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Michelle Wallis: How I took back the power denied me by JW and really lived my life

[Michelle Wallis and her husband Craig]

We spotted this first-person testament over at Facebook and asked its writer, Michelle Wallis, if she’d allow us to share it here at the Bunker. What a remarkable story of family, loss, and personal strength. It’s long, but we think it’s worth your while.

So here’s my story. Every word is true and I wrote this for myself and for you. I will warn you, this is a long and honest recap of what I was thinking and feeling throughout my life and trials as a Jehovah’s Witness and while I was discovering the The Truth About The Truth. Though this story is long, it’s just a tiny bit of the horrific things I had to endure and I left out many details and other events of my life. I have written the fundamental things I believe are relevant for the story to flow and proceed. If you have several minutes and would like to read my story, grab a glass of wine, sit back and begin my journey. I hope you will find it encouraging, as my story has a happy ending. The grief in time did in fact fade into my past. And possibilities, beauty, confidence, joy, genuine peace and unconditional love arose in its place.

CHILDHOOD

My road to follow was chosen for me at birth. I was a born-in, at least 4 generations that I can remember. My paternal great grandfather is supposedly one of the “anointed.” Growing up, I always felt special about that. Like someone was especially watching over me. However, I come from a family who did not have “status” in the Kingdom Hall. I always felt like I was running up a hill to try and catch the rest of the kids at the hall. I desperately wanted to be a part of that crowd and find a real friend. That never happened!

Fast forward a few years – I’m 11 now and studying real hard to get baptized. I’m the baby of 5 children (Boy, Girl, Boy, Boy and then me) and desperately seeking my mother’s approval, affection, and attention. My parents have been divorced now for six years, which is a good thing. My father was extremely emotional and physically abusive to my siblings. I don’t remember any physical abuse to me other than taking 10 hard spankings with a belt for stealing a candy bar off of our dining room table at age five. Emotional abuse, that was definitely inflicted on me from an early age. One of my very first memories as a child, (I must have been a toddler still) is of my middle brother (who eventually was baptized and successfully faded) stripped down to his whitie tighties with the rest of us seated around him, as my father takes a rosebush switch to him over and over again and then rubbed salt in his wounds. As I have become older, a lot more of these memories have begun to surface — or rather my understanding of what I remember and endured has become more accurate.

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I remember how I would dread going to school every day because the entire school knew I was different. I remember all those Valentine’s Day treats covering everyone’s desk but mine. I remember everybody would cheer when someone’s mom would show up with birthday treats and I would shrink in my chair because I knew I would have to approach the teacher and asked to be excused to the library while everyone else got a cupcake and life was celebrated. I was in choir and had to stand there and remain silent while all the other kids sang all the “worldly” Christmas songs. And the nightmare would begin each and every morning as I was reminded just how different I was when I was forbidden to partake of the morning flag salute. For those here who were born-in, you all know how difficult it was being raised a Jehovah’s Witness. Especially, if your family did not have status in the congregation as mine did not. I couldn’t even find escape from my loneliness within the congregation. So I worked really hard, and finally got baptized at age 11 to try and find my place in the world.

Oh, I was a good little witness girl. Pioneered all summer, never missed a meeting, underlined all my answers in a yellow highlighter, field service every Saturday and sometimes after the meeting on Sunday. I even remember partaking of the evening witnessing in the summer time and conducting a bible study at age 12 during the school lunch with a class mate. I was so proud that I actually was able to get my Bible study to a few meetings. After all, I was special, I was going to live in paradise and get to take a nap with a Tiger! I was going to save this girl I was studying with. Still, I never felt like I understood the so called “truth.” I didn’t really know what they were talking about. It didn’t make sense to me most of the time. I thought I wasn’t doing enough because I never really felt Jehovah’s spirit…ever. But I just loved raising my little hand and feeling like what I had to say actually mattered. Especially when those that were baptized got to vote for something. Anything, it didn’t matter what it was for as long as I got to raise my little hand and vote because I was baptized now! Though, I really had no idea what I was voting for. I often wondered as a child, why I was able to vote just because I was baptized when I had no idea what I was voting for! I still take this same thinking process into consideration now: Why would I be held accountable for making a decision to get baptized at age 11! I had no idea what I was doing.

