james-strait
James Strait tells the story of his Witness upbringing

What if you were born in a prison camp, and enslavement and control were all you knew in life? What if all you ever worked for was secretly in vain, and the truth of your existence had been withheld from you?

Freedom would be nothing more than an abstract concept, and individuality a mere fantasy.

But what if one day you broke free from those bonds, both mental and physical, and stepped into the outside world? This is what happened to me.

I was born in 1984 as a 4th generation Jehovah’s Witness. My father had come from a rocky and tragic past, and Watchtower offered him a fresh start. The religion also provided him with a wife, my mother, who was a 3rd generation born-in.

Children of Jehovah's Witnesses are expected to follow their parents' footsteps
Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to follow in their parents’ footsteps

During my childhood my father gradually climbed the Watchtower ranks and taught me everything he learned. The Witness faith made perfect sense to him, and he preached it with fervor. I, on the other hand, questioned the premise from an early age.

The idea that I was paying for the actions of my forefathers over six thousand years ago seemed senseless. I didn’t like having to constantly beg for forgiveness for transgressions I didn’t understand nor accept responsibility for.

Yet, for the sake of peace and the approval of my peers, I buried my doubts deep within my subconscious. Little did I know that one day they would come bursting out and change my life forever.

The Prison

When I was around five years old I was a victim of child molestation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not typically turn to worldly resources such as child psychology. Issues such as my abuse are usually dealt with internally. This way they can keep their public image as untainted as possible, which is more conducive to their evangelism. They put total faith in Jehovah to set matters straight, which certainly did not turn out to be the case with me.

Children who are sexually abused go through a wide range of emotions, and are in dire need of professional care. I was taught that sex before marriage is a gross sin – not only something that displeases God, but something deserving of severe discipline. As a child all I knew was that I’d done something terribly wrong, and Watchtower provided no support other than intensifying their indoctrination regimen.

I couldn’t have known back then that I had been born into a prison – cut off from the outside world and any assistance it could offer. I was pretty much left to try to heal my own wounds, which only served to stunt my development as a child.

My extended family did their best to support me, but the system on which they relied was severely flawed and self-serving. I was left to traverse one of the most difficult emotional paths the human imagination can fathom.

Throughout my youth my religious regimen was intense, demanding a sizable amount of time and energy. The doctrine was centered on legalistic prohibitions, converting others, isolation and exaltation of the organization as God’s sole channel. At times it felt like I could barely keep my head above water.

I was expected to accomplish the impossible task of existing within the world while taking no part in it. Everything on the outside of the religion seemed to be forbidden: people, places, events, all manner of things. It never made sense to me, but any intellectual divergence was soon crushed by shame, fear and even (in my case) physical violence. I soon learned that whole parts of my psyche had to be repressed, as they were simply too dangerous to reveal to anyone.

I was torn between a desperate need for the approval of my peers and my individuality, which kept trying surface. It wasn’t long before I became bored by what the Watchtower had to offer.

Meetings and assemblies can be tedious and repetitive - even if you take your faith seriously
Meetings and assemblies can be tedious and repetitive – even if you take your faith seriously

It got to the point where I would find creative ways to entertain myself during meetings. I would excuse myself to the restroom, or visit the drinking fountain as much as possible to give my mind a rest from listening to something I already knew inside out. The boredom was maddening. I often found myself counting down the remaining time of the meeting, second by second.

Conventions were no less tedious. I would invent any conceivable excuse to tear my mind from the program. I have so many memories of walking aimlessly around the venue for hours. Anything would suffice, so long as I was not sitting and listening to what I had heard so many times before.

I loathed the way the crowd gulped down everything that was dished out from the platform. All the speaker had to do was change the tone of his voice and he could get his audience clapping like obedient seals.

Despite my efforts at shielding myself from the monotony, ultimately there would prove to be no escape – especially from my father, who would become infuriated if he saw that I was not taking our religion seriously.

On one occasion, as a teenager, I took a stand and told my parents I was going to stop attending meetings. This enraged my father and emotionally devastated my mother. When my family left the house each meeting night my mother would be sobbing.  As she walked out the door, I could see mascara dripping down her face. From her perspective, her son was doomed to a fiery death. My only chance at salvation was through doors of the Kingdom Hall.

Needless to say, my boycott was short lived. The emotional blackmail ate away at me and eventually I relented and began attending meetings again. My stunt ended up being so emotionally traumatizing that I decided to reaffirm my dedication to Jehovah and the organization. I believed at the time that my life was taking a real shift in momentum towards faith in God.

Looking back, I now realize it was more to keep a smile on my mother’s face rather than see those tears streaming down it.

