Hello again everyone,
My story starts off the same way a lot of yours did, I was born into the JW cult in 1986. My mother got kicked out of her house for studying with her older sister when she was 15. My dad was also born into the JW World. My mom and dad got divorced when I was 5 (my mother had scriptual grounds) so she raised my younger sister, brother and I mostly by herself. Because of her beliefs she adamantly did not want us having any worldly influences, so she chose to home school all of us. I feel this really hurt my brother and sister much more then it hurt me. The laws in Michigan are very lax when it comes to home schooling and from grades k-8 we really didn't do much. She basically just taught us how to read and write and some basic math skills, other then the ocasional trip to a museum (History & Science) and the occasional educational video game, she relied on the "theocratic Education" that was more precious then anything our "very temporary" secular world could provide us. I have always had a very strong will and have always been very competitive, this was very hard for me growing up being a JW, no sports, no after-school activities to excel at, it always left me with a hole I couldn't fill. I believe that is why I embraced the "truth" when I was young, that was the only thing I ever got praise for and you desperately need that as a child. You need people to acknowlege when you excell at something. I started working full time when I was 12 years old (completely illegal, I know) and did very well at my job. I became extremely good at golf and if I had been able to really pursue it, I probably could have gone pro or at least given it a shot. But no matter what I did or what I accomplished it still was just seen as a distraction from serving Jehovah more fully. So I really bacame the little JW rockstar at my cong, I was a Unbaptized publisher when I was 6, I was on the ministry school when I was 8 and was baptized when I was 10. I was the pride of my cong, I was being groomed to be the next JW Higher up. I was told not to set my sights too low, being a MS or Elder was just going to be a stepping stone, I had my sights set on being the next CO or maybe if I played my cards right I could be a graduate from Gillid and be sent to some third world country and build new kingdom halls and live life happily ever after, or at least untill the "big a" comes. But don't let things like school or work, or god forbid a girlfriend get in the way, all of those would just be distractions. And I followed that plan for a while. I aux Pioneered at least 6 times a year starting when I was 11 years old. The cong that I went to had a bunch of pioneers, but all except one were sisters. So at the age of 12, I would conduct the meeting for field service at least once a week. I remember thinking, how the heck am I more qualified to do this then a sister that is 50 years old and has been a pioneer for 30 years, but that was "God's arrangement" and I did it with pride. I gave talks, read the watchtower on Sundays, read at the bookstudy, gave talks at the CA. After looking back I don't think I ever did any of that because I wanted to, I did it because thats what everyone else wanted me to do and was the only time anyone was proud of me. To this day I will never forgive the WTBTS for taking my childhood away from me.
When I was 15 a lot started to change, the job I had started to play a bigger role in my life. I was making more money then all of my friends, and it felt really good to have financial independence. We didn't have much growing up, so now I got to buy what I wanted when I wanted it. Also around the same time I had my first girlfriend. I started to do less and less when it came to the JW's, though I still put at least 10 hours per month in the field service and gave some talks, I missed a lot of meetings (work) and while I was there I had my mind on other things (girlfriend). I worked at a Private County Club as a caddy in SE Michigan, and at the Country Club they had a scholarship opportunity where I could have been awarded a full-ride scholarship to a State College (U of M or MSU). The member board who awarded the scholarship came to me and told me that for my years of service and the promise I showed, they would give me the scholarship if I chose to accept it. However, my family strongly discouraged me from doing this, saying I would be throwing my life away for something I would never use (a college degree) and be distracting myself from serving Jehovah to my fullest ability. So I decided I didn't want to cause waves, because you all know that going against a family members wishes when it comes to witness matters is a huge deal. So I respectfully informed the scholarship committe I would be declining their offer.
Jumping forward a few years... I am now 19 and most of my friends (girlfriend included) were a few years older than me. I'm now involved with what my Mom called a "bad crowd" even though they were all witnesses in good standing. My group of friends and I never went completely out of control, but we did drink and party. One time I threw a party with my Girlfriend at her house while her parents were gone for the weekend. Granted I was 19, and she 22, a few people had too much to drink (myself included) and word got back to my Elders at the Congregation. So, needless to say, I was promptly publicly reproved and I was the ONLY one who had any judicial reprecussions. It got back to my Mom a few weeks later that the Elders said they were going to make an example of me to the circuit to show others that this type of behavior would not be tolerated. So, 9 months later, I was again at a party with the same group of friends, who were again all drinking (some way too much), and I had too much to drink. Word got back to the elders and this time I was immediately disfellowshiped. It was at this point I began to realize the hypocricy of the WTBTS. None of the other people at EITHER party were disciplined (must be nice to be the son of an elder). I incurred the typical shunning of friends and family - no dinners, social events, etc. I still lived at home, but even contact there was kept to a minimum. There was another sister at the congregation who was disfellowshipped as well and we would walk into meetings together. The elders would always come up to her, asking how she was doing and making sure she kept her head up and would be back soon. Her family was very close to the body of Elders and I think this is why she received this treatment... however every time I walked in, I got the evil eye and cold shoulder. After a full year of enduring this and after writing 3 letters requesting to be reinstated, I was finally accepted back into the congregation. But even after I was back, I still got the cold shoulder and evil eye from everyone in the hall. I never understood that, it seemed kind of strange. Wasn't I supposed to be forgiven of my sin, hadn't I served my penance? Wasn't I supposed to be welcomed back into the "loving arms" of the Society? Well these experiences just reaffirmed my doubts that I had about the Society and it's practices.