I remember the cruel heartless games people would play out in field service. “Dibs” remember that? We’d go door to door and when someone would reject our urgent life-saving message one of us would call out “dibs.” Yep, we claimed our stake on their beautiful home after Armageddon. After all, we were special, we would live and they were going to die because they belonged to Satan, they were wolves and we were sheep. We could hardly wait for all the wicked people to be dead. It makes me sick to think as an adult now to discover what I was taught to think at such a young age.

I’ve done a lot of reflection these past few years. And I couldn’t understand why but I couldn’t really remember a lot of my childhood compared to most people I know now. And then I realized it’s not that I don’t remember, it’s just that my entire child hood was at the Kingdom Hall. I really have nothing else to remember. No Christmases, no birthdays, no sleepovers, no playing time at the park, no family vacations to recall, I couldn’t have many toys and the dolls I did have, yep you guessed it, I played “meeting.” Which basically was getting up every few minutes to “discipline” my loud make-believe child.

Fast forward a few years – the attention of being baptized at such a young age has now long since worn off and I never was accepted into any of the cliques at the Kingdom Hall. My youngest brother (who is one year older than me) has taken after my father and has become abusive to me. My mother is constantly tired from trying to keep up appearances as a good JW while taking care of five kids by herself. I am beginning to look elsewhere for acceptance, love, and general companionship.

And then it happened. A little life line was thrown. My sister has married and given birth to a beautiful baby boy. My nephew, I hold him and I know this is what I want. I want a baby to love, I need a baby to love. Then I will never be alone again. I am all but 12 years old and already understand (despite my lack of example, though I am unable to really comprehend it at the time) that what I want, need, and deserve is unconditional love. He is my light, we become very close over the years and still remain so to this very day.

HIGH SCHOOL YEARS

I am now a freshman in high school. There’s a boy at school, he’s a senior – a boy who is worldly. A boy who smokes, who skates, who is popular, a boy who is exciting, a boy who is dangerous. We strike a conversation one day, and I am smitten instantly. Someone, a boy no less, has given me attention. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I am excited to go to school! I’m feeling conflicted, I know I should not be associating with him. I know I will make Jehovah angry and will die because I am talking to him. He’s so very interesting, the things he has done, the places he has been, the way he feels so free and is so outgoing. I am shy, so very unsure of myself and my self-worth. I can’t believe he’s interested in me.

My brother at home is becoming intolerable. He’s always angry at me though I have done nothing to irritate him. I try and stay in my room at all times as to not have anything to do with him. I feel like I am being strangled and crushed all around me, I am suffocating in my life! I am 14 years old and I hate my life. I am miserable! One night, I gather up a few things and call my friend (who is the sister of the boy I like, she is my age). I climb out my window and down the tree. I’m scared, but I have never felt so alive as I run and run and run towards my freedom. I find my friend, she takes me to this house where she and this boy are staying for the night. We hang out and I am introduced to a new world. A completely different world than I’m from, where the kids are hanging out, laughing with one another, telling harmless stories about things they’ve done in their lives and plans they are making for the future while drinking a few beers. I try a beer, I don’t like it, it taste gross and so I do not consume anymore. It’s getting late so I go and lay down in one of the bedrooms. The boy follows me, and he lays down with me. I am too shy and ashamed to do anything else but cuddle and kiss, for I already know I will die for doing this much but it feels so good to have someone touch me. We sleep, and I remain innocent. A few days later, I return home. I feel bad that my mother is worried and I have nowhere else to go. I am scared and only 14 after all. My mother finds out about this boy, and tells me what an awful disappointment I am to her, that Jehovah is going to punish me and I’m going to die for my sins and the disgusting acts I have committed! She tells the elders.

I am called to many elder meetings, this was so long ago I can’t recall how many of them I had to endure now. I just remember three old guys sitting there asking me to be very specific on what I had and had not done at the age of 14! I am embarrassed, I am horrified, I am scared…I am a virgin! I’m sorry for what I did, I’m sorry it has caused all this drama in my life, I am worthless, I am unlovable, I am disfellowshipped. (I later find out that one of the elders on my JC was disfellowshipped for sleeping with another man’s wife in the hall. Yep, the hypocrisy is deafening loud, isn’t it?) This is the time in my life where I attempted suicide in hopes of escaping what I felt at the time was an intolerable existence. Instead of receiving support, love, and forgiveness when I survived my futile attempt, I received a lecture on consequences of my rebellious behavior and deciding to leave Jehovah.

