Just a brief introduction, I thought I would try out one of the more established forums, have done some stuff on youtube and other places but thought I would give this a try.
Potted history: raised JW by mother, in it for 30 years or so, baptised at age 18, regular pioneer at 20, MS a couple years later, MTS at 26 and got assignment to a new cong, elder at around 29, came off pioneering around 31, came off as elder around 32, started to slowly wind down, completely stopped attending about 3 years ago, disassociated Dec 2010. Pause for breath.
The last 5 years or so have been a painfully gradual process of deconstructing myself and then piecing together fragments of my shattered life that are still valid outside the organisation. The question 'Who am I?' has been a continual investigation; every day for the first couple of years I would realise another subject or issue that I didn't have my own opinions about. Building an identity for 30 years, then - upon discovering its many flaws - purposefully, intentionally, smashing it to dust, is a difficult experience; rebuilding yourself is simultaneously far harder, and far more rewarding. I am by no means there yet, which is why I still seek out the experiences of others that have left the organisation, but I have made a lot of progress, and interestingly most has been made since I disassociated. Breaking the final bond allowed me to shed the fear and bitterness, and to start to live for myself.
Spending so long in that mindset of self-denial and constant desire to serve 'kingdom interests' meant that I lost sight of what I actually enjoyed or wanted for myself. It will probably take me many more years to fully realise my identity, with embarrassing and challenging and humbling experiences along the way. I find I have returned to some of the things I enjoyed before my baptism, perhaps the time when I was most free in my mind. Of course time spent in the cult is not a total waste of time, we learn many things about life and about people; we just don't learn how to think, question or reason. Only to absorb and regurgitate.
I think the most surprising thing is how empowering it is to have made the choice to leave and to have followed it through. I managed my own exit in the best way I could think of - fading slowly, almost shunning the brothers before they could do the same to me, then snapping the link quite suddenly once everything had gone quiet. I managed to successfully acquire copies of Bethel's information on me, via the Data Protection Act, at the same time as I DA'd, which proved very therapeutic and closed the circle for me. I'm sure I benefitted from having been in a congregation where the body would not act rashly or cruelly, so I believe they were hoping I would return in my own good time, thus allowing me to complete my exit without issue. I can't describe how good it felt to have actually severed all connection with it.
I have managed to find employment again, after waving goodbye to the squeegee mop bucket and ladders.... not before time! I have started to make friends out in the real world, through work and through music. And I have a burning desire to return to education finally, after umming and ahhing for several years. Most importantly, I have started to view people as my fellow humans, not as part of 'the world'. It is so damaging to go through life viewing everyone outside the 6 million or so Witnesses as cannon fodder for Jesus. Waiting for the day that fire and sulphur start raining down upon the wicked, while we stay safe in our homes or KHs or in white bubbles of holy protection, whatever. Now it is the witnesses in my town that are the odd-ones-out - not that I ever see them. It is bizarre how those 70, 80, 90 people become your entire existence. Then you wake up and realise there are tens of thousands of people to mix with just in your own area, the possibilities multiply exponentially.
Like many I have lost contact with family members over this; I have also gained contact with others, my disfellowshipped sister and my unbelieving father. And I have recently had a lot more contact with my sister who is still in the Witnesses, which has been very positive.
"...But really the little dogs do eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their masters." - got to take what you can get! :D
If you have any questions or want to know anything more based on what I have said, please feel free to ask here. If you want to check my youtube stuff, mainly me ranting (some may contain brief swearing, one has to vent occasionally) but also more explanatory stuff and observations, then please do: http://www.youtube.com/user/gorgobar?feature=mhum#p/u
I wish everyone a successful exit and 'afterlife' =)
Regards to all
'Millions Now Living Will Never Live'