Courtship and Marriage

When I was 16 I met a girl my age named Jessica* at one of the conventions. I really wanted to get to know her better. Luckily it turned out she was the best friend of one of my cousins.

We soon started hanging out as a group, and Jessica and I came to develop strong feelings for each other. She was not baptized, but she lived her life obedient to Witness teachings. At the time I was going through an intense phase in my life where I seriously believed in Jehovah and the Watchtower. In addition to sharing many common interests, we were both committed to our faith.

I was raised to believe that any person you date must be viewed as a potential marriage mate. When a Witness goes into a romantic relationship they are supposed to have marriage in mind, otherwise they are viewed as being spiritually weak. So when things started looking serious between Jessica and I, our parents became concerned.

Dating witness couples must never go unchaperoned
Dating witness couples must never go unchaperoned

At 16 we lacked the life experience to simply get married and start a new life. This is one of the crucial flaws in the Witness way of life. So many young couples get married too early, largely due to the prohibitions on premarital sex.

One day I was dropped off at a local department store parking lot where I was supposed to meet my cousin and her best friend. My cousin was not feeling well so she decided to stay home, leaving Jessica to come and pick me up unchaperoned. After Jessica collected me we drove back to my cousin’s house where we hung out and had a great time.

Unfortunately, my cousin’s mother soon became aware that Jessica and I had driven home alone together. To non-Witnesses our actions may not sound so outrageous. But to a strict Witness like my cousin’s mother, it was a serious infraction. She took action and convinced our parents to forbid us all from associating together, since things seemed to be getting “risky.” Jessica and I did not even speak on the phone for almost a year.

After the dust settled, we were allowed to see each other again. Soon after, Jessica and I started down the rough road of Witness courtship. The rigors of this can only be truly appreciated by those who have been through it.

Suddenly all eyes in the congregation are on the two of you, watching your every move. You are banned from ever being alone, so a chaperone is always needed. The Watchtower teaches that any sexual wrongdoing can jeopardize the entire congregation’s cleanliness. It is implied that in the event a congregation becomes unclean God will remove his spirit and all the protection it offers. Such paranoia can place a huge burden on a blossoming relationship.

Jessica and I were not baptized Witnesses when we began dating. However, about halfway through our courtship, Jessica became a full Witness publisher by getting baptized at one of the assemblies.

Suddenly we lost the approval of many of our friends and family because we were an “unevenly yoked” couple, with one in the faith and the other not. Even though I was raised a Witness I was called a “man of the nations” in contrast to Jessica, who was now a member of the “great crowd” of God’s people. Some Witnesses in both our congregations feared that God would not approve of such a courtship and remove his spirit.

I chose to move out of my house when I was 17 to make preparations to marry Jessica. I first moved in with my older half-brother before eventually finding my own apartment, where I taught myself how to program websites and finally set up an internet business.

Jessica was under a lot of pressure because of her choice to stay with me. The elders in my congregation tried to convince me to leave her until I was worthy, but I refused. I promised instead that I would get baptized once Jessica and I were married. And in 2003 we married at a local rented facility, as we were not allowed to have our ceremony at the Kingdom Hall.

After Jessica and I were married I made good on my promise and underwent a bible study to get baptized as a Witness publisher. Once I was baptized the critics were silenced, and we were left alone to live our life. Many embraced us, and we were able to build up a sizable support system of friends and family.

For a time life felt pretty good. My business was flourishing, and we finally had peace. But sadly all of this would soon come crashing down.

Depression

In 2004 my parents got divorced, my father was disfellowshipped and my childhood home was sold.

The way things had happened I could tell that my father would never return to the faith. Everything he had held dear for so long, as well as taught me, was thrown away almost overnight.

I didn’t take it very well and plunged into a deep depression. At the time I really had no idea what clinical depression was. All I knew was that I had suddenly lost motivation to do just about anything. The problem was that I had many clients who were in need of my services, but I neglected them.

My wife watched my free-fall in horror. She would come home from work and I’d be in the same place she’d left me in the morning. Something was terribly wrong and neither of us really understood what was going on.

Jessica suggested that I get help through my local elders, and I agreed. But none of their suggestions had any effect on my symptoms.

Eventually I was forced to seek professional help. Some of my elders saw the psychological community as competition, and became jealous. I remember a certain elder’s face turning red with anger when I told him I was getting counseling.

My therapist, a clinical psychologist, diagnosed me with PTSD and Bipolar II disorder. She knew that my problems stemmed largely from the intensity of my religious life, but she was powerless to point it out to me because I was not ready to hear it. I was in such bad shape that she referred me to the best psychiatrist in the area who confirmed my diagnosis and started me on medication.

