Well it's been a little more than 5, but not by much. It's been an interesting couple of years, and an emotional roller-coaster in many ways. "How I am doing in life" has changed several times during those years. Before I brought myself to leave lots of things had happened to bring me to that moment, and many of them I am still dealing with the effects of even now after all these years.
For almost two years before I left and shortly after, I was nursing my sick and dying mother and taking care of my youngest brother who was still in school. My mom eventually did recover from her illness, but it was a very close call for a while and multiple doctors had not given her long. During all this I was still a Ministerial Servant with a part on every meeting and about 6 jobs in the congregation. I was also a Regular Pioneer who was trying to keep up that schedule while working to support the family and taking care of my mom. It was such a trying time. The emotional pain was intense, and it was taking its toll. Right when I needed my witness friends the most, they each found convenient excuses to not be able to talk to me or do anything with me for months on end, or in a few cases ended up turning on my like vipers. My elders were only interested in why I wasn't getting all my jobs done at the Kingdom Hall on a regular basis. It didn't matter to them that I was trying so hard and was getting burned out. So in an attempt to make new friends (even if they weren't on my continent) I saved all my extra money, and traveled overseas to stay with some witnesses I had met at an international convention and had talked with online for a while. It was nice for a few days, but while I was there a misunderstanding ensued, and my "friends" threw me out. For three days I wandered the streets of a foreign city with no money. I spoke the language enough for basic conversations, but was so hurt I didn't want to talk to anyone anyway. I just sort of waited for the plane to take me back to the states. I sat down in an alley one night, crying. I cried out to Jehovah, as you would expect. And was met with silence, as you would expect. My faith had been waning for some time already. At that point though, it was utterly shattered, and I very nearly lost my mind. I never really came back from that country. I left the organization as much for my own sanity as anything (or what was left of it at the time, which wasn't much). Leaving was a way to run away from the pain, the betrayal, the false-promises and false-hopes. If it was all lies anyway, I figured I had nothing to lose.
At first it was a complete shock to the system to walk out and (almost) never go back. I just kept myself busy for a while. I went out to bars for a little bit. I was enjoying the novelty of a different kind of life, and ended up doing a lot of things I had never done before. I also found a nice girl whom I've been in a relationship with now for several years. It didn't seem like it was that long since I had left, but the months then the years started ticking by.
For a while I was in denial about the emotional pain I took with me. Then about 2 years ago it hit like a locomotive. I was nearly paralyzed by it for several months as I tried to sort it all out. Memories came flooding back for things I had just pushed aside and never properly dealt with. It was not pretty. In retrospect I know that at that point I needed counseling, but I didn't receive it. So I dealt with it the best I could.
My faith has been the biggest casualty of all, but I have gained freedom in many ways. Sometimes, it's been a little lonely. I never really had a lot of friends to begin with, and like so many others, leaving the organization also meant leaving behind almost everyone I ever knew. I also lost the woman I loved, partially though elders' meddling and partially through my own stupidity. I gave up something beautiful to go chasing a mirage, and that was my fault. Fortunately, I was able to find someone again. I consider it the highest irony of all that my girlfriend's name is "Faith". There are days even now when I miss certain people who were a big part of my life for so long, even if they hurt me, which some did.
SD-7 said it as well and as poetically as it could be said:
There are days, like today, when I feel that freedom alone is not enough. There's still a huge vacuum that needs to be filled with something meaningful.
I do have freedom now, but I also have no direction and no faith in god or man. I do what I want, not what somebody tells me to do. But what do you do when you don't really know what you want? At this point, I am more than a little lost.
But on the positive side, my family is happy and healthy. My mother and brother both left when I did, and my other brother had already left previously. So at least the religion isn't tearing at my family at the moment as it is with others. My grandparents, some aunts and uncles are still witnesses and won't talk to me, but my immediate family is there for me and that is a blessing I do not undervalue.
Also, I am rediscovering myself to a large degree. Personality traits that I had when I was a child which were repressed or replaced by witness training have begun to re-emerge. I always had an ornery streak and a wicked since of humor, but there are ways of thinking and feeling about myself and about life that were there, then weren't, and now are again. I had almost forgotten that I was ever any other person besides the 'witness-me'. This aspect of being out is almost completely positive. It's been an adventure of sorts, and I sometimes wonder who I would have been if I had never become a Witness. Maybe I'm getting a little glimpse of that now. I think I'm more healthy now mentally and in other ways than I have ever been, but that distinction has been hard earned.
So how am I doing in life? Well, some days I laugh, some days I cry, and some days I even do both. I've learned that the sun will shine tomorrow with or without me, so I may as well try to enjoy it...