My mother decided we were to become Witnesses when I was 3 years old. My father disagreed, they divorced.
The "friends" set her up with a "nice new brother" and they married that same year. My mother later told me any marriage that included Jehovah would certainly succeed. They divorced 20 years later.
During my growing up years, my dad kept in touch and encouraged me to question the religion and everything. As the typical child of divorce, I tried very hard to please both. I was the rebel for my dad and the devoted JW for my mother. Since I only saw my dad during school holidays and for a few weeks in the summer, most of the time I was a Witness. I studied for meetings, pioneered whenever I could and sincerely tried to be a good Witness. Then my world fell apart.
Our house was one of outward perfection. We were an example family, we had parts in assemblies, visited Bethel and my mother and step-father served over-seas to build Kingdom Halls in Haiti and Columbia. It was a hoax, the elephant in the room was that my step-father was a controlling tyrant. He acted more like a dictator than a parent and I was his favorite target. He would criticize everything about me and I could do nothing right. I remember him criticizing how I stood, sat, ate, spoke and looked. He spared no one and my siblings and mother each took turns under his magnifying glass. He demanded absolute control of our clothing, what we said, who our friends were, what we read, saw, everything. Even other Witnesses were not good enough. I was not allowed to associate with many he deemed not exemplary enough. I was not allowed to talk to a witness friend who got pregnant from "committing fornication" even though she repented and was never disciplined. I was baptized at 15.
My step-father was an elder of course, I was 19 and a regular pioneer due for pioneer school in late summer when everything came crashing down. I was visiting my father like I always did in the summer when he called me and told me to come and collect my things, he was kicking me out. I would like to say I left on my own but honestly, it came out of the blue. Sure I rebelled a little. I may have gone to the beach a few time with a girl friend instead of going out in service but who hasn't? I couldn't think of anything that would merit kicking me out. Looking back, I was 19. What was I waiting for? I should have left on my own. As many of you know, when you are living in that haze, you just don't think like a rational person. Later, I discovered that my crime was hiding a two piece swim suit in my trunk along with an issue of "Cosmopolitan". He hated the sexy girl on the cover. Since I wasn't gay, I am still not sure why he hated it so much. Perhaps he was a little turned on by the sexy girl on the cover and didn't want me having it......He could have come up with a better argument, maybe the lousy articles about superficial teen interests but, maybe he was too distracted to notice them.
Anyway, I got to load my car with my possessions while my mother watched. She made sure to pack all of my Witness books and things for me!! My step-father stood by with my mother and another elder from the Hall and watched me load my car. I did not discover until years later the elders did not approve of him kicking me out. At the time I thought they did since he said nothing to me. Of course you would never want to let a "kid" of 19 know their elder parent might be wrong about something. But even then, I still thought a Witness family would certainly invite me to stay with them while this injustice was sorted out. None did. I was never asked for my side of the story by the elders.
I moved in with my "worldly" grandparents. I attended the next meeting after this happened and never went back. I refused to speak to them when they called and they hated it. This went on for a long time. Finally they cornered me at work and the first thing the elders asked me if "I had done anything yet that would require me to be disfellowshipped?" I said my life was no longer any of their business and I have never spoken to them since. I wonder if they had shown some human compassion if I would have been drawn back into it. It makes me cringe to think of how vulnerable I was. Thankfully they were inept which does not surprise me now, it did at the time.
Today my mother is remarried to another elder. We have a good relationship after years of difficulty. I moved in with my future husband after living with my grandparents for about 9 months. We have been married for 15 years and have a beautiful child today. My siblings are no longer JW's but blame me for breaking up our family still today. I am not really sure how a 19 year old kid could do that but between their crazy father and the JW's it is no wonder they have issues. He was finally disfellowshipped and my mother divorced him about 3 years after I left. Their marriage must have discinigrated rapidly after I left because I saw little sign of trouble when I was living there.
Looking back, getting kicked out was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to wake up.