This started some very tumultuous times, as I entered a trial and error process with anti-psychotic and bipolar medications. During this time I sold my business for a very low amount, began receiving disability payments, and my wife and I were forced to move in with my divorced mother.

Watchtower's approach to depression falls woefully short
Watchtower’s approach to depression falls woefully short

Each prescribed medication had an array of intolerable side effects, which forced me to keep changing my prescriptions.

After a span of four years I had gained over 100 pounds and was much worse off than when I started. During that time my little brother was also disfellowshipped, which did little to help my depression.

I ended up being hospitalized on four separate occasions for extreme suicidal ideations. I once spent 5 days in a crisis recovery treatment center.

Throughout this ordeal my JW family offered the only support they knew of, which felt totally empty and valueless. They didn’t know what to do even though they claimed to be instructed by the perfect creator of the universe. But Jehovah had no answers for my situation.

At least the secular community could offer some trial and error therapy, whereas my creator seemed to throw up his hands in defeat. The extreme situation I found myself in made me question just about everything, including the existence of God.

Awakening & Apostasy

By 2008 my wife and I had been through quite an ordeal.

One positive result was that I had an opportunity to compare the effectiveness of my religion to what the outside world had to offer. The world had resources and experts who tried their hardest to find solutions tailored to my unique situation. But my religion used a “one size fits all” approach – with pitiful results.

I know some people feel that the Witness approach to mental illness is effective, but in my case it was an abject failure. They had allowed me to be sexually abused and then offered no effective support – instead telling me that many of my symptoms were the work of wicked spirit creatures.

One side offered science, logic and reason; the other could summon nothing more than empty superstition.

One day all my past doubts about God and the organization came suddenly rushing into my consciousness. It was as though I was waking up from a nightmare. The floodgates within my mind opened and all my questions that I had repressed for so long came to the surface.

This time I had neither the will nor the ability to repress them, and I became extremely afraid. I knew the potential consequences of leaving my faith. All of the people I had grown to love would completely alter their view of me. They would view me as sick; on a path to eternal destruction. On top of all this there was my depression. How would I cope?

It takes bravery to wake up from religious indoctrination
It takes bravery to wake up from religious indoctrination

Despite these fears, I decided to move forward in the hope that staying true to myself would ultimately prove to be the best course. As I began to sense my true identity re-emerging, many of my symptoms improved.

Unfortunately, my family did not approve of my new-found path. I was open about my feelings, and as a result they were infuriated. Because I was a baptized member they saw my stand as nothing short of betrayal to them and their God.

Several family members with whom my wife and I were very close shunned us simply for being openly agnostic. Those who didn’t shun us suddenly became very standoffish and cautious. I was told that I was not allowed to speak about my views, or else what little association we had would be withdrawn.

Because my family could no longer offer any lasting support I reached out to an EXJW online support group. My family suspected I was an apostate and was keeping tabs on my internet activities. A few of them compiled a dossier of selected online quotes. One copy was given to my elders, while others were circulated throughout my friends and family. This effectively ended what few relationships my wife and I still had, leaving us to start a completely new life.

I had to speak to two elders who investigated my apostasy, but fortunately I was never officially disfellowshipped. The two men in question knew me very well and took my diagnoses into account. They decided to simply label me as stumbled rather than put me through more grief. But they implored me to consider returning to the faith, and claimed that my experience was not a true representation of what being a Witness was all about. As long as I didn’t seek out opportunities to preach my dissidence to other Witnesses, I would be left alone.

As I did research online I found out that over the decades many others had been through experiences eerily similar to mine. I discovered that my tears and anguish were just a small part of Watchtower’s painful legacy.

Contrary to what the two elders had told me, I saw that the problem was systemic. It was at this point that I decided to become an Ex-JW activist. I realized that I had inside knowledge of a destructive cult that was actively shielding its true nature from the public and its own members. Only through lies and deceit were they able to continue growing as a pseudo-religion. I felt a strong urge to warn as many as possible.

I started a YouTube Channel and began writing online about my experiences, as well as the doubts that had been suppressed for many years. I found many people as I clawed my way out of the Watchtower prison who I now consider dear friends.

The life I had before in the organization was lost, but every ending offers a new beginning. I am left with just one thing to say to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “Your time left is reduced.”

I am excited to offer my support as a JWsurvey writer to those like me whose lives have been negatively impacted by Watchtower. I sincerely believe that together we can make a valuable contribution to the world. My hope is that eventually high control groups such as Watchtower will be unable to flourish due to proper societal education.

