Yes, it was yesterday, September 15th, that marked four years to the day of my "awakening" from the Watchtower coma. It's been quite a ride, but here are the highlights...
-Sept. 15, 2004: After months of investigation and mental gymnastics, I read Tom Cabeen's "Does God Work Through an Organization?" This day, at 38 and in the third generation of a four generation JW family, I knew for sure I'd been misled.
-March, 2005: I am reinstated at my congregation. For months I wrestled with how to handle this, but I decided I would play their game, tell them what they wanted to hear, get reinstated so that I could communicate with my family--then fade. My 17-year-old daughter and I spoke of moving to California and began to plan it.
-April, 2005: My daughter finds some documents in my laptop that chronicle my mental awakening regarding the Watchtower Society. They are profoundly upsetting to her; she's in bed for two days. Over the next few weeks she finds a way to make peace with it, saying she still wants to move to California with me.
-May, 2005: I attend my very last JW meeting. As I walk out the door, I feel peace and freedom awaiting.
-June, 2005: We pack up the enormous Budget rental truck with everything, and embark upon the 2300 mile journey from Flint, Michigan, to Chino Hills, California, with kitty aboard and towing my daughter's car behind us.
-July 4th weekend, 2005: We arrive several days later and move into our little, 970 square foot apartment. I intend to scout southern California, looking for a home to buy.
-September 15, 2005, One Year Anniversary: For most of that first year, I thought I was leaving the JW religion--not only because it wasn't what it claimed to be--but also because I thought I'd be able to move in the direction of purer Christianity. My posts on JWD confirm that I was still using Biblical references in a way that demonstrated my faith in the Christian God.
-October, 2005: My daugher, (now 18), reveals that she has come to the same conclusions I have about the religion. She's concerned about newfound JW friends in California trying to "save" her--and how she'll deal with that.
-March, 2006: For the first time I inform my mother that I no longer attend meetings and that I no longer recognize the Watchtower Society as "The Truth," making clear my findings that it has all been a deception. This is not well received.
-September 1, 2006: Realizing that real estate in southern California is prohibitively expensive--and would require me to live in a small, cramped environment, my daughter, (now 19,) and I move to the vicinity of Phoenix, Arizona, into the new home I've bought. I put in a pool and start to enjoy the benefits of desert living. (Sunshine!)
-September 15, 2006, Two Year Anniversary: Over the past year I've wrestled with my belief in Christianity. One night, after a few drinks, sitting out on my porch and looking up into the sky, I say, "God, if you're there, if you're listening, if you care, if you made me...thank you. If there's something you want of me, do let me know. But please don't send people to me who tell me only they have the answers about you. I believe if you have the power to create the universe, you have to power to communicate, in some substantive way, to me directly."
-May, 2007: I fall in love with a fantastic Cuban-American woman. The relationship starts to go a bit too fast. She decides she is willing to move herself and her daughter to Phoenix from Miami where she lives.
-Early August, 2007: Sadness. She becomes pregnant and decides not to have the child. At the clinic, they discover she is allergic to latex--and they cannot go through with it in that environment. She insists. They inform her they can only proceed without anesthetic. She agrees. The result is what has been diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is a basket case for months, having no emotion for friends or family. The friendship continues, but the "relationship" dies.
-Late August, 2007: My daughter, (now 20,) who has previously been attending a couple of Community Colleges in California and Arizona, is accepted and starts attending Arizona State University. She moves out into a dorm. This comes at a very difficult time as I cope with my sadness over the above.
-September 15, 2007, Three Year Anniversary: Not much beyond where I was the previous year, regarding beliefs. I've come to realize that--although it isn't right for JWs to brand those who no longer accept the WTS as "apostates," it's also true that I no longer even consider myself a Christian--and this would technically make me an "apostate" according to Biblical teaching. I'm still dealing with the abortion and loss of my lover. At first I use Xanax; helps a lot. But becoming concerned about addiction, I find natural alternatives. By end of year I'm beginning to sleep easier as the pain subsides.
December, 2007: For the past year--and especially recently--I've been reading things that really begin to contribute to my understanding of life. I embrace the idea that everything in the universe is energy--and that we are merely extensions of that energy. While we all have a "self," we are also part of a larger "self," very much connected to one another.
February, 2008: While dating here and there over the past few months, I meet an absolutely gorgeous, sweet and kind Kenyan woman, Rachel. True she's much younger than me, (almost seventeen years,) but we're just dating anyway. No harm.
April, 2008: Rachel and I agree we are not looking for a serious relationship, as we have both just been through the rigors of that. Just having a good time. Heh heh heh...
May, 2008: Life is definitely making more sense than it ever has. I begin to see a very positive future, realize that I'm a lot more powerful than I think I am (as are we all.)
June, 2008: Wow... I'm seeing Rachel almost constantly during the week. We're really enjoying each other's company. And how comfortable is it that neither of us is looking for a serious relationship!? That's right, not us. Just floating downstream together for awhile; that's all...
June, 2008: My mom and dad decide to meet with me, I'm guessing for the last time. I had business in Michigan, very near where they live. We have a very enjoyable time, during which the topic of the Watchtower Society does not come up. But two weeks later, when I speak to Mom, she tells me they now don't think having done so was a good idea--and they do not intend to tell the rest of my large JW family that they even met with me. From previous conversations she's had with my ex-wife, it appears they decided to see me just one more time.
July, 2008: Okay, so I think it's somewhere in here that Rachel and I start to realize we have something far more than we'd planned. We have really bonded by this time. This is love.
August, 2008: Rachel's mother and brother are going to be moving to Seattle, and there has been much pressure for her to go in advance of them. She's asked to stay with their family friends for awhile and scout out apartments and job opportunities, etc. At first she is reluctant, but I encourage her to go, telling her that if our relationship is right for both of us, we'll find a way to be together in the future.
August, 2008: A couple of weeks into her stay with Kenyan family friends, I fly up there for a visit. We'd planned to go see a Dave Matthews Band concert at the Gorge in George, Washington. When I get there I am struck by the legalism and authoritarianism that I thought I'd left behind. The older couple have decided that they are directing all of the activities of Rachel's life--and, although she is nearly twenty-six years old, she is required to do as they say. From Rachel's subsequent conversations it is confirmed that they do not approve of her seeing a man this much older than she--especially since he is a white man. Believe it or not, we miss the concert because of this. ($180 for great seats through a ticket broker, down the drain. Oh well.)
September 16, 2008, Four Year Anniversary: I now feel quite free of JW mindsets. I have continued to embrace the sort of belief in "The Universe" that I previously expressed, although I remain cheerfully open to discussing anyone else's point of view. While previously I harbored a great sadness about the loss of my JW family, who will not speak with me, it is now just gone. Really. Don't know why or how, but for months I haven't felt any sense of upset or stress about it whatsoever. I think, after meeting with my Mom and Dad, showing them I'm still a good guy and doing well, realizing that the task of overcoming a JW mindscrew is pretty overwhelming...I now just leave it in the capable hands of The Universe. If and when any of my family ever does want to contact me, I'll be here, happy to talk with them, but if not...that's okay too.
Oh, and, by the way, this afternoon I'm picking Rachel up from the airport here in Phoenix at 3:50pm PST. I guess she too has decided to reject a life subject to authoritarianism. She's moving in with me...and, although neither of us pretends to know everything the future holds, we're really looking forward to the future with unbelievable joy.