I have succumbed to Satan and my disfellowshipped status means I have been sentenced to death at age 14. Well, guess I better live my damn life then! I started doing what I wanted, going to school, getting a job, making new friends, making new memories. Memories for some reason, I have no problem recalling now as a 41 year old woman. I remember every moment of that time of my life. I was still a good girl, never really drank or got into drugs because I didn’t like it. I held down a job, paid for my own stuff and just tried to stay out of my brother and mother’s way. My brother always found something to be mad at me about. We used to be best friends – we were always playing together and I don’t understand why he hates me so much. One day he hits me very hard and I stumble to the floor. His friend was over, and caught him battering his sister. Authorities are called, he spins a story and I am the one removed from the home and now submerged in the “system.” I go to a foster home, a group home all while holding down a job. I make it through those years without becoming addicted to any substance. Looking back now, I can’t believe I’m not an alcoholic or drug addict. I am now almost 18, I have been living back at home for a few months. I am working full time and pulling myself together. I still have many feelings of guilt and constantly thinking of my death at Armageddon. I am often afraid, but push back those fears for there is nothing for me in the land of JW. I have tried to live that life to no avail.

YOUNG ADULT YEARS

I have decided to move out on my own and get an apartment with this boy. I am not 18 yet, but I am doing well. And then one day it happens. I’m pregnant! I am so in love with this little baby growing inside me. He was planned, I wanted him, I needed him! He’s finally here, he’s beautiful, he’s mine, he has saved me. I am overcome with joy, I have never felt so much love. He has taught me what love is. Oh no… but he’s going to die! I’m going to be that mother pictured in the book of Bible Stories that’s holding her son as the earth floods all around them as they are about to die. Jehovah’s going to make me watch my son die before he kills me as punishment. He’s going to die if I don’t return to the Kingdom Hall. This time I have a choice on which road to choose. Or did I? I wanted my mother, I needed her, I’m a brand new mother I need her guidance and I don’t want my son to die because of my rebelliousness. And I want him to grow up with a father. I can’t have his father in my life if I return unless we marry, yes we must marry. I am all but 18 but we must marry. It is what god expects! And so, I return. I return for him and for her and I marry. I have now essential gone from being bound and burning at the stake, to willfully holding onto the stake and burning. Life is good, I have my mom back, for a time. I see her three times a week at the Kingdom Hall and sometimes we go out to eat afterwards too. Our relationship builds over the years to the point where we are truly best friends. We talk every day for hours. I have had four beautiful boys now and I’m in my late 20s.

My husband is not in the truth, so I still am not part of any cliques at the Hall and I’m usually not invited to any events. But I have my boys, and my mom and my sister. My 3 brothers are not Witnesses. Only one of them was baptized (my middle brother) and he has since fallen away from the truth by this time in my life. My sister (who is a Witness and remains so to this very day) also attends the Hall we go to. Though I tried for many years to get close to her, I was unsuccessful. She has always hated me because I was the baby in the family. I only tolerated her to have a relationship with my nephew.

Over the years, I have many issues with my husband. I am beginning to really want a husband sitting next to me at the Kingdom Hall like everyone else does. He has studied from time to time over the years but never took to it. He feels it is a cult. During this time in my life, I realize that I do not love him. I don’t think I ever really did. I realize now that he was an escape for me. Finally, I give him an ultimatum: Quit drinking and attend the meetings or I am leaving!

One day he came home after having a beer with a friend at work. He was upset and he called our first born son to come down the stairs. Our son didn’t come quickly enough and paid the price. (There was an incident which I am not willing to share out of respect for my boy). My son, my beautiful son is looking at me with tears in eyes, pleading with me. I hear his plea, I gain my strength and I immediately kick my husband out of my house! I am done! I changed the locks on the doors that night and put the house up for sale the very next morning. The house sold the first day on the market so I took that as a good sign.