In the end, the truth is what is most important.

 

 

new-james-signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Name has been changed.

Related video…

92 thoughts on “A Life Lost and a Life Found

  • March 31, 2014 at 2:48 pm
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    Wow! I can relate to so much of your story. Growing up a JW is definitely a unique experience, especially when it comes to finding a mate. My JW marriage ended up a disaster and I attribute much of that failure to the strict and ridiculous chaperoning rules.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and speaking out.

    • April 2, 2014 at 12:41 pm
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      Thanks Jeni! You’re totally correct, the JW courtship rules are outrageous and damaging to the lives of the couples who live under them. High control is a destructive principle for any organization to operate within, whether that be a religion, a business or even a government.

  • March 31, 2014 at 3:10 pm
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    Good health to you JS; almost sounds like some sci-fi movie where the hero takes a red pill.

  • March 31, 2014 at 4:23 pm
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    Hi James. Thanks for your story. I’m curious, can you confirm that the third photograph in this account is actually a Witness convention AND is taken during an actual session, or is it one taken on a break between sessions. The reason why I ask is that it is unlikely that a woman on a cell phone would be spoken to by someone if it was during the sessions.

    • April 3, 2014 at 4:55 am
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      Hello Frank. The picture we used was from a real convention taken during sessions, and the woman you mention is not on her cell phone, she is merely resting her head on her hand.

  • March 31, 2014 at 4:38 pm
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    Wow. This is a very powerful and touching story. Thank you for sharing.

  • March 31, 2014 at 6:04 pm
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    Yes the part about Demons and wicked spirits comes to mind with me when i was suffering through mental illness,and also was diagnosed PTSD,funny how its put over like that when you have had trauma induced by abuse,thing is i,am classed as ill even to this day,or Deans not well as soem put it,i was Df last December and in my judicial i was clearly sound in mind,as i was challenging many issues with fact based evidence and the scriptures too,this then caused fear among those deeming to help me in there own prophetic manner,well done for writing this and speaking out which i do to this day.And The light gets brighter only when you switch it on and see the real truth which is corruption and to the point criminal if not to the direct point..Dean

    • April 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm
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      Hey Dean, it’s terrible that the Watchtower causes harm and then turns around and blames the victim for their own woes. It’s an abusive relationship that so many would do well to wake up from.

  • March 31, 2014 at 6:10 pm
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    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sorry that your jdub life was filled with that much awful stuff. Even though I recognize the organization is one big lie, my life inside was relatively good. I’m fortunate that the organizations policies didn’t affect me like they have you. I’m sure that the one on shunning will still get me in the future though. I subscribed to your youtube channel and look forward to watching some of your vids. Thanks again.

    • April 2, 2014 at 12:47 pm
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      Hello George. I am very happy to hear you avoided the turmoil that often comes from a JW upbringing! It’s good to know that some JW parents out there are mitigating the damage that comes from the top of the pyramid.

  • March 31, 2014 at 6:33 pm
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    Being a father of children born in 82,84 and 86 and who were raised by their mom after our divorce as Jehovahs witnesses certainly makes me appreciate what this young man has gone through. I applaud your honesty and sincerity in telling your story in spite of the fact that your a sexual abuse survivor. Not many would come out with that type of info for the whole world to hear. But because of your resolve to help others and expose the real ways of this mind controlling religion you have triumphed over the control of your mind that was put upon it by such a manipulating organization. Hopefully by your display of courage many others will see the real “light”. Keep up the good work and know that there were many more before you like myself who have gone through similar circumstances. Thank you for a fine post.

    • April 2, 2014 at 12:49 pm
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      I appreciate the kind words, John! It was pretty difficult to “come out”, but it feels good to be able to use my story to help others who experienced similar woes.

  • March 31, 2014 at 6:39 pm
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    Very good article. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • March 31, 2014 at 7:36 pm
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    Thank you Alex for sharing, I’ve known you for a while now, but I never got to know your background, I can see why you are so strong about telling me to get my son out of that religion as soon as possible… and it’s comforting to know that we all are not alone in our time of healing and recovery. It was an honor to finally spend a little time with all three of you :)

    • April 2, 2014 at 12:56 pm
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      Thanks heather, it was very fun getting to spend time with you while you were in my area. The Watchtower is one of the worst places on earth that a child can develop and grow. They need to be steered out of there as soon as possible. Unfortunately, you have to be extremely strategic because the mind control can make your efforts result in the opposite effect you intend.

  • March 31, 2014 at 9:37 pm
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    This brought back a lot of memories. Boredom at the meetings, staying a witness to avoid hurting my mom, abuse with no professional help. Best of luck to you both.

