Tell us about your early life as a JW.
My Mom got baptized when I was 2 years old, so pretty close to being born in. My Father never became a JW, though he studied many times over the years. My parents divorced, remarried and divorced. My Dad never had any major issues with my Mom being a JW. I felt I had a normal childhood, lots of fun with family and friends. I don’t feel I missed out on anything.
I was baptized at age 14, still remember the date, Sept. 18, 1982.
How would you describe your family life while you were a JW?
Parents split when I was about 12, my brother and sister and I lived with my Mom. My Dad lived just a few blocks away though so we saw him regularly and maintained a great relationship. I can’t really think of how it affected the home life. Our house was the one everyone came to for game night, gatherings, dinners, etc, so we were always entertaining, which I loved.
How would you describe your level of devotion to the organization prior to waking?
I was definitely hard core. Even at a very young age, my Mom told me someone asked me if I wanted to celebrate Christmas and I sure told them why with scriptures lol. I don’t remember it. But I was always a student, did my pre-study for meetings, etc. I still remember in 1978 when the Book of Bible Stories came out. I read it cover to cover and even now, when I read certain scriptures, my mind goes to the pictures in that book. I made sure I read the Bible through at least once a year. I started auxiliary pioneering in Jr High School and regular pioneering in high school. Immediately upon graduating, I went to serve where the need was great. I was a normal teen though, got in a little trouble (nothing serious). Had to be reproved once when I was 15 for kissing a boy (my brother caught me and told). I was faithful in service, had many Bible studies, did 4:30am streetwork, etc.
And I specifically remember while out in service telling at least two people that I “debated with”: “If I ever find out I’m wrong, I’ll leave.” I never thought that would come true of course.
If baptized, why did you decide to take that step? If not, why not?
I knew I was ready to dedicate my life to God. It just made sense for me.
If born-in, what kind of Jehovah’s Witnesses were / are your family?
My Mom was very devout and respected in our congregation.
Are there any particular experiences or circumstances while you were a believer that come to mind now that you’re awake?
Parents loved their children to be around me as a good spiritual influence. I became the big sister to many little kids, and had my own big brothers in the congregation that I loved so. I was in about 15 weddings, that was always fun. I had so many close “friends”, all JW of course.
Was your waking up journey sudden or gradual? Describe it for us.
I’d say it was sudden. I was married in Jan. 1991. We had over 500 at our wedding. Hubby and I were both pioneering and he was a Ministerial Servant. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had realized the “truth” about 2 months before we were married. He was even called into an elder’s meeting a few weeks before our wedding. He was in FL and I was in CA so I had no idea of this at that time. 2 Months after we were married, we took the train from FL to NY for a friend’s wedding. On the train ride back, my husband dropped the bomb. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but what I do remember was he had the “Your Will Be Done Book” and in it, it referenced a lot of either Ezekiel or Isaiah. He pointed out that ever time Israel was bad, they were “Christendom” yet every time they were good or restored, they were the JWs. Well there was only one Israel, not two groups, so it didn’t make sense. That was the start of taking the “red pill” (Matrix reference). I will say, within seconds, I remember these thoughts going through my head (“omg, i married an apostate”, “will they let me annul the marriage”, “what do i do?”). But I had to listen because my husband was only sharing what the Bible said. It was a 24 hour train ride home, so let’s just say, by the time we got home, I never went out in service again and we started missing meetings.
Did you ever have so-called “doubts”? If so, what were they?
I NEVER had any doubts, complaints or any feelings something was wrong. I was the happiest JW you could find. So you can imagine how shocking it was when I officially left the org less than 4 months after being married.
Did you share your so-called “doubts” with anyone, and if so, how did it turn out?
We didn’t want to get disfellowshipped, as it was important to us to let THEM know we were leaving THEM. I shared with my Mom, and at first she tried to ignore and said “We’re just not going to talk about this any more.” But I’ve always had a great relationship with her and was not going to let her off the hook that easy, so I told her unless she could refute from the Bible what I said, we would continue to talk about this. Well, 6 months after we left, she did too after coming to her own conclusion. My in-laws are also JW’s, my Father in Law was an elder for many years until he became ill. But we’ll never forget what he told us “Good or bad, I’m sticking with the society.” Even today that still shocks us. Not “I’m sticking with the Bible, or sticking with Jehovah”, but with the society. We have maintained a decent relationship with them over the years.
Are you currently being shunned / ostracized by any Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Of the 500 people at my wedding, the only ones I’m still in contact with are my Mom, in-laws and a few others who have since left the org. I wasn’t known much as a JW in Florida where I moved to right after being married, so having had to deal with much personal shunning. But other relatives back in CA have been quite cruel. We wrote our letter of Disassociation in May 1991 and sent a copy to many of our friends so they could “hear it from us”. We later found out that the letter was read in 0ver 50 congregations all over the country and they were admonished to hang up on us if we called or not to read anything we sent them.
What has changed in your life since waking up?
I feel like I can see both sides now. I can see how someone who knows nothing about the Bible can be led into the JW, and yet I can see how silly many of the teachings are. We went through what we call our “Dark Age” when we had no spirituality, had anger, etc. This was almost 15 years. We tried going to churches, but never felt comfortable. We spent years dissecting everything we learned. We wanted to know if we believed something because we learned it from JW or because it was in the Bible. That was some serious study on so many doctrines and principles.
Then about 10 years ago, we were re-introduced to the Bible. We still believe in God and that the Bible is his word, and we have such a joy in reading and learning without the confines of any religion.
What does the future hold for you now that you’re awake?
We still hold to Bible teachings, so we watch our lifestyle, entertainment, association, etc. But we do this knowing it’s for our good and we are such happy people. We are excited about the future and believe the Bible still has some prophecy to be fulfilled and we are enjoying learning about it. We look forward to being told “Well done!” and enter the Kingdom.
What would you like to say to doubting or questioning JWs who might be reading this?
I was probably a most unlikely person to leave the organization, but my focus was always to please my heavenly Father, not man or religion and that stayed #1. So if someone is doubting, do the research you need. If you still believe in God, pray to him to help you. He will. Man and religion will always let you down, but God’s Word holds true. That is my belief.
What would you like to say to still-in believing-JW family and or friends who might come across this?
Boy do I wish some of my old friends would read this. I was shunned because I disagreed with man (“the society”), not the Bible. No JW could ever tell me I went against the Bible, only the JW teachings which have strayed from the Bible. The JWs are so convinced the Society is the Faithful and Discreet Slave and they truly deem them infallible (though they won’t say it). They disregard the second part of the scripture that says “If that slave starts to beat…” Every thing you hear is “the society” and “the organization”. If you read the Bible, you’ll find most people who served God were not part of any organization (i.e., see ALL the prophets). If you truly love God, you will put his word and his will before any man.
Do you have anything else to share?
Leaving the JW is not easy, you will feel very alone and different from everyone else for a long time. But it’s worth it to be free and for us, we know we have our God in our corner so we never feel truly alone. If you believe in the Bible, never stop being a Berean and examining the scriptures!
Everyone takes a different journey, I don’t judge anyone. This is mine. I don’t regret my journey at all, good or bad, I’ve learned from it all, and I’m happy and free.