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The Heartbreaking Moment That Made Leah Remini Question Her Dedication To Scientology

05/18/2015 08:57 am ET | Updated Sep 18, 2015

For more than 30 years, actress Leah Remini was a devout member of the Church of Scientology, the controversial organization characterized as a religion and created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Though some high-profile Scientologists made the decision to join the church during their adulthood, Remini had little choice in the matter, as she tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" in the above video.

"My mother was in Scientology my whole life. Most people don't know that we were raised in it -- I didn't decide to get into it," Remini clarifies. "I was brought into it by my mom."

While many outside of Scientology have a basic awareness of some beliefs and practices of its members, Remini says that the true commitment required of Scientologists is far less known.

"I don't think people know the amount of dedication it takes to be in this organization," she says. "I mean, it was every day, three-and-a-half hours minimum, seven days a week."

For a working mother like Remini, that type of commitment meant making a huge sacrifice to make room for Scientology in her life.

"I'm working most of my time, and then the other time was spent at the church," she says. "So, minimal time is really spent with your family."

The impact of this sacrifice was never more clear than during one particular moment with her daughter. Remini was reading Scientology coursework -- part of the organization's "betterment courses" -- when she looked up and saw something that made her question the priorities she'd lived by for so long.

"I was on course one day. I was at one of these hotels in Florida, and I saw my daughter swimming for the first time, while I'm... reading this thing. A tear came down my face," Remini says. "I was like, 'What am I doing?' The moment hit me that I was now doing the same thing to my daughter that my mother [had conveyed] to me, that what she was doing was more important."

In July of 2013, Remini and her family made the extremely difficult decision to leave the Church of Scientology, a decision that she admits she still struggles with today.

"It's not just something you get over. It's people and a lifestyle you've known all your life," she says. "It formed who I am, good and bad; it formed the way I think, good and bad. So, there's a lot of pain connected to it... It's still coming to me."

Even a brief moment on the street can cause that pain and emotion to resurface. "I saw my goddaughter in the street and my instinct was to run to her. Her mom turned her back to me," Remini says.

Now that a few years have passed since she disassociated from Scientology, the actress has been able to open her eyes to various perspectives beyond the teachings of the church.

"I'm learning there's a new world out here," she says. "There shouldn't be any kind of judgment towards somebody who has a belief system that is not yours."

For more from "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", visit wherearetheynow.buzz.

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