  • March 31, 2014 at 9:57 pm
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    I would like to sincerely thank you for finding the words that I never could for what I was feeling as a child.

    “Children who are sexually abused go through a wide range of emotions, and are in dire need of professional care. I was taught that sex before marriage is a gross sin – not only something that displeases God, but something deserving of severe discipline. As a child all I knew was that I’d done something terribly wrong, and Watchtower provided no support other than intensifying their indoctrination regimen.

    “I couldn’t have known back then that I had been born into a prison – cut off from the outside world and any assistance it could offer. I was pretty much left to try to heal my own wounds, which only served to stunt my development as a child.”

    This part of the blog is what I’m referring to. And the experience is the same if you are abused by someone outside of the congregation. It’s compounded by the paranoid ideation that the world is in the hands of the devil and really is out to get you.

    Thanks for sharing this. And I look forward to your writing.

    • April 2, 2014 at 12:58 pm
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      Hello idsy! I am SO happy to know that my words have helped you understand something about yourself and your situation. That’s precisely why I write. Thank YOU!

  • March 31, 2014 at 10:22 pm
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    Brilliant! Brilliant story! OMG it resonates with me so much, and my JW story is quite different to yours. Some things are the same though, no matter if you’re born in or converted.

    You made a brave decision and are a survivor. A cult survivor! May you have many years of true life ahead of you, where you can explore your potential and what you have to offer, which I can already see is a lot.

    Love,
    Julia

    • April 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm
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      Hello Julia, exiting a high control group is truly a feat of survival for anybody who attempts it. It’s sad that people are still being preyed on by cults who misrepresent themselves. My hope is that one day society can develop adequate resistance that doesn’t infringe our natural rights.

  • March 31, 2014 at 10:42 pm
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    At least I know that I wasn’t the only one that would count down the ever seemingly long seconds until the meeting was over. I was pinched on my leg every time I was caught not paying attention.

    • April 2, 2014 at 8:38 pm
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      Hey Brandon, I too was pinched a lot for not paying attention. It’s sad that the Watchtower cons parents into believing their information is about life and death. It compels good parents to do bad things.

  • April 1, 2014 at 12:51 am
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    Thank you for writing this and opening your heart. You are echoing many thoughts and feelings of those still caught in this so-called religion. The picture of the bored faces sitting at the assembly epitomises the real feelings that many experience.
    I hope that many see and hear your story and recognise what kind of life many people are forced to live when they are told exactly what to think, feel and experience every day. Without freedom of thought, we suffer terribly as human beings.
    Thanks for your story. I look forward to seeing more of you through the power of You-Tube !!

    • April 2, 2014 at 8:41 pm
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      Hello Mark, I’m glad you found my article helpful! Parents really need to understand the harm that is caused by raising a child in a high control group. It simply isn’t worth it. Fear is not a good foundation for a childhood.

  • April 1, 2014 at 1:44 am
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    Well done for opening up about your experiences James.

    Those who have never been raised as Witnesses now have the benefit of your unique insights, and the dreadful trauma you were put through (which could have so easily ended up costing you your life).

    Those of us who have had similar experiences will be able to relate and take comfort from knowing they are not alone.

    Great job!

    • April 2, 2014 at 8:44 pm
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      Hey Cedars, thank you for the opportunity to write here! You are right, the process I went through as a result of Watchtower abuses could very well have ended in my death. Sadly, some people do not make it through the process of leaving alive. I believe this site can encourage people who have feelings of suicide and show that they are not alone in their struggle. This IS help and there ARE people who care.

  • April 1, 2014 at 2:06 am
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    Very well written article. Thank you for the effort that you have put in to producing it well done.

    My heart goes out to you for all the suffering that have experienced, it makes me feel okay to experience similar suffering. Getting motivated can be a real challenge when medication causes side effects such as drowsiness and sedation.

    Thank you for your story
    Kate xx

    • April 2, 2014 at 8:46 pm
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      Thank you, Kate! A lot of people want to tell us that our pain isn’t significant enough to speak out which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s high time the world knows what really happens inside Kingdom Hall walls.

  • April 1, 2014 at 2:19 am
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    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It is very encouraging.
    Shame i don’t have the courage to break free!

  • April 1, 2014 at 2:44 am
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    This gives me more strength to fight for my SON now taken hostage by my wife (a nurse surprisingly) whom I thought the WHO definition of health would have helped to avoid destroying my life, the life of our son and her own life!
    WHO definition of Health
    Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

    The Watchtower time is reduced! Have a look on what they wrote condemning themselves!!

