WARNING...Long, long post...do not be afraid. It's really kind of interesting if you've got some extra time and a load of patience!
What a pleasure it has been to browse this website over the past couple of years...first as a lurker and then as a member. I now intend to "come out of the closet"...blow my cover and tell you my story (and I'm sticking to it!). My name is Cathy Laszewski (and that's for anybody lurking out there who goes to the Stevens Point or Plover, WI congregations...be sure to print this out and hand it over to the elders...oh my...that may be a problem because then you would have to explain what you were doing on this nasty website!) My husband and I both were raised in the organization, each with fathers not involved in the witnesses. I was baptized at the age of 15, my husband at 12 (oh my...he must have really known what he was signing up for at that tender age!), we are now 49 and 52. So that's a long, long time in the org. All his family on his dad's side are staunch witnesses along with his mom and brother; just my mom, sister and brother on my side. I won't bore you (if you're not already bored) with the details of our childhood...as most of you know what that is all about anyway.
We have two sons, 25 and 20. Older is baptized...younger is not. (I'd say praise the Lord about the younger one if I knew there was a Lord for sure). We were cruising along at witness speed for most of our lives...my husband attained the title of MS...never reaching the pinnacle of eldership because he just didn't want to be judging his brothers and sisters. I also developed severe health problems in 1989 and he needed to take care of me and the kids. (He resigned as Account servant at this time...stuck around for a while because we were building a new hall...and then when he wasn't needed they announced that he was REMOVED as account servant...that of course started the gossip mills a turning...Hmmmm...could he have embezzeled??? This was done in complete contrast to when our presiding overseer was REMOVED from his position because of who knows what but we have a pretty good idea...and actually was given the rare privilege of giving his own "farewell" talk...so most were bamboozled into thinking he was "stepping down" because of health concerns, etc. Go figure!)
Now where was I...oh yah...from the time I developed my health problems (due in my mind without a doubt to the pressure of performing as a good little witness wife & mom) until around 1999; we encountered all kinds of what we now know as abuse from our body of elders. Elders interrogated people as to my movements within our small town to make sure I wasn't "faking" my illness and getting out of field service, meetings and feeding hungry circuit overseers and visiting speakers. Even my poor mother-in-law was asked how often she saw me leaving our home (they live next door) and it had been reported that I had been seen driving around town in our old Suburban (big...for service). Well...of course, sick as I was, I still had to get groceries and run errands with two school age kids...sure didn't get any help from the congregation...guess they were too busy on their "stake-outs" of my suspicious doings and participating in field service and having extensive donut breaks. When my mother approached our above mentioned PO about how they were treating me...he dug up every piece of dirt he could (well...it was dirt in his dirty small mind) and gave my mom a run down on what un-spiritual people we were (my husband attended tech school in the early 70's; OH MY!) and we had a small run in with the people who did some sewer work in our yard who pulled out some large pine trees which they agreed upon not to do...then we complained and persuaded them to replace them...I guess our PO, who is a local businessman and knows everyone and everybody in town (and all their business too) got wind of this and said we made such a big stink that we were giving a bad name to the JW's (as if they don't do that all by themselves)! He even attacked my husband's parents (his dad is now 92 and his mom is 89) as being materialistic because they both worked full-time for many years. (Smart people...they actually had money to retire with when the big A didn't come and destroy life as we know it). Okay...bla, bla, bla and so on and so forth...you catch my drift.
