Hello all. Ex-JW here. Just thought I'd introduce myself and share my story. Up front, I'm not bitter. Okay now that that's out the way....
I first heard "the truth" when I was about 14 years old from a friends mom who was studying. I'd always been a good kid and had a sincere desire to serve god. I'd gone to many churches with friends and was always searching. After that first encounter I was happy with the idea of a paradise earth and was at peace, it was a good feeling. Years later some brothers showed up at my door looking for my dad on an RV but he wasn't there so they started talking to me. A bible study was started with both me and my dad and a couple of years later at a DC I realized "This is the Truth!" everything was so logical and from the bible (or so it all seemed at the time) I was 17 at this point.
I got baptized at 18 just a few days shy of my 19th bd. I lasted a couple of years but there was always a big problem for me. Guilt. I'm a perfectionist by nature and I was so hard on myself over dumb stuff, mostly sexual thoughts and masturbation. I was still a virgin and sex was all I could think about, and rightly so for a 19 year old young man.
After about two years I just couldn't take the guilt and depression so I left and got married about five months later to the first girl I had sex with. I still thought it was the truth and figured I'd just die at armageddon. 7 years later I divorced and got back into the truth, got reinstated (I should mention when I left in Dec of 92 I'd written a letter saying I was removing myself as a witness. I've always been an all in or all out kind of person) So I go to meetings for about 4 months and I bring my young son whenever I have him and I get reinstated. I did well for a year or two then all the old issues were right back full force. The guilt, the depression, the sexual frustration, etc..... Never feeling good enough. It's funny how they get you with that....it's always "Just do what you can." and at the same time "reach out! Exert yourself vigorously....." etc.... So I gradually stopped going to meetings. I didn't write a letter or anything just became inactive and 'drifted away'. I still felt it was the truth so I would eventually come back in for a year or two then guilt and all that would make me drift away again. This pattern went on for about 5 years or so. I got reproved once for fornication......
Then something really weird happened to me. I was really depressed. As many of you know, there are a lot of mentally messed up JW's and lots are depressed (wonder why? lol) and a good friend of mine insisted I go see a dr. So I did, I was on meds for about a year then I took myself off of them and stopped going to meetings again. I was sitting at home one day playing with my gun and I decided to see what it would feel like to just hold it against my head. It was sickening. I wasn't suicidal at that moment I just wanted to see what it felt like. It terrified me. It seemed absolutely crazy to even do that to even think about ending my life.
Well over the next couple of weeks I did the gun thing a couple more times and the third time I actually (for real) felt something snap in my brain. I'm not joking, it was a little popping sound almost an audible click in my head and that was it. I decided to stop going for good. I reasoned that I had given it my all. I'd done everything I could do to resolve my feelings of guilt and depression and nothing worked except NOT going to meetings. I reasoned that Jehovah would rather I stay alive than kill myself so I chose life without meetings.
I was instantly free. No more guilt, no more depression (haven't had any since, not even a day of it btw), no pressure to live up to some impossible standard. Just freedom. This went on for a good while, I got engaged and almost married, broke up though, it just wasn't right, and after a miserable year after the break up I started thinking about Jehovah again. I still believed it was the Truth. So I tried going back. I had a meeting with the CO and a local brother I love dearly (wonderful person) and they totally snowballed me. I simply wanted to regain my faith, I had asked my friend (Jeff) if we could have a study as my faith was very weak, and he said yes. But instead I got the CO and a very stern lecture and no sympathy at all, I of course had to explain myself and what I'd been up to for the past 5 years..... I felt very unloved and just well awful. So I just decided to hell with it and started drinking really heavily for about a year. The drinking wasn't because of my meeting, it was due to a very bad break up I had recently gone through with a girl I loved with all my heart. Long story there I won't bore you with. Then about 9 months ago I decided I really wanted to go back. I was still in love with said girl but not with her, I had my meeting and they df'd me. Said I wasn't repentant, and they made the right call from their perspective and mine at the time. No worries for me really as none of my family are JW's, but I did wonder how in the hell I was ever going to come back without the support of my friends and the elders. It seemed very cold. I remember at the end of the meeting I expected them to say a final prayer with me. No such luck. I asked about it and they said "We'll say a prayer after you leave." That was hard to take, especially from a man who was like a father to me and two very close friends..... but I left and spent the next 6 months or so drinking myself to sleep each night and obsessing over a woman I could never be with....blah blah blah.....
Then an amazing thing happened to me. I read Franz' book and eventually found JWfacts.com and read every page. I was absolutely blown away. I'd never once considered any "apostate" material before and man what an eye opener it was.
I'm not convinced that it's all just a sham. Just a cult that uses fear, guilt and mind control to keep us in line. I do believe that the vast majority are honest hearted people who really do want to serve god but I don't believe that Jehovah is directing "His" organization, not at all. To be honest I have no idea what to believe or where to go or do but I have come to some conclusions about life and God. Here they are:
If there is a God, and I do believe that something caused all this, I don't believe he really gives a shit how we worship him. I mean, if he's almighty and he really wanted us to know how to worship him WE WOULD FREAKING KNOW. It's really that simple to me. But we don't. There is no clear cut "This is the way!" out there. There is nothing but 1,000,000 different religions and everyone thinks they're right. If God gave a shit he would let us know unequivocally what the Truth is. It wouldn't be a confusing mess like it is. And this is my thought, there is ONE thing we all have in common, and that's a conscience. We all have one and I think the best "religion" we can have is to follow our conscience as closely as we can and in reality it does boil down to what Jesus supposedly said "Do to others as you would have them do to you." In other words be a nice kind altruist person. So that's what I try to do now. I stopped drinking. The pain from losing the love of my life is mostly gone and I'm healing. I am open to God if He decides to ever reveal anything to me personally but I'm not holding my breath.
So that's my story. I'm happy to be free from the shackles of "The Organization" but I'm also sad about the fact that I no longer have the answers to all life's questions or a wonderful delusion of a Paradise Earth (The ultimate sky cake). But I'm at peace. I know that when I do die either one of two things will happen. Either that's just it, the end, eternal nothingness or something else does happen. And if I should stand before God and he demands an accounting from me I will be able to stand tall and look him squarely in the face and say "I did my best....and you know I did."
Carry on brothers and sisters.