    *** w99 3/15 p. 11 par. 5 Pay Constant Attention to Your Teaching ***
    True Christianity thus stands in stark contrast with false religions, many of which seek to control the thinking of their members. When Jesus was on earth, the religious leaders sought to control virtually every aspect of people’s lives through oppressive man-made traditions. (Luke 11:46) The clergy of Christendom have often done likewise.

    *** w94 2/15 p. 6 Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a Cult? ***
    Of the millions of non-Witnesses who are studying the Bible with the Witnesses or who have studied with them at one time or another, we ask, Were there any attempts to brainwash you? Did the Witnesses employ mind-control techniques on you? “No” would doubtless be your frank response.

    • April 2, 2014 at 8:50 pm
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      Hey Hakizimana, I wish you the very best with your efforts to free the mind of your son. Show him that the world isn’t something to be feared, but rather something that requires the proper preparation.

      The Watchtower’s hypocrisy is astounding. They will point a finger at every other religion while ignoring the fact that they do exactly the same thing.

  • April 1, 2014 at 4:24 am
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    Thanks for sharing your experience James.

    You write about your experiences in a way that many ex-JW’s can empathise with.

    I’ve just ‘woke up’ and find it a struggle sometimes as my wife is still a very active witness. When I read of experiences such as yours, Cedars and others, I am strengthened with the comforting knowledge that I will become happier the further away I move from the Organisation.

    Thank you.

    • April 2, 2014 at 8:52 pm
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      Hello Anon, I’m so glad to help! It’s true that time heals the wounds that come from leaving. Keep reading and take it one step at a time. You will be better for it :)

  • April 1, 2014 at 4:26 am
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    Thankyou James, your story and writing ability is amazing. Its mind blowing to almost read my own life story as I read yours. I was also a born in who married an unbaptised publisher, had suicidal mental issues and tried to leave the org in my teens. Oh and I really relate to being mind numbingly bored at all the meetings and assemblies. You are really representing so so many of us. Have you had any contact with your Dad and Bro? How did your Mum get on? Did she eventually leave too? Hoping to read a Pt II soon. lol. Jemba xx

    • April 8, 2014 at 1:33 pm
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      Hello jembra! It brings me GREAT joy to hear that there are others out there who relate to my story. I suspected that people would be able to relate, but seeing it firsthand is delightful!

      Unfortunately, my father and I have a limited relationship. I really have a hard time figuring out how to tell him the truth about what happened. Mind control sounds like something straight out of a science fiction novel. Truth is often stranger than fiction and that’s a perfect way to describe life inside the Watchtower.

      My mother goes through these “off and on” phases with her shunning. Her natural maternal instinct battles with the mind control and, so far, the MC seems to be winning. Only time can tell.

      My little brother got reinstated into the organization, moved far away, and is now living the JW life. He tries not to shun me, but there is a lot of pressure placed on him to conform. He, like my mother, oscillates between shunning and not shunning. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster, but it has taught me so much about how specifically Watchtower mind control works.

  • April 1, 2014 at 5:17 am
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    Hello James,

    I enjoyed reading your story very much, and as other posters mentioned, found similarities with my own journey through and out of the WT.
    I too have struggled with mental issues. The stigma is bad enough in society in general. It is amplified by the distrust of mental health professionals within the organization.
    Fortunately I was able to get help. I went through trials for drugs. I’m also glad to report that my family (who are all not JW’s now) were able give me a firm foundation upon which to find a solution. Thanks to some, my struggles are mostly overcome. I am aware of triggers, and monitor my moods, and use these data to keep me motivated, moving forward, and maintain a balanced outlook on life that works for me.

    • April 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm
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      Wow Reader, you sound like you have a great handle on things. Upon exiting my best friend tried to convince me that my mental issues were the cause of my defection (wonder where he got that idea from?). It’s the Watchtower content that’s problematic, not our assessments of it ;)

  • April 1, 2014 at 7:26 am
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    true they have but the man of lawlessness still in the ivory tower and the usurpers whom pretend to mislead God”s people,they will remove when God inspects his own house of those who claim to be his representative on earth.

  • April 1, 2014 at 8:54 am
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    Thanks for sharing your story, it is truly a courageous thing to do. No doubt it will help those who read it. I can identify with your dating as a jdub experience. I dated the jdub way, even selecting my mate based on her spiritual qualifications (I was a good boy!). Soon after the wedding, she changed so drastically that I couldn’t even recognize her as the person I dated. Turns out she has some deep-seated emotional issues that she refuses to get treatment for. The result is that her treatment of me can be best described as emotionally abusive, and I’m unable to help her. Thanks WT! The whole thing forced me to address long standing doubts, and ultimately wake up. I now realize that my former org-approved view of spirituality (among other things) was way off. The org describes spirituality by measuring how many org-mandated legalistic works one does. Their “healthful spiritual food” consists of guilt trips to get people to preach more, and meeting attendance/study of WT literature as the cure-all for any and all emotional distress. Such is neither healthful nor spiritual. It is no wonder why so many in the org have so many issues. I’m not buying that bridge anymore.

