I was not raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was divorced in my early 20’s and had a little son when I met Barry, my husband of 33 years. He was disfellowshipped when I met him. He told me about the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
After a short time, his mother and his best friend’s wife started to love bomb me. They took me to two weddings and everyone appeared to be so loving. I was living in Texas and all of my friends and family were in Pennsylvania so I felt like I had instant friends.
In no time at all, I was baptized. Barry was reinstated as a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses and we spent the next 30 years as practising members. That was until I woke up. And shortly thereafter I was able to get Barry out with me. He was a third and fourth generation Jehovah’s Witness. He was also an elder, a regional building committee and every other position you can think of.
I lost my son for a little over a year because he wanted to play sports. So he went and lived with his dad. But that didn’t work out well and so we got him back as a troubled teen. He never got baptized, which I am so thankful for to this day. He got married to his beautiful wife and they have two beautiful children. He is a wonderful husband, father and successful business person.
I always had a relationship with my family but it was a very strained one because of being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Unfortunately, things got bad between my daughter-in-law and I because of the religion. I also went through a terrible debilitating depression which nearly took my life. Barry said we need to get some help so that he wouldn’t lose me.
We found a wonderful therapist and she helped us with boundaries, self worth, health issues and many other things. It gave me the courage, and after reading many books about different cults, I went with my gut instincts to research the Watchtower Society . A year after our first visit with the therapist, I made the decision to leave and shortly Barry followed. We have been out for three years and I disassociated myself last summer. He just faded at this point because his 87 year old mother is still alive and, although she knows we no longer attend and she will never shun him, he does not want to put her through that.
For 30 years I did not celebrate anything with my family except I would send my parents an anniversary card and flowers every year and that was it. I found out from my sisters after we left the cult that every Christmas my Dad would cry because we were not there. One Christmas he gathered my two sisters and Mom and said ,”Your sister is in a cult and we need to do whatever we can to never lose contact with her.” I still cry every time I think about what I put my parents and family through by being in this cult. I missed 30 years of being with my family during these special celebrations and I always hated it and missed it so much.
When I called each of them to tell them that Barry and I were leaving the cult they were beyond excited! They have shown us what unconditional love truly is. They have never said one negative thing to me. They are all thrilled to have the old Val back.
I have apologized to my son especially because I forced him to go to the meetings and would not allow him to play sports or school activities. Our relationship is better than it has ever been.
Yesterday I called my Dad to wish him Happy Father’s Day and I sent him a card. I could tell he was so happy to hear from me and we ended the call with “I love you”.
I know it means the world to him knowing his oldest child is out of the cult and doing well. I am thankful that my parents are healthy and I am able to spend time with them because I am making up for 30 lost years. I am also grateful that they love and support me.
I do have such regrets over the way I treated them. I was not hateful but I neglected them because of the nonsense beliefs. I was encouraged to not associate with them but I never broke it off completely. I have learned a lot these past three years and a holiday doesn’t pass without me doing something for my family whether it is a gift, a card or a phone call but I remember everyone with love.
I wanted to tell this because sometimes we give up on our family but there is always hope. My family never gave up on me and we did not get out until we were 56 & 58 so there is hope for your family members. Life does and can get better especially if you will do the research, reading self help and positive thinking books and I highly recommend a good therapist. (((Hugs))) to all of you.
– as told by Valerie O’Connor
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