My dad was a mixture of feeling bad for me while being happy I was getting out. He was supportive and even went with me to collect more things back at the house. He scares the heck out of my step-father (no surprise) which is a good thing. My step-father stalked me after I was kicked out. He even called up my future husband, we had just began dating, and threatened to kill me. The next morning after his phone call to my boyfriend we found marks on the doors of the house where someone had taken a crow-bar and tried to break in. I had to file a report with local police and they called him in to their office. The officer who spoke to us and who later called the a**hole in was very fatherly and nice to me and he told me he would do his best to make him stop bothering me. Thankfully for my step-father he did because I think my real dad would still be in prison for murder if he had not.
My mother thinks I confuse my step-fathers insanity with the religion, which I may. I still stand by how I acted to the elders. They had just made me so mad at them. My entire life they told me meeting after meeting they were my true friends and would ALWAYS believe the truth and be on my side. Here I was an upstanding Witness, a regular pioneer and just because I was 19 they believed I must have done something wrong and the insane elder must have been in the right without ever asking me for my side of the story.
Even today when I happen to encounter a former "friend" I treat them as if I disfellowshipped them. I ignore them completely and act like they do not exist. I did nothing wrong and I will not act as if I did, they wronged me! It is a great strategy because it messes with their head and makes them uncomfortable.
Life without the JW's is wonderful. I look at my mothers life of being subservient to her husband and that religion it makes me cringe to think of how easily it could still be me. I had experienced doubts as a Witness but as many others have posted, the longer you are in, the harder it is to get out. I got out during a time when many leave. I would like to believe I would have left on my own because the tyrant did show me the hypocrisy up close. I often think my mother wants to believe it so much that she chooses not to see anything that does not fit into her perfect world of being an elders wife. I think that any Witness needs to really ask themselves if they are happy not being true to themselves. If this is all there is and we only get one trip around this world, do they want to spend it living a lie? Everyone deserves to experience freedom. Getting out is like being liberated. It is very difficult to get out but everything in life that it worth while is never easy. I live with no regrets.
I told my mother, just to clarify my feelings to her that even if the "truth" was the truth and I would not live in the new system with my loved ones, I would still not go back ever. One day of freedom is better than a lifetime of bondage.
In my case, my elder step-father basically kicked out a perfectly good regular pioneer and the elders enabled him. I had done nothing except begin to have doubts that should have caused me to be DF. Really nothing until after I had been kicked out and not until a month after when I started dating my future husband did I do anything in the DF bracket.
In the beginning, they thought I had, which is why everyone backed away from me. They then realized my step-father was in the wrong and they hounded me terribly. I got phone calls at work and at my grandparents, where I lived, constantly. I spoke to them only a couple of times and that was it, no more. On one conversation they told me that my step-father felt really bad for kicking me out. I said "Good, he should." and jumped all over me. As if saying "good" was the most terrible thing I could ever say. The second time, the asked me if I had done anything yet that I could be disfellowshipped for....that pissed me off. I told them my life was non of their business and never spoke to them again.
I have heard my step-father was disfellowshipped after he stalked me. I spoke about that earlier. Many of the elders we removed or stepped down because of what happened to me I guess. According to my mother everything is different now and Jehovah cleaned house. I said, "too bad lives had to get trampled on before he decided to intervene." I was happy it happened, eventually, after my head stopped spinning.
I told my mother once the elders had my blood on their hands. I know many of them will always feel bad about it. Most had known me since I was 3. Sometimes I would like to tell them it was the best thing that could have happened to me but I don't think that would help them feel better. Then I remember they were the adults in the situation who should have known better or at least investigated more and I get mad again. It really demonstrated the holes in the elder system. I know my situation makes the Witnesses around here very uncomfortable. Which may be why some still want to talk to me. I know they think I ought to come back, Jehovah should bring me back because it was not my fault. It messes with their head.
I had not thought about this in many years and it happened 19 years ago. The details are slowly coming back and I apologize if my story is not always consistent. It is amazing how you kind of block it out after a while.
Sorry about the book here...