So what finally catapulted us out of the org you may ask? A wedding of all things! My son dated and became engaged to a lovely young woman in our congregation, raised as a witness...studying to go over the questions for baptism. Now wouldn't you call her a "believer"? We did. Of course we knew that since she wasn't baptized yet we couldn't have the wedding in the most Holy of Holies the KH...so we arranged to have it at a local Holiday Inn. We knew no elder would even marry them since she was still unbaptized...no problem...my husband married them. But through all of this we still considered her a JW, a believer and most of the responses we got from other JW's were congratulatory and excited...INCLUDING many elder's. Unbeknown to us...behind the scenes...a great drama was unfolding. The first inkling we got of this was when no one showed up for the bridal shower. Well...a few relatives and a few close friends...but mysteriously no elders/MS wives and many other close friends from the KH. What a let down and shock for the bride-to-be and her groom-to-be. Later that evening we learned from the PO's brother (everyone in our congregation is related...a dynasty of Laszewski's) that the elders had held a meeting and determined (and our sister congregation Plover was included in this) that our bride-to-be was actually an UNBELIEVER...since ANYONE who is not baptized is considered such by the org; and elders/MS wives were forbidden to attend, along with those they let in on the big secret. They didn't bother to let US in on this. We had been JW's for over 40 years and this was news to us (the believer/unbeliever thing)! Well...we kind of got over this and went on with wedding plans. Then, to our astonishment...the week before the wedding both congregations gave talks about not attending such a wicked wedding where a baptized brother was marrying an unbeliever. The Stevens Point talk was a marking talk for my son...this done with no warning, no counsel from the elders to our son or his bride-to-be...zip...nothing. The talk was slanderous in that they said he had been duly warned about marrying an unbeliever. Lies. We even obtained a tape of the talk. When the brother assigned the talk (our PO was too much of a coward to give it himself) was confronted with this slander; he denied saying it. We played the tape for him. No response. Duh! Our kids were heartbroken as were all the parents and other close relatives. A wedding that had originally been planned for 250 to 300 guests was attended by 130 people. After the marking talk...many who had replied that they were coming just never showed up. Such LOVE. Such KINDNESS. Such CRAP!
Over the next year and a half my husband and I (my son sent a letter to the society that he was slandered and never received a reply...maybe they used it for toilet paper, oh no, they all wear Depends) launched a campaign to get any elder, CO, DO, service committee in NY and finally the governing body itself to listen to our story and right the wrong. We were met again and again by roadblocks, lies, deception and the stock "leave it in Jehovah's hands". No repentence...no punishment for the lying, slandering elders.
Through this experience we finally came out of our stupor and realized that we were involved in a cult and needed to remove ourselves before more damage was done to our minds and hearts. We are shunned by most in the congregations (we are not disfellowshipped or disassociated...we're going for the fade-away)...my mother, sister and brother do not speak to me anymore. Our daughter-in-law actually got baptized after all this and they still think they're JW's...but they rarely attend meetings, are inactive and also shunned by most in the congregation. The elders avoid them like the plague. (Of course this makes me happy...but I would really like to see them totally OUT...but they're young and foolish and still wearing their rose-colored glasses...but me thinks they are getting a bit foggy; the glasses, not the kids).
We have discarded our "theocratic" library (it's in our back shed gathering dirt and cobwebs and hopefully the mice will use it to build nests with again this winter. We probably should burn it all but my husband says they may not burn...you know...like the society says about demonized books! He also tells me not to look at the KH when we drive by as I may turn into a pillar of salt.) Our library now consists of Ray Franz's books (thanks Ray & Cynthia), Randy Watters books (thanks Randy), Steve Hassan's books on cults and mind control (thanks Steve); and many assorted books by those formerly known as JW's and other scholarly works exposing the witnesses for what they truly are.
The past four years have proved to be traumatic and wonderful all at the same time. Not so coincidentally...since leaving my health has improved enormously. I'm now just taking three anti-depressants...ain't that grand? We feel freed from prison...we take long rides on Sundays, go to movies on Saturdays (even OH MY...R rated ones!). We are landscaping and gardening in our back yard like crazed tree huggers. We are finally learning to live.
So thanks everyone for all your thoughts and comments over the past few years while I lurked here and finally actually posted on occasion. You have been my support group and the sanity in an insane time of life for us. And it just wouldn't be right to end this without thanking our former elders...because without their uncaring, unloving, hypocritical, lying ways we might still be stuck in the org. Love to you all and if you actually read this all the way through...thanks for your enduring patience and listening ear. Cathy Laszewksi aka HadEnuf