Tell us about your early life as a JW:
My mom was baptized a few months after I was born. I grew up with my brothers being raised in the “truth”.
I had an older sister who was baptized in her teens and was later disfellowshipped. She was the example of what not to do. Her husband was a semi JW who did drugs, gave her an std, and caused her to lose her first child. She eventually was reinstated and lived with my mom and brothers with her two kids, off and on for most of my childhood.
My dad was not a witness and was considered opposed. My parents divorced when I was three and we had limited visitations with my dad. My dad died when I was nine. It was extremely painful. because I received a lot more attention from my dad than from my mom. I don’t think I would have gotten baptized if he had lived, but his death was used as incentive to stay in the truth, so I could see him again.
How would you describe your family life while you were a JW?
My mom didn’t like to make decisions, so a high control cult was a very comfortable place to be. I suspect she would have liked more direction on how to live her life if possible. My mom tried to isolate and protect us from bad association, to the extent that even association with friends in the hall was constantly being limited. None of my mom’s family were witnesses until my grandmother later joined.
How would you describe your level of devotion to the organization prior to waking?
I was definitely not hardcore, but I did follow the rules for the most part, with the occasional swear or R rated movie. For the most part I was surrounded by hardcore witnesses that I never relaxed around. I went to most meetings, tried to answer once per meeting, and went out in service at least once a month, I tried to avoid giving talks when I could. I absolutely hated giving talks.
If baptized, why did you decide to take that step? If not, why not?
I was 15 when I got baptized and had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that if I wanted to have friends I needed to get baptized.
If born-in, what kind of Jehovah’s Witnesses were / are your family?
As a “spiritual orphan” I think you can’t be anything but on the fringe of the congregation. My mom had her hands full with three kids and no money and was very inconsistent with family study, but she rarely missed meetings unless we were sick and never missed a month of service. My brothers and I were all homeschooled during middle school and high school to protect us from bad association.
Are there any particular experiences or circumstances while you were a believer that come to mind now that you’re awake?
Throughout my childhood I would get very attached to someone in the hall, to the point that I must have drove them nuts, because I desperately wanted attention. But in every instance I would eventually be rejected. It was very painful, and I eventually became very self contained. My older brother is the only person who I trusted not to betray me. I think this helped me to wake up because I wasn’t attached emotionally to anyone.
Was your waking up journey sudden or gradual? Describe it for us.
I didn’t feel much of anything for a long time.
I realize now that I was pretty much on autopilot, feeling the occasional twinge of guilt about not doing more or indoctrinating my kids enough. I was feeling really worn down with the treadmill lifestyle that is the life of most JWs, no vacations and no fun. My husband seemed to be going through something, questioning everything and being really negative, and I was like ‘why do you have to think so much, just let it go’. He eventually came to me in the spring and asked me to watch a YouTube video about watchtower’s history. I immediately realized that it was all a lie, and started my research journey.
Did you ever have so-called “doubts”? If so, what were they?
I didn’t think of them as doubts as much as feelings, that there were things wrong with organization. I didn’t feel like I deserved salvation when I didn’t have to work for it, I was just lucky enough to be born into the “truth”. I remember thinking it doesn’t seem fair that everyone who ignores my message would die when I would never listen to someone who came to my door.
Did you share your so-called “doubts” with anyone, and if so, how did it turn out?
After the Australian Royal Commission (Into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse), I talked to my sister in law about the problems within the org. I felt like this was my one shot at getting her out. She had been molested, I had been molested, a lot of her friends had been molested. We talked, she cried and looked at me in horror that I would ever question the org. That was a Saturday the next day her husband (an elder) called a meeting of the entire elder body to discuss my doubts. My husband immediately knew what was happening and went up to one of the more reasonable brothers and asked why this brother didn’t come to us first as the scriptures tell us to do. He asked if we wanted a shepherding visit, my husband said no thank you but I’ll meet you for coffee. My husband was able to drop a lot of truth bombs on this brother and he listened, without judgement. I’m half convinced he’s awake. Anyway, the other elder assigned to Shepard us felt that he still needed to tell me how much they had changed and improved their policies, so he called me at work to find out if I wanted a shepherding call. I didn’t say much but let him know I’d be in touch if I wanted a visit.
Are you currently being shunned / ostracized by any Jehovah’s Witnesses?
We are being judged as weak but aren’t being shunned.
What has changed in your life since waking up?
It’s amazing how hungry I am for knowledge about science, psychology and politics. I love learning critical thinking skills and trying to spot logical fallacies. I’ve come to realize that there are more people than just the witnesses that are blind to facts. My husband hasn’t been able to leave yet because of his family, but both of my brothers are awake and my brother’s wife which is awesome. Our kids are learning critical thinking and won’t have to ever be shunned.
What does the future hold for you now that you’re awake?
We are now living our lives the way that’s best for us, not watchtower. It is amazing how much happier I am and how many possibilities there are now, I don’t worry about some vindictive God coming after me, or being tortured for the truth. I’ve never felt healthier in my life. I would love to take some college courses when my kids are a little older.
What would you like to say to doubting or questioning JWs who might be reading this?
Please research cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias and logical fallacies. None of these things are apostate, but they will give you the tools you need to face the facts as they are and not distort them to support a world view that isn’t based on facts.
What would you like to say to still-in believing-JW family and or friends who might come across this?
I love you, I understand why the facts about this cult are too hard for you to accept. I hope one day you see the prison you live in is all in your mind, and there isn’t anything to be afraid of. The world needs people to make a difference now, and not wait for a god to fix it.
Would you like to provide some form of contact information to potentially help or encourage others thinking of leaving?