I had a job working part time at the office that my mother worked at. She was essentially my boss at the time. I started looking for apartments and finally found one I could afford that was in a decent area for the boys. I got a second job, then a third to make ends meet. I did not want to go on welfare. Accepting food stamps and some child care help for a few months was all I was willing to do. I was exhausted. I worked at the office from 8 to 4:30 then I’d run over to a waitressing job until midnight or so. Unless of course it was a meeting night. On those nights, I would rush home, fix dinner, spend a precious few moments with my boys as I was dressing them for the Kingdom Hall. I worked so hard, I was able to save enough money to buy my very first house all by myself within two years of my divorce. One night, I was unable to get out of a shift at the restaurant and it made me late for the meeting. I didn’t have time to change, I showed up to the meeting late, with my work pants on. I will never forget how everybody stared at me like I was being very disrespectful for showing up at the Kingdom Hall in pants. All the while, I could barely keep my eyes open. The past few months were taking their toll. I wasn’t quite 30 years old yet and I felt like I was 100.

A few years prior to me leaving my husband, I had somewhat secretly befriended a “worldly” woman, though I did keep my distance and didn’t want to get to close to her because she was not a Witness. Some time had passed as we all get busy with life and I didn’t see her for a year or so. Anyway, she walked into the restaurant one day while I was working and we began to rebuild a friendship, a very strong friendship which she remains my best friend to this very day. During the first few months of my new divorced life, I really tried hard to be a Witness. I attended most meetings even though I had very little free time and even managed to study on occasion. I remember begging my mom to please come over and help me get the boys ready on meetings nights, but she never was one to give much of her time. She had pre-made excuses for everything, like she did when I was child and would ask if we could go to the park. “No honey, I’m sorry, I’m just too tired.” She was tired from raising five kids and the demands of being a Witness, no doubt. I even remember asking some brothers from the Hall to please study with my two older boys because I was starting to have trouble with them. They were now 12 and 10 and I didn’t want to lose them to the world and I had a 4 year old and 18 month old to care for also. They did study with them, twice and then gave up. I guess we weren’t worthy of saving.

During this time in my life, one of my family members called the authorities on me claiming I didn’t have any food in the house. (I did have food, just not the junk food the kids wanted and could make quickly after school.) Ironically I was out grocery shopping at the time of their initial visit. I came home and found out that they were planning on coming back the next day. I will admit, though my house was not filthy by any means, it was a little messy with the five of us living in a two bedroom apartment and me working 70+ hours per week. I’ll never forget, I only had to make one call to my “worldly” friend. She came right over and cleaned the whole place up while I was at work. That’s when some of the doubts really started to surface. She was one of the very best people I knew. She had such a beautiful heart, why would she die? Everything started to fall apart. My doubts began to increase and I started spending a lot of time with my dear friend and realize she had more love in her than anyone I knew at the hall.

THE DARK TIME IN MY LIFE

I was overweight in my 20s, no doubt as a result of how miserable I was (besides my boys, I was always happy to be their mother). Working three jobs has a way of getting the weight off you. One day, a man noticed me, and I entered into a very destructive relationship. That is a completely different story that would end up being even longer than this one. All I will say is, it was utterly devastating and I almost died had it not been for my boys and my best friend (who is the “worldly” girl of course). As a result, I was disfellowshipped again and lost my mother overnight. A painful, painful year. I am feeling for what feels like the first time in my life. And I realize, I have been numb for most of my life. And now this heartache has woken me up and brought everything to the surface with no mother to help me through it. I am alone.

ADULT YEARS – COMING INTO MY OWN

Fast forward a few more years. I am now 32, I met another man. He’s a good man and we marry nine months later. His family has taken me and my boys in as if we were always there. I have experienced a family that demonstrates unconditional love for the first time in my life. I have a beautiful supporting and loving family now. Life is wonderful.

January 1, 2009 – I wake to a phone call, it’s my mother. She is upset and I can’t fathom what she has just told me. He’s gone. My eldest brother has done what he always said he would do. He has committed suicide. I spring up from my bed in disbelief. I call my middle brother (who has long since faded from JW life) and begin making arrangements. I can’t cry, there are things that need to be handled. Besides, I had no tears left anyway. I spent them all during my dark time and I had not cried since then. We will need to fly to Arizona and be there for his fiancé. I will have to endure my sister, my uncle (my mother’s brother who is an elder) and my mother. My middle brother and I step off the plane and she’s there, my sister. The last time I saw her I was in a court room being sentenced to anger management classes. Yeah, that brought back all those unpleasant memories.

During the dark time of my life she had upset me with things she said and as I tried to leave she stood in my way, blocked the exit and told me I was a bad mother. (Me a bad mother, I was working three jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads and barely holding it together after the dark time in my life while she had one very perfect child whom I loved dearly.) That was it, all those years of trying to be friends with her and her alienating and hating me for things beyond my control boiled over. I slapped her face and she cowered to the floor. She called 911 and I was arrested. I was in trouble for the first time in my life.

