Tell us about your early life as a JW.
Being born in, I knew only the JW worldview. For me, everything I was taught was as real as the sky above me and the ground under my feet. It wasn’t up for questioning. It just simply was the truth.
How would you describe your family life while you were a JW?
I was raised by my mother who was a single parent due to my father leaving us when I was one day old and then later getting killed in an automobile accident when I was four years old. Suffice it to say he and I weren’t close. My one memory of him was his funeral.
We lived with my mom’s parents who were both Witnesses. I was pretty close to both my grandmother and mother growing up. I lived with them until I was 26 or 27. Because that’s what the ladies like, am I right?
For whatever reason my mother was extremely overprotective. I wasn’t allowed to do a lot even with other JW children simply because she didn’t think they were good association for me. So even as extreme as the Witnesses are, my mother was a step or two hundred beyond that.
When I was 13, we decided to try homeschooling. It was the worst decision I’ve ever been party to. For the next 5 years, I was essentially isolated from the world. We didn’t have people over very often at all, and certainly no kids my age. I was extremely lonely for all those years. I don’t recommend it for anyone.
How would you describe your level of devotion to the organization prior to waking?
All-in. I was way into it. Lived it, breathed it, believed every word of it all. Jehovah was real, he was my best friend and had a huge impact on my all my decisions. All my major life decisions were made to please him and to do his will. I prayed constantly throughout the day and was absolutely certain there was someone listening to every word.
That being said, I constantly felt I was letting him down whenever I would do something I shouldn’t have done, made a mistake, or whatever. Which just made me try harder and set up unrealistic expectations for myself. I was a complete try-hard and felt like a total failure the whole time.
If baptized, why did you decide to take that step? If not, why not?
“I got baptized because I wanted to dedicate my life to my Heavenly Father, Jehovah.” That was always my answer. And it’s still my answer today. The only difference is that I typically say it somewhat sarcastically now. In other words, I got baptized for the exact reason they tell you to get baptized. Because I believed it was all real.
If born-in, what kind of Jehovah’s Witnesses were / are your family?
No one in my household was born-in. They were all converted as adults and very, very devout. Part of the reason I was so hardcore into it was my mother’s own hardcore approach to it. My grandmother was also in the same vein. Both pioneered for a number of years and loved it.
My grandfather got appointed as a Ministerial Servant. He gave the appearance of being hardcore into it and everyone in the congregation thought he was the greatest family head ever. What they didn’t know is that he was a habitual liar and barely provided for us. My mom would have to write his talks for him and I later inherited that. responsibility. It’s an incredibly odd feeling to be sitting in the audience and hearing the school conductor give someone else praise for how they developed their talk, when you were the one who did all the hard work. I resented him for everything and I spent many a year trying to get past it. When he finally passed away, I tried to forgive him the best I could.
Are there any particular experiences or circumstances while you were a believer that come to mind now that you’re awake?
I was appointed as a Ministerial Servant when I was 20 years old. I felt like a million bucks. Felt like I had nothing but opportunities in front of me.
I always loved public reading and so getting to read at the congregation book studies, Watchtower, etc was one of my favorite things ever. I put everything I had into each Bible reading and had numerous people compliment me on how I made it feel alive, or that it actually sounded like people talking not just someone reading a book.
Giving a talk at a Circuit Assembly was another major experience for me. I practiced my talk for months beforehand and all these years later remember giving it like it was yesterday.
Was your waking up journey sudden or gradual? Describe it for us.
For me, waking up was an incredibly weird, difficult, rapid, awful, wonderful, painful, awesome experience. And the odd part about it, it came about unintentionally. But once it started, it happened so fast I still look back at it and laugh.
It initially started with me doing research about Bible prophesy of all things. Particularly earthquakes increasing in frequency after 1914. And I don’t remember the exact website that I found, but I remember the information being pretty clear and concise. There wasn’t an increase after a certain point in history like I had been told all my life.
That simple, small fact was the initial spark that lit the fire of my awakening. I found another website (http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/central.html) that changed my whole world. I still remember reading things on there about failed Bible prophecies or Biblical contradictions and thinking “That can’t be true.” Then getting out my Bible to prove them wrong, and the total shock that this book, that I had read my entire life and believed every single word of it, was WRONG.
I struggled so hard to come to terms with that. It was the most heart breaking, gut wrenching moment of my entire life. But as much as disbelief wanted to creep into my head and reassure me that it was a test from Satan, I knew deep down that there was no denying that there were clear and evident problems with the Bible. And if the Bible isn’t really from God, then what does that say about the religion that I’ve been a part of all my life? The New System isn’t real. Jehovah isn’t real. None of it is.
It was the longest 2 months of my life. The point where I clearly recognized it was all wrong, up until I left the JW’s. Most of that time was spent debating with myself on whether or not I could still live as a Witness knowing that it was all made up. In the end I decided that I couldn’t be honest to myself or anyone else around me by staying. It would be better to be an honest apostate than a dishonest JW. That whole “Better to be hated for what you are, than loved for what you are not” deal.
Did you ever have so-called “doubts”? If so, what were they?
Looking back, I was so good at doing mental gymnastics that I don’t think I ever really doubted any of it. Not at least until I woke up. Like I said, I bought it hook, line, and sinker all those years.
Did you share your so-called “doubts” with anyone, and if so, how did it turn out?
No, I knew better than to share them. Once I had found the information that helped wake me up, I knew it was no longer the “Truth” and I knew that any Witness I talked to would only try to convince me I was wrong.
Are you currently being shunned / ostracized by any Jehovah’s Witnesses?
I still run into Jehovah’s Witnesses in my job and interactions between us are polite, but very short. I remember what it was like being on their side, so I fully understand why it’s that way.
What has changed in your life since waking up?
So very many things. My outlook on the world as a whole as well as my viewpoints on the day to day stuff. I feel way more open minded about other points of view. I am more social with people I don’t know. I don’t live in constant dread of angering some invisible person in the sky. I enjoy life for what it is, the good and the bad. And I don’t spend my time worrying about what will really happen to me once I kick the bucket.
What does the future hold for you now that you’re awake?
A whole lot of things. Watching my daughters grow up, for one.
Also, I’ve also been nurturing the idea of starting some major project(s) that I don’t want to spoil before I’ve actually started on it/them.
What would you like to say to doubting or questioning JWs who might be reading this?
I’ve been there. It’s scary to be where you’re at. “What if I’m wrong, what if you’re wrong?” There are a million questions going through your head. But trust me on this, keep questioning it. And do your research.
What would you like to say to still-in believing-JW family and or friends who might come across this?
If you truly need to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses because it’s made your life better, then I’ll never try to take that away from you. I can say, however, that leaving the JW’s has made my life vastly better. If you ever want to talk about it, find me on the Ex-JW subreddit.
Do you have anything else to share?
These pictures of me in a speedo?