Tell us about your early life as a JW:
Home schooled K-2. Authoritarian house. Narcissistic elder dad with anger issues. Socially isolated and yearned for more contact with kids my age. Pretty socially inept when starting public school in 3rd grade. Made good friends in school but moved before high school and was home schooled again.
Had to shun best friend from old congregation when he left “the truth”. Lots of social isolation after that, depression, suicidal thoughts. Have thus far been unable to support myself due to social anxiety.
How would you describe your family life while you were a JW?
My dad had the final word on everything, no matter how unreasonable that word might’ve been. At one point he let a newly released child molester live with us because he was a bible study. Thankfully my mom took me and we lived with a friend for a while until our guest was gone.
The authoritarian house stifled independence and decision-making abilities in me, I think. My mom was not fond of my dad due to his anger and emotional unavailability, but is still with him to this day since her leaving would “hurt Jehovah”. She suffers from depression and isn’t entirely sure her husband loves her.
How would you describe your level of devotion to the organization prior to waking?
I was never baptized or strongly motivated to do JW activities. I felt guilty for that, since we’re always told we should be doing more.
If baptized, why did you decide to take that step? If not, why not?
It was an eternal commitment that I didn’t feel I had the appropriate level of emotional conviction to make. Everyone else who got baptized seemed so sure it was what they should do. But I had no close friends at that stage in my life whose getting baptized would have motivated me to do so. Also, I was afraid that as soon as I got baptized Jehovah would see to it that I got caught when I masturbated to homoerotic imagery.
If born-in, what kind of Jehovah’s Witnesses were / are your family?
Dad was/is an elder. Mom pioneered before I was born but has only auxiliary-d a few times since then.
We rarely missed meetings or Saturday service, but that was usually the extent of our JW activity, unless there was a special campaign or something. In the past few years my dad’s gotten a bit more active in service.
Are there any particular experiences or circumstances while you were a believer that come to mind now that you’re awake?
Being in was a huge barrier to being a normal child. Once I’d finally made some friends, we moved and pretty much undid all the progress I’d made in the first decade and a half or so of my life, and I pretty much lost my motivation to live.
Was your waking up journey sudden or gradual? Describe it for us.
I experienced nagging doubts and cognitive dissonance for nearly a decade before finally waking up. I was afraid to do research, but when I finally did, I turned from tormented JW to confused atheist in about two weeks’ time.
Did you ever have so-called “doubts”? If so, what were they?
I would engage atheists online every so often, and it struck me that in spite of my knowing “the truth” they seemed to know way more than I did. I was always anxious during such exchanges. My parents also fell for a lot of scams, and I wondered if the JWs might have been one of those scams.
I saw logical fallacies in some of the “reasoning” the publications had in them. I also felt like all the “evidence” of Jehovah’s blessing on individuals and the organization was very ambiguous. The infamous tight pants talk shook me up too, although I didn’t wake up until a few months later.
Did you share your so-called “doubts” with anyone, and if so, how did it turn out?
Not publicly. I didn’t even really acknowledge them until I’d woken up. At first I started writing about my discoveries so I could tell my family, but I soon realized what kind of an organization this is, and decided to keep quiet out of a sense of self-preservation.
One “spiritually weak” friend was pondering baptism and asked for my thoughts, and over the course of our discussion I shared a lot of what I’d learned with him, and now he’s awake too.
Are you currently being shunned / ostracized by any Jehovah’s Witnesses?
No. I’m still somewhat dependent on JW family in spite of technically being an adult, so I have kept up the façade until I can find a way to escape.
What has changed in your life since waking up?
I’ve come to view life and the world a lot more positively. I see a time when I could one day have a healthy circle of friends surrounding me again. I lost my virginity (last weekend)! 😀
What does the future hold for you now that you’re awake?
I’m hoping to use grants and loans to carry me through school in a faraway city where I can be free to be myself, make friends, heal and grow. After that, anything is possible.
What would you like to say to doubting or questioning JWs who might be reading this?
Do your research and fact check things. Why should someone who really has the truth be afraid to look at what the opposition says? Are people who understand that the earth is round afraid of hearing from people who think it’s flat?
What would you like to say to still-in believing-JW family and or friends who might come across this?
Same as above. I love you guys.
Would you like to provide some form of contact information to potentially help or encourage others thinking of leaving?