As my brother, mother and sister piled into her car, she immediately starts in. She’s flying off the handle about how my eldest brother’s fiancé’s son is going through the house and taking stuff out that was my brothers. She’s making ridiculous and false accusations. She is really hyped up. I can see what she’s trying to do. She’s trying to turn us against our brother’s fiancé. For God’s sake, our brother has just passed! I remain calm, I am already emotionally drained, I will wait before drawing any conclusion until I get to my brother’s home and assess the situation myself. I do not trust my sister, she has betrayed me. She is erratic, she is unstable and vindictive, she is a narcissist: She is one of them, a Witness. I can see she is affecting our mother, she doesn’t know what to think, no doubt she is emotionally exhausted as well.

We arrive at our brother’s home, and I see that his fiancé is devastatingly heartbroken. A place I will not allow myself to go to again, I will not survive another one. Not here…not now. I shut any emotion off immediately (How am I capable of doing that?) and go to her in hopes of comforting. Throughout the next several days, I discover she is still the same loving woman I have come to know over the last 10 years. There is no conspiracy here to take my brother’s things, just a very heart broken woman. My sister’s vindictive and erratic behavior continues. She is causing more heartache and chaos for us all. Things happen and she refuses to go to my brother’s funeral. My uncle gives a private in-home JW funeral for my brother. My middle brother and I are unhappy. He would not have wanted this. He was not a Witness, he saw them for what they really were: A family destroying cult.

He was always unhappy, even as a small child. He was always so sad. No doubt the JW way of life played a large role in his death as he never felt like he was good enough no matter what he did. He felt worthless and unlovable. A childhood filled with nothing but “conditional love.” A miserable way to exist, that I know first-hand. I look at my mother during his funeral as my uncle proceeds with the Witness indoctrination talking about the Paradise. That’s when I see it, I see the relief on her face. Part of her is happy he is gone because that means he will be saved and resurrected in their delusional paradise. I am disgusted beyond belief.

A few weeks later I am back at home, falling into the pattern of normalcy once again. And one day it happens….I pop the CD in of my eldest brother singing. And I lose myself in my grief. I have not cried for many years now, it is a relief to know that I am not completely damaged by my cold distant upbringing. Because of my cruel upbringing, I have the capacity to become extremely detached from others if I were to allow. Which will prove to be an asset as I banish toxic people from my life forever.

THE TURNING POINT

I will bring you up to the year 2014, I am 39 years old. My new husband (we’ve been married for six years now) and I have found and purchased our dream home on six acres of wooded land with nine creeks on the property. A true paradise I get to come home to every night! I am in euphoria, but still I have a constant nagging sense that someone is looking over my shoulder. That someone has remembered my sins, that I can’t escape it. I am going to die. Armageddon is coming and I am going to die. My beautiful boys are going to die, they’re going to pay for my sins. I am going to be punished. I have happiness now, only to have it cruelly ripped away from my life. I become angry at the thought. And though I have been away from JW land for nearly 10 years now, I just now have finally found the courage to allow myself to research. Such a big no-no, such a taboo! I for sure will die now that I am looking at apostate sites! And then it happens.

I find JWfacts and a Facebook forum and Crisis of Conscience and I am utterly stunned! And for a time I experienced a good healthy dose of denial. I am angry, I am hurt I am in disbelief. I was in a cult and still being held prisoner. When I resurfaced from the initial shock, one of my first thoughts was thank God I got my children out! I threw myself into the research. Longing to learn the truth about the truth – relishing every little piece of the puzzle I could put together. Hoarding as much information as I could possible get my hands on. I often found myself angry and in tears at the society’s audacity to really truly rip apart families on a whim. Oh, I learned all about them all right.

I finally understood why I am so withdrawn and rather like being by myself and refuse to let people get too close. Those are issues I am still working on and I just try and take them day by day. I no longer quietly and shamefully say I used to be a Witness, I now warn people about the dangers of this cult. I strongly voice my story to all those I can. People need to know how dangerous this cult is for they prey on the weak, trying to catch you at a vulnerable time in your life!