    • April 8, 2014 at 1:41 pm
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      Hey B3, sorry to hear you had a bad experience. The problem is that the Watchtower simply ignores your experience and cherry picks others to represent them. They, like most religion today, do not take responsibility for the failings of their system.

  • April 1, 2014 at 9:37 am
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    A 5 year old child needs parents with enough sense and courage to stand up for them and report the abuse to the authorities no matter how much the elders “discourage” them from doing so, but the Organization wants outsiders to have the illusion of Jehovah’s Witnesses that they are somehow “above” all other religions and this sort of thing just doesn’t happen in the Jehovah’s Witness religion and so they will throw anybody whether it’s a child or an abused wife under the bus to protect it’s own reputation. With all the horrific depictions of death at Armageddon in all of our literature (from children’s books to the Awake and Watchtower) for any one of us who dares to stand up against God (the Organization) is enough to give all of us post traumatic stress syndrome. No wonder so many are on one medication or another.

    • April 8, 2014 at 1:47 pm
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      Hello Bonnie, thanks for the comment. They paint themselves into a corner when they claim exclusive divine favor. Such a claim is grandiose and can easily be disproved simply by showing how they equate with everybody else. Which then gives the Watchtower incentive to revise their past and manage their image, at great cost.

  • April 1, 2014 at 10:01 am
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    WOW! I can so relate to alot of this article! So sad :(

  • April 1, 2014 at 11:11 am
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    Well written, such a seductive organization, coming with a Bible under their arm, but treating one rudely and in an unchristian manner when they question Watchtower dogma. Wolves in sheep’s clothing maybe?

    • April 8, 2014 at 1:48 pm
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      Precisely!

  • April 1, 2014 at 11:35 am
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    So that was you I saw wandering around at the conventions?

    I had a game where I would race to be the first one to find the scripture. I wrote down every single scripture, all just to stay awake and not tumble out of my chair. I probably set some kind of record, I could write the scripture down and find it before half the people around me barely had their Bibles open! If only there was an olympic medal for that…I’d be favored to bring home the gold! You probably thought I was taking all those notes to review later.

    Another thing I would do, is offer to help someone with their baby. That was bound to get you out of your seat for a good while!

    Maybe I should ask if everyone who has NOT been abused, sexually or emotionally to please raise your hand. I have a feeling you are in the minority.

    My sister and myself were molested by our book study conductor in our own home. I thought it was a rare thing. Now that I am out of the organization, I keep running into more and more innocent victims. There’s a whole website called “Silent Lambs” where you can go and tell your story. It made me furious to hear about how those who spoke up were treated. I never told anyone till my mid-thirties when I started recalling it.

    I think telling your story, even if you only write it down on paper and then burn it up, is a big step in the healing process.

    Every one of us that speaks out and tells others about our abuse, may give someone else the opportunity and the inspiration to finally tell someone about their own abuse.

    I can relate to much of what you said, thank you for being brave enough to share your story. When enough of us find our voice, the GB will not be able to sweep us under the rug and ignore us any longer.

  • April 1, 2014 at 7:25 pm
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    I’m going to join in and say wow, this is so similiar to my story and feelings. I was born into a witness family in 1982. I am so so happy to see people my age, like you, waking up. It gives me so much hope as my entire family and close friends are still in. Good for you, you seem like a really cool guy and I’m looking forward to your future contributions!

  • April 2, 2014 at 4:39 am
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    Your experience sounds so much like mine growing up under Watchtower terror tactics. It started in 1956 when I was 7 and my 2 brothers were 5 and 4. I could write a book about our nightmare inside Watchtower PRISON. I will write more as soon as my mind slows down from so MANY memories of terror and Watchtower induced fears and rules. My dad was never a Witness but he BETTER at least act favorable or our mother’s extreme punishment was leveled on him and the three of us children. WOW could she ever dominate the lives of us if we even showed a lack of joy in attending the ENDLESS totally boring meetings. Today she is all alone, divorced after 56 years of marriage, 3 adult sons that have nothing to do with her, living in a shack at 84 years old and still as hateful and controlling as anyone will allow her to be with them. And still waiting for Armageddon to viciously destroy billions of non JW’s. All three of us are still punished with Watchtower residue from their and HER mind control and HARSH punishment of her 3 innocent children so many years ago. Today she is alone, miserable, hateful and still under Watchtower RULE and basically ignored by the so called LOVING Watchtower family. Armageddon just won’t get here soon enough! More, much more to come from our horrors inside Watchtower PRISON and a “mother dearest” JW, so stay tuned to this posting.

