When I first parted ways with Jehovah’s Witnesses over two decades ago, I’ll never forget the sense of isolation I felt. Of course, this is what the JWs were banking on–it’s how they control people…with fear. When you’re given the boot from the Watchtower organization, everyone you’ve associated with in the religious group shuns you–even family. There can be no greater rejection than when your family turns their back on you.
For me this kind of rejection was a deal breaker. Instead of driving me back into the fold, I faced my fears head on, putting one foot in front of the other as I walked away from the Watchtower’s emotional blackmail.
When I left in 1991 the internet was still a gleam in Al Gore’s eye (wink wink). Until eight years ago, I’d never met another exJW…until I stumbled upon a brand new group for exJWs on MySpace. The group’s founder, Ruben Ortiz, accepted me with open arms. Today, that group is nearly 3,000 members strong on Facebook. I’ve been blessed to be an administrator there since those early days.
It was an amazing experience, after all those years, to meet people in a virtual space who completely understood all of those struggles, thoughts, and feelings I’d had for so long. I think it was one of the last puzzle pieces that helped me heal–no longer was I alone in my experience and my journey.
During these eight years I’ve had the opportunity to create an amazing family of the heart, to add to the mother and sister that also escaped the Watchtower cult’s clutches. As I travel around I’ve been able to meet dozens of folks from the exJW Recovery Group, adding to my family along the way. This year, I became a volunteer with Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA). Finally, I have a tangible way to give back to the exJW community as well as inform the general public of the dangerous policies of the Watchtower organization.
During some recent travel, I had the privilege of meeting up with Richard Kelly, one of AAWA’s board members and author of Growing Up in Mama’s Club. He and his wife were so kind and hospitable, treating me and my mom like long-time family.
When I have these experiences with people who, at one time, had been virtual strangers, it reaffirms my decision to walk away from a fear-based life. WE ARE NOT ALONE! This life is full of beautiful people that will provide a smile and a helping hand. Whether in person at a local meetup or a group in cyberspace, there are many former cult members who understand where you’ve been and will support you on your journey.