I wasted 30 years of my life on this lie, my mother has wasted her entire life. She is getting at the age where she will need help. I will not be there for her. I wrote her a reverse disfellowshipping letter in the summer of 2014. I will not allow her to pop into my life when it is convenient for her any longer. I also have taken contact with my minor children without my presence away from her. She has had no contact with them since receiving my letter and uncompromising conditions I laid out for her. My two oldest boys are now 22 and 20. They no longer wish to have a relationship with her, as they see it for what it is, “conditional love.” I have succeeded, they know the difference between conditional and unconditional love! Somehow, through everything that I have been through (and believe me, this was just a tiny bit I have shared with you) I have somehow managed to raise four beautiful and emotionally healthy children. I still have a lot to work on, and know that it is not normal to be incapable of letting people get too close, but then I try and remind myself that I have broken the chains of physical abuse, emotional abuse and the cult! My boys will not continue that behavior with our future generations, those abusive behaviors have stopped with me!

Now I am the mom who brings the birthday cupcakes to her son’s class. I relish in the joy I see in their eyes. My boys are filled with so much love and self-worth that I become a little bit thankful for the hardships I endured that gave me the strength I earnestly needed to raise healthy children. I’m the mom who has a house full of boys for my sons’ birthday sleepovers. They have so many friends. I never dreamed one could have so many. I have experienced all the wonders of Christmas morning as my children joyfully open their gifts. Watching them hunt our woods for the Easter eggs, hearing them play and sing in school activities and sports, hearing them wish everyone a happy new year, listening to them giggling for no reason at all. Knowing that they will have memories of what it feels like to have their mother’s arms wrapped around them every day telling them how much she loves them. Memories I have given them that they will remember and look fondly on as their adult years come upon them. I often catch myself smiling now and find utter bliss in my home and family life I have created.

I ran into a Witness from my former Hall a few months ago. We talked for nearly 15 minutes or so, catching up on each other’s lives and just general pleasantries. Later that day I pondered on why he spoke so freely to me that afternoon. Here’s my theory: I have been away for 10 years now and my family also moved to a different Hall 5 years ago. I believe he thought I was reinstated because what he saw was a very happy, confident and caring woman. After all, JWs are the happiest people on earth, right?

Since my turning point in 2014 (I guess you could say I became an ex-ex-JW then) I have found peace. I have created the family I always wanted and I no longer feel like I’m going to die at any given moment. I do not know if there is a God, I want to believe there is but I’m not sure yet. I am still dealing with that issue. The important thing is I’m open to possibilities. I wasn’t taught that growing up, that is something I had to teach myself as an adult. And possibilities are endless when you don’t fear Armageddon every day. I realized I am no more special than anyone else on this earth. I have learned to come to terms with my new found mortality in realizing that I will indeed grow old and I will not live forever on a paradise earth. Though we can’t control how we are raised, we can have some accountability of what we make of our lives. Choices that we make can affect us for the rest of our lives.

I made a choice at age 11 to get baptized to a society that teaches a lie and will destroy a family on a whim. And I have had to live with that choice I made as a very young minor. I say this because my brother who was abusive to me, is not a witness. He was never baptized and so he has a relationship with our mother to this very day. Along with other family members who never made the claim to actually being a Witness at what time or another. They enjoyed dinners, visiting and family vacations with her. I on the other hand do not have a relationship with her or my father. All the while, I was shunned, alienated even to the point that she refused to walk down the aisle at my wedding as mother of the bride or pose for any wedding pictures. She even refused to come to my housewarming party for a home I bought all by myself after my divorce. All because I decided to take a swim when I was 11 at a circuit assembly to appease my mother. I was not old enough to vote, drive, buy alcohol or even able to support myself, though I was old enough to make a decision on whether I would have my mother in my life or not.

Through the years as I became a mother myself and my love grew deeper for my children, I can’t fathom what on this earth or anywhere else could possible make a mother abandon her child. I had a discussion with my mother right before I wrote her the letter. She had the basic cult language defense “Eight million people is not a cult!” I calmly and simply told her “No, it makes it a very dangerous one.” I could see her grasping for the words to justify her horrific behavior and defend her beloved cult. I could see her struggling physically and suffering from cognitive dissonance at her refusal to process the things I was telling her I had learned about this religion. As I watched her, I realized she has been a victim of this vicious cult for nearly 70 years now. I truly felt pity for her and that there was no hope at this time in her life. Her mind and others like her, just simply isn’t strong enough to unleash the powerful grasp of the society’s claws. And I became not angry or bitter, but thankful that my mind was strong enough to free myself and my boys.