  • April 2, 2014 at 5:03 am
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    Wow…really looking forward to tlstatton’s future postings. The belief system they follow cannot fail to have a detrimental effect on a normal ‘thinking’ human being.
    I recall so many occasions where sisters had to ‘bribe’ their children to attend assemblies by saying they could go and play with their friends at lunchtimes. Then, when the time arrived, they were told to sit down, eat their lunch and be quiet. The children’s bored faces showed everyone that they simply didn’t want to be there.
    I’m sure there are thousands of similar stories that could be told.
    Thanks, Cedars, for giving us this site to share experiences.

  • April 2, 2014 at 11:20 pm
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    The Watchtower BELIEVES or make JWs believe that they are in slavery.

    Under “You Were Bought With a Price” (w05 3/15 p. 17), they explain the Picture on page 16, 17 with these words:
    “The provision of voluntary slavery in Israel was a foregleam of Christian servitude”

    “Christian servitude”!! Very sad. In the same article, they examined verses like Exodus 21:2-6!!

    Very Sad & sadic. It says (Exodus 21:2-6) . . .“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he will serve as a slave for six years, but in the seventh year, he will be set free without paying anything. 3 If he came by himself, he will go out by himself. If he is the husband of a wife, then his wife must go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children will become her master’s, and he will go out by himself. 5 But if the slave should insist and say, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my sons; I do not want to be set free,’ 6 his master must bring him before the true God. Then he will bring him up against the door or the doorpost, and his master will pierce his ear through with an awl, and he will be his slave for life.

    You can’t imagine the POLITICS behind the “theocratic war” Elders are waging against me hiding in my “wife” especially after the last district conventions with its FAMOUS talk “The Truth Brings“Not Peace,But a Sword”
    (Matthew10:32-38)” and INFAMOUS talk “Symposium: Beware of Apostates! Satan (John 8:44)Human Apostates (1 John 2:19)”!!!

  • April 3, 2014 at 2:01 am
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    Hakizi – I feel it! My wife is also ‘in’.. Its not easy is it? Seeing the one you love ‘weaponized’ against you (and i was never a witness).

  • April 3, 2014 at 12:14 pm
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    This is almost identical to my story. Thank you for speaking out.

  • April 3, 2014 at 12:27 pm
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    very clever john cedars invent a person lol you really deserve whats coming

  • April 3, 2014 at 3:38 pm
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    That is so true, religion has the power to make good people do vile things. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • April 3, 2014 at 3:59 pm
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    Typical JW response. No one is afraid of your governing body masters, Ricki. But I think someone is scared of the truth…

  • April 4, 2014 at 4:28 am
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    Like many others, I was moved to respond to that story. Thank God there is life outside the Watchtower Society when we turn to Christ who promises to carry our burdens and give us new life right now. You certainly don’t have to wait until the end of the thousand years!

  • April 4, 2014 at 2:42 pm
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    A decade ago or so, I got a visit from the C.O and P.O.
    They had heard that I had Apostate tendencies and came to my place of work to try and encourage me to go back to the meetings. Around that particular time, the internet was starting to buzz about J.W. Child abuse. The C.O. asked me what my opinion was about all those who were finding fault with the organization in this regard. He said” do you believe all of that”- Now, I don’t know what made him think about that particular subject or not. Maybe it was his way of trying to see if I was visiting “apostate” sites. Anyways, it sort of backfired on him when I said” It would not surprise me since I myself am a victim of such abuse” He looked a little surprised but quickly responded with ” keep in mind that it was not a witness that did that to you, it was a man” He responded so quick that I couldn’t help but to think that the Society must have spent a considerable time in coaching him and perhaps all the C.O’s. on a side note, one side of my family is most all JW’s, about 25 or so and I know of about 10 cases involving incest and child abuse. It is and has been a huge problem. it may be a major reason as to why so many JW’s are on medication for depression. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • April 5, 2014 at 3:14 am
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    Thank you for bravely telling your story, James.

    On chaperoning adults, how exactly does that work out in practice? Does the chaperone pay his or her own way towards travel, entertainment venues,  and restaurants? Does he or she engage with the couple or keep twenty-feet away?

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