What does it mean to leave a cult life? How does it feel? Let me try to explain my journey during the last 3 years.
I left the church of Jehovah's Witnesses in December 2019. I made it public January 2020. Unless you have personally left a high control group it can be difficult to understand that leaving is not as simple as just not going.
For me, leaving consisted of tearing apart my entire life. I left my husband, my family, my friends, my church, my community, and the entire life I had always known. It was a scary unknown world I was headed towards, but one I was happy to step into.
2 months after I left everything behind to start anew the world was side blinded by a pandemic. Covid essentially shut the world down for entire year, and I was newly single fresh out on my own.
In a way I think the world shutting down provided a healthy environment for me. I was forced to stay still. I stayed in my bubble. I had a new apartment, new dog, new cat, and a new life.
During the year 2020 I stayed really busy just setting up my new life. I had to install furniture by myself for the first time ever. I had to lift my huge TV by myself and just work to figure it out. I purchased a new bed which was something I had always wanted to buy. Putting the foundation of my new life together was extremely rewarding, however it wasn't without pain.
I remember crying a lot in 2020.
I cried over lost love, lost friendships, losing a parent, and losing sisters. It was heartbreaking.
I was still mad at God during this time so I didn't mourn my faith as much as I mourned the community that went with it.
What I did Not mourn was the rules, feeling like I wasn't enough, feeling like I didn't do enough, and constantly having to answer to someone. I mean this in two ways...
My husband at the time had become very paranoid that I was pulling away from him, from the church, from god, and from everything that was familiar to us.
The congregation elders are very involved in your life when your active Jehovah's Witness, but even more so when you become an inactive member. Inactive means your no longer going to meetings or church on a regular basis. Not going to meetings definitely pins you as someone "in trouble" at heart. Members of the congregation will reach out with attempts to pull you back in. They want to know, Why are you not at meetings?
Friendships in the congregation are always tied to the religion. If you're inactive or on the brink of being inactive then the purpose of associating with you is to encourage you, and built you back up spiritually.
All of this points to a conditional love. Something I didn't realize was so prevalent in my life.
2021 Coming Out of Covid
Coming out of Covid I had a big desire to do big things. I wanted to immediately feel alive.
I went to the race track and drove a Mclaren 570S. I joined a friendship group for singles. Went down a level 5 rapid! I dove with sharks at the local aquarium. I experienced indoor skydiving.
None of these events were extremely dangerous but if you understand what it's like in a Cult you can see why these appealed to me. As a Jehovah's Witness you cannot do anything that would put your life at risk. So all these activities are frowned upon or not allowed at all. Joining a group for singles where you have an opportunity to meet various people from different backgrounds, this is definitely not allowed in the church.
There is still one item on my list I have not accomplished. Skydiving. I will accomplish this soon!
2022 A New Me
This is when I really started to take control of my life. A lot happened during this time. I had just go back in contact with a few family members who also left the so called religion. My brother encouraged me to research the Jehovah's Witnesses, which I did and it has changed me forever. Research outside of their organizations publications is what drove me to doing this. I realized I needed to be more vocal and public, and more importantly I needed to Not be ashamed of where I came from because there are a lot of people in my same position.
This same year I needed and more importantly I Could strive for more in my secular career. As a JW (Jehovah's Witness) you cannot reach for riches and material possessions. You really should be leading a simple and humble life, although there are plenty of JW's who do not but they preach and they assume that you will not be trying to attain more income.
Living on a single income, and near Seattle, you can understand that it's important to take income into account and you do want to strive for more, at least I did. So I took this situation into my own hands.
First, I excelled at the company I currently worked for. Then I strove for more, but unfortunately after a decade I was told I had hit my ceiling in that company. When you tell an employee they've hit their limit there's really only 2 choices; Either settle, or leave. So I left.
One year prior I had left my entire life behind, including a husband, church, faith, community, I was shunned, and went through a pandemic alone. Now, I was leaving a job after 11 years! It was scary, I think it still is scary, but it proved to be the right move then and it proved to be the right move in the long run as well.
2022-2023 Finding My Groove
I feel comfortable with who I am. Which is very odd for me, but being that I'm still so new to this new life I refer to myself as a toddler. As kids you want to express various interests and try new things. So that's exactly what I'm doing.
I'm dating again, which I smile and laugh at just writing because going on dates will never be easy for me, but it's necessary if you want to actually find a boyfriend again.
I went Solo camping for the first time, and brought my dog along. I'm hiking again. Going to the gym, walking the dog parks, and just being the most active I possibly can. Being active is so important and plays a huge part in my confidence which took a big hit. I was afraid of being alone, and it's not so much being alone, it's the idea of going and doing things alone.
I learned over time to let go of relationship I thought were genuine but ultimately they were all based on being a JW. So now, I have worked hard (friendship takes work) to maintain and grow real friendships based on unconditional love. I know the friends I have now love me because of who I really am as a person. They don't just see me, they the past me, the present me, and the future me that I'm constantly striving for. They encourage me to do the things I'm interested in.
What's the biggest difference between now vs 2019?
The genuine feeling of satisfied. I'm not having to attain unreachable or unrealistic goals. I no longer feel the guilt that is so persistent in a cult. Guilt of not doing enough, being enough, guilt of what I am doing, guilt of thoughts that I want something different. I felt guilt over just thoughts, and in a high control group that's encouraged. That's what it's like to be in a cult.
So now, I get to sit on my patio, read whatever book I want, I can watch whatever TV show or movie I want. I go to the job I want to. I see the friends I want to, and one day I'll date and marry the person I want to. The reality of this makes me very happy and satisfied. More so then I ever felt in 31 years being a Jehovah's Witness.