That decision I made on a January day at the tender age of 11 will affect me for the rest of my life, but I’m choosing for it to affect me positively now. I have lost my mother, but I never really had her, she’s owned and has always been owned by the cult. I doubt she even knows her true self. I am more fortunate than some. I managed to escape with all of my boys. I have come into a loving family. I have a brother who is in my life and his children who I absolutely refused to shun during my years as a witness. Though my mother did not want to build a relationship with them because she always said they were going to die anyway. I on the other hand wanted my boys to know their cousins and I wanted to enjoy my brother’s children while I could. I also have been blessed in keeping my relationship with my sister’s son. He escaped several years ago. He also is blessed with a father who escaped, a stepmom, a half-brother and of course my middle brother, all his cousins and myself. He lost his mother and she lost her only child, but he has his paternal grandmother. In fact, his grandmother is the author of ‘Awakening of a Jehovah’s Witness.’ Which that book was also very therapeutic in my healing process. Very good read, I highly recommend it.

My grandmother (my mom’s mother) passed away last month. I had already decided long ago that I would not be attending her funeral if it was held in the Kingdom Hall. A decision I made peacefully and without regrets long before she passed. I will never step foot in a Kingdom Hall again. As they harbor so much judgmental behavior, self-righteousness, and just plain lack of natural affection. I am not willing to give them an opportunity or give my mother false hope that my mind could still somehow be open to re-indoctrination. And so, I did not attend her funeral and neither did my middle brother or any of my boys. I’m a grown woman now in complete control of my future emotional health and happiness and I very much like the woman I see in the mirror now.

So why does my family treat me so differently than anyone else in our family? It’s simple: I didn’t need them, I was a threat. A threat to their own shortcomings, something they didn’t like to see in their reflection in the mirror. Something I faced head on, embraced and overcame.

I’ve cried for the little girl inside me who longed to belong and feel loved. I’ve held her, protected her, loved her and carried her with me on this journey to our salvation. And I had the pleasure of seeing her smile on one hot summer day in 2014 as I placed a stamp on that letter to our mother and mailed our past away.

I have gained so much strength, I have taught myself what it is to love, I have given my sons unconditional love, I have broken abusive behaviors that have been in my family for generations. And what of my justice? I got the best justice possible. I took control and placed my happiness in my own hands. I have once again chosen my road. I let go of the stake and I walked out of the fire. I have done more than just survived this cult……I have thrived. I have essentially become the Queen of my life and stepped up to my throne to reign it!

There is so much more to my story with so many more critical events that happened in my life that lead me to my road of what I like to call utopia. I could probably write a book……perhaps one day I will.

UPDATE: Since the original writing of this: My children are all grown now with the exception of my youngest who is 15 and my mother has still not had any contact with him as I will not allow it without my presence. He has no desire to see her. None of them do. My brother informed me that she has stage 4 cancer. My oldest son married a beautiful woman in 2017 whom I absolutely adore. 2018 has been the best year yet as my beautiful granddaughter came into our lives. She will be the first generation in at least four (that I know of) that will be completely cult-free! My mother has asked to see her a few times and my son has declined her requests – very said for her. But you don’t get the sweet grandbabies without the parents. It’s a package deal!

Perhaps some of you may believe that’s harsh and that’s OK, you feel what you do, I respect that. But as the monarch of my family, I did not want my children to think it was all right for my mother to not acknowledge my existence and still maintain a relationship with them. I am a person, I feel, I think and I deserve to be acknowledged. Yes, she is a victim of this vicious cult, and yet, she still wakes up each and every day and makes the decision to shun me. I found out a few months ago, that my father past away almost five years ago. No one knew, no obituary. I suspect he died alone as none of us has seen him in more than 10 years, 16 years for me.

I’m leaning towards agnostic. I neither believe nor disbelieve at this point in my life. I’m a critical thinker, I need evidence, science, and logic in order to ascertain a belief as factual. I see no evidence of divine intervention in my life. Everything I have accomplished in my life has been through experience, sheer determination, and intentional hard work at my own hands. I will take responsibility for my own life, I will make my own decisions based of what I feel is right for us, as I’m the one who has to live with those decisions. I will never allow that power to leave my hands again. Though I do not feel to the extent of Atheism as I keep my