Over the course of about a year I had mentally broken away from the organization and was finally able to see things as they were without the biased filter of the Watchtower shaping everything. I felt free and in charge of my life for the first time. Most remarkably of all was the guilt that I had always felt while in ‘God’s Organization’, even during my years as a regular pioneer, was starting to fade away. Like the fleeting emotions one has right after you wake from a nightmare, I had to remind myself that what I had felt about myself all those long years were no longer true. I didn’t have to feel like there was constantly more I needed to do. That my worth as a person rested on the hours I turned in every month, or if every little mistake I made or thought I had made me unworthy and ugly in God’s eyes. That was gone now. Or at least going away. I AM GOOD ENOUGH.
But even though I was going through this remarkable transformation on the inside, no one around me knew what was going on, not even my spouse. So it was that after I attended my last meeting at the end of October 2018 and knew that I was never going back that I was immediately faced with the huge task of what to tell my spouse and my immediate family. This, I knew was going to have to be done carefully. I had read stories of ones that decided to leave the organization and the consequences of their decision was their mate leaving them and losing their children. All of this weighed heavily on my mind.
I needed a safe space to talk thinks out without the fear of ‘outing’ myself. I contacted my brother for the first time in years and let him know that things were beginning to change in my beliefs. My brother had been raised a JW too, but was disfellowshipped in his late teens. That was over twenty years ago and I basically had no meaningful contact with him my whole life. I grew up with the weird knowledge of knowing I had an older brother out there that I didn’t know anything about. He was always the black sheep of the family. My ‘other’ sibling. I reached out and told him I was sorry about the way I and the rest of the family had treated him over the years. To my relief he was ready to welcome me back into his life, under the condition that I was sure about what I was saying, as he didn’t want to get close to me and then for me to change my mind again and shun him once more. I was more than happy to agree! Over the next few weeks I shared my feelings and regrets with him over our family’s history and the religion we both grew up in. For the first time I was learning about my brother and drawing close to him.
Next my spouse. My first challenge was finding a acceptable reason for not going to the meetings anymore, as my absence would be the most obvious sign of my deviation. One thing that worked in my favor was the fact that we have two young kids, and it just so happened that they were going through some sickness picked up from school (my kids are the only children in the congregation I went to that attended public school). So one kid was sick then the next and then me and then my spouse. With all that I was able to stretch out a couple of weeks with raising suspensions. After using all those excuses, I had to come up with something else. I went with sickness of another kind, depression and anxiety. If you’ve read my other blog posts then you will know that I was disfellowshipped and reinstated a few years ago. This event really had an impact on my mental health. Ever since re-joining the organization I was always stricken with mini panic attacks whenever I attended the Kingdom Hall. Nothing noticeable to anyone else, however, I never could shake the feeling that I was constantly being watched and judged by everyone there, especially by the elders. This caused me to suffer incredible amounts of anxiety that I kept to myself for years. The only time this didn’t effect me was when I was assigned a talk or when I made a comment during the meetings. This was because it was at those times that I was in control. I could focus my energy on saying what I thought was important.
I finally approached my spouse about my uncomfortable feelings at the meetings. I described for the first time to anybody what it was like for me to be constantly reminded of my past sins and the judgmental looks I received (or at least what I thought I received) every time I went to the meetings. How it felt like I had to be constantly on guard of my every word and deed, even my body language, or I would find myself dragged into ‘the back room’ to be told how I wasn’t good enough. I described it as like have PTSD (no offense to anyone out there with real PTSD issues from serious past trauma). My spouse was very understanding and empathetic. Having been disfellowshipped and reinstated also, it was easy to relate to what I was feeling. I said that I just needed some time to work out my issues, and to just give me till the end of the year. To my surprise we didn’t have any issues. I would stay home while the rest of my family went to the meetings (I had agreed to listen over the phone to the meeting while they were there). It was such a huge relief and bought me needed time to slowly corrupt my spouse in my evil apostate ways (he he he!). But it would turn out that it would be so much easier than I thought it would be in that regard.
He had been very concerned with the many personal issues there was in the congregation, specifically over people’s Pharisaical rules and application. So as I began to share different things with him, from excerpts of ‘Crises of Conscience’ to quotes from our older publications, he was very open-minded about it. The turning point for him I think was when he went out to eat after a meeting with a new family that had moved into our congregation. They have a bunch of kids so it was natural for my kids to want to be around them. During the course of the meal, (I of course was at home, so I learned of it later), the kids were discussing favorite movies. One of my kids mentioned that they loved the movie ‘Captain Underpants’. This was met with shock by the other kids who said that the movie was bad and not appropriate. The dad then chimed in and said that all super hero movies were bad because the Nephilim were considered super heroes by the people before the flood…so that why it is inappropriate for kids to enjoy superman, or the Avengers, or even a silly cartoon about a school principle and his alter ego of Captain Underpants. So here was more rules to follow and live up to. Ones that didn’t come from the Bible but were the standard of one family in the congregation and that you were now expected to follow or risk being viewed as bad association. So that coupled with all the other issues he had seen in the congregations over the years, plus his own bad taste of being disfellowshipped once, plus a spouse who wasn’t attending the meetings anymore and was causing him to think about things from a new viewpoint all, led up to when I was finally more openly talking about not being apart of the organization anymore he response was……….. Ya, OK, let’s do that.
In Part 3 I will finally bring this long-winded story to a conclusion………