I never openly questioned doctorine because we were taught that in questioning it, you were the worst of the worst. But a lot of it didn't sit right with me. At this point in my life, I now lived with another young brother from my hall, who was a lot like I was. Just going through the motions of being a witness, but living our "double life." I had a good job at which I eventually met the love of my life. I began making friends outside of the witness realm and did some casual dating. After a couple years of this, I met my fiance. She started asking about my family, so I started to explain to her a little bit about the witness religion and how I was raised. We both thought it would slightly ease the transition of me dating a non-witness if she was studying and learning about the religion from my Mom. So I introduced her to my family. I took her to a CA, where my entire family met her and immediately liked her. However at this time they did not know we were dating. She was just an "interested girl from work." She had a few studies with my Mom, but made it clear she was not converting to be a witness. After 5 months of quietly dating, I finally admitted to my family (who already assumed) that we were together. They were very unhappy about the situation, although they did like her. My family refused to hang out with us as a couple, but wanted to spend time with us as individuals. Unbeknowst to them, we moved in together. I had stopped going to meetings completely, which just concluded my slow fade from the congregation over the past 2 years. My family made it clear they did not support our relationship and after telling them we were going to be married, they would not attend the wedding. They said after we were married, they would have to accept it, and we would "eventually" be accepted back into the fold and invited to SOME family events. Our relationship with my family slowly came to a near halt. We talked occasionally and would have dinners, but they did not want anyone thinking they approved of our union.
After being together for a year, and living together for 6 months, we found out we were very unexpectedly having a baby. We found out very early, at only 4 weeks, so we decided to keep it quiet for the first trimester. We knew this would cause a major fiasco with my family, and there was no sense in telling them if heaven forbid we had lost the baby. So at 13 weeks pregnant I finally told my Mom. This did not go well. When I first said my fiance was pregnant, she had the audacity to ask who's it was... because there was no way I was having sex, I was raised to be better than that (needless to say, she was on speakerphone and this did not go over well either). I admitted to us living together, sleeping together, etc. When I asked to come see her and talk in person, she refused, demanding that we "rectify the situation immediately." We were to go to a justice of peace and be married. According to her, doing this would show the Elders that I had made a mistake and was fixing it as Jehovah would ask me to and would prevent me from being DF'd. This is when I told her I no longer wanted to be a JW. Throughout the pregnancy she would get involved at random times to try and influence how we would raise the child. She gave my Christian fiance documents describing how celebrating holidays, birthdays, etc. were wrong and how we would be condeming ourselves and our child by celebrating them (sins of the father...). My fiance had had enough and stopped responding, so she showed up while my fiance was on bedrest demanding to talk about it again. She was relentless.
In July we welcomed to the world our son. He is a perfect, healthy little boy. My fiance and I are happier than we have ever been and her family supports us the way a family should. They treat me as one of their own. They are the typical "upper-middle-class, all-american family" that everyone wants to grow up in. They are obsessed with their grandson and would do anything for him. My family on the other hand, has seen him only a handful of times in 6 months. My sister and brother have seen him once (at a funeral) and my Mother maybe 6 times? She showed up at the hospital when he was born (long annoying story withheld) and we allowed her to be a part of it, since it was her grandson too. After we came home she started visiting every other week, but only when I was at work. She called before coming to ensure I wouldn't be there and during the visit would belittle me to my fiance. So after a few weeks of this, we decided to let my family know that they could only accept us as a family and not as individuals. We are a package deal. There would be no seeing one without the other. And, now she hasn't seen any of us in 3 months (with the exception of a funeral).
So I am resolved to make sure that my son and my family will not have to be oppressed by the WTBTS and their mind controlling tactics. I will ensure that my son and our future children will not have their childhoods robbed and manipulated the way mine was. If that means no relationship with my family, then that is there choice, and so be it.
As many who have walked in these shoes before me, I am saddened by what I have lost but in turn have gained more than I'd ever dreamed of. I have a loving fiance who I will marry later this year and a perfect little boy. I am a father and "husband." I have had more love and happiness in the past 2 years than in the 23 I spent as a JW. I am just glad I got out and am thankfully everyday that I found someone and something that make me happier than I ever could have imagined.