leave a company.

Sell any of your left over products on Ebay. It’s what thousands of people end up doing. The MLM won’t be able to do anything about it. You won’t get a great price, but there isn’t much else you can do with it.

 

Believing in the product

MLM products are often very poor quality with no real customer base. The only customers are the people selling the stuff or friends and family of the reps buying out of a sense of duty. I have often seen people who have left an MLM but who still believe in the product and still purchase it. Please analyse the product and look at similar products. Note the price and quality difference. You will have been told lies about the products and have started believing in them. You have to believe in the product to sell it so you may have made yourself like it. Please be objective. Stop purchasing these products because you will be supporting the company and enabling it to continue.

Many MLMs make false health claims. Please look into a product if you have been using it for health reasons. Chances are, it isn’t good for you at all.

 

Here is an example of an MLM product-

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They sell 12 bottles of Cheddar water for £14.76 ( £1.23 a bottle). Go to Cheddar water’s website and you can get 24 bottles for £12.72 with 10% off at the moment as well (48 p each).

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How can they get away with that sort of mark up? Because they convince people that their product is great and everyone believes in it so much, they don’t question it.

Here is an extract from this MLM’s magazine.

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Deal with money problems

It is likely that you have been spending money irresponsibly, seeing it as an investment in your business. It is easy to spend a lot of money in an MLM. Add to this the factor that you probably really needed money when you started, could be a recipe for disaster.

Face your money issues head on. Be assured that your money problems would have continued to get worse had you stayed. At least now you can be realistic and unbury your head from the sand. I have written a blog post on money issues which has contact details for organisations that can help. Also there are some ideas on how you might make some money from legitimate sources. I haven’t been paid for any of the links or information in these posts. You will not be directed to my own dodgy scheme as you often see in MLM type blog posts.

 

It is not your responsibility to bring down the MLM company

Some people react to their experiences with anger and horror. They can become obsessed at fighting MLMs and warning everyone about them. This can sometimes come at a high personal cost, and overshadow people’s lives. The Freedom of Mind website has a very good article on this phenomenon which is worth reading.   It describes how people are confused and angry and need to get over what happened to themselves instead of lashing out and being consumed by the overwhelming need to do something.

It’s kind of like seeing a bad driver and getting road rage. It isn’t up to you to shout at the bad driver and stress yourself out about it. Accept there are bad drivers and you do not need to put yourself in front of them, swearing and threatening. The best thing to do is to drive defensively and keep calm. Don’t get into a fight where you might get hurt and your blood pressure is at risk.

 

Law of Attraction

This theory is rife among MLM members and you definitely will have come across it. How much you believe in it is dependent on how long you were involved. For those unfamiliar with it, here is an illustration.

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If you believe in this, you may be thinking your ‘failure’ is due to you not trying hard enough or being negative. You didn’t believe in yourself enough. Again, this equates to victim blaming.

Please stop believing this sort of dross. You may need to examine your thinking for quite a while after leaving your MLM. You may experience your inner voice telling you that everything is your fault, you haven’t tried hard enough, that you have invited failure into your life.

Please, please be aware that if you have made the decision to leave MLM, this means you have become aware of the reality of your situation. You will now be able to make sensible decisions to get your life back on track. Don’t let the nagging ‘law of attraction’ crap cloud your freedom. You don’t have to pretend anymore that everything is ok. Be realistic and practical, drop the false hope and gratitudes that you may have been encouraged to indulge in.

You can be you again. No more pretence. No more prospecting, no more looking at people as potential recruits. Just be you. The you that used to have hobbies and interests and friendships based on fun and support, not based on who can give you success. Friends can be very forgiving if you give them a chance. Explain to them what happened to you and ask for their forgiveness if you need to. They have probably been waiting for this moment.

 

Thanks

The information used in this post has come from the experiences of people who have left an MLM, as well as from reading around the subject and from my experience of supporting people through the process. I hope you have found it useful.

 

I would like to thank “Chammy in real life“, Elle Beau and the numerous people who have explained to me over the last year or so what it is like being in an MLM. It is because of the people that speak out that we know what is going on.

 

If you have left an MLM and have any more tips to add, please comment below. Thanks.