Well, it's my anniversary. One year ago this week I left the organization and have only been to one meeting --a funeral for a dear friend. I didn't get disfellowshipped or write the letter announcing my apostacy, just a complete vanishing act from the crummy religion which was mine the first twenty-five years of my life. So, what have I learned? How has the journey been?
When I first left, my rational mind had no doubt this wasn't the truth. A year and a half of investigating science, biblical criticism and a few "apostate" books made that strikingly clear. (To be accurate, I viewed the possibility of the JWs having the truth at about 500 to 1) But, my emotional side was reeling. I thought about the JWs almost every waking minute. I thought about the "good times" and how badly the brothers and sisters would view me now. I was caught in a web of self-doubt, anxiety and depression.
Within three weeks things got better. I got into contact with some ex-JWs over the telephone. I signed up on an ex-JW internet forum (not this one). I started to make some contacts with "worldly" people -- anyone I could tell "my story" to. A school counselor I never met before gave me a big hug after I told her everything I was going through (from a "worldly" person!).
I can say without a doubt that the internet helped tremendously. I didn't communicate with any ex-witnesses till after I was out, but doing so was critical to regaining some balance in my life. Coming out of a cult (yes, it's a cult) we have such pent up thoughts and emotions that need to be let out. If you are newly out KEEP POSTING. It helps.
Although I had done a lot of research on doctrine, science and JW history, I didn't really take the time to probe the warped emotional world of the cults till after I was out. Reading Marlene Winnell's "Leaving the Fold" was a turning point for me. If you are doubting your decision to leave the JWs or need help sorting out some feelings related to your departure, I recommend this book above all others. She also is available for telephone counseling (I talked to her about four times).
My relationship with my mother was terrible at first, but has improved tremendously. Yes, every now and then we get into a fisticuffs of words over this religion but, by and large, we just ignore the topic. I feel greatful to have a relative who will be there for me, although she is the only one.
As time has gone on I can truly say that things get better -- emotionally and intellectually. I used to not even want to look at a Watchtower or Awake magazine. Internalized fear and dependency would cripple my thoughts. Now, I can look at one, pick it up and read parts of it -- all with a smile on my face as I laugh at how stupid the whole thing is. You really gotta love this religion. Admit it, they can be hilarious sometimes!
I rarely think about the reasons why I left anymore. Case in point: the whole thread about 607 BCE -- been there, done that. I think I'm starting to finally view the world and my place in it with normal eyes. There is so much to learn, so many things to be absorbed in that it makes no sense to let this little cult which barely goes noticed by the rest of the world control our minds and time any longer. I'm growing, I'm evolving, I'm expanding. The door to a greater life is unlocked, only I have to go through it.
Celebrating a ground-breaking year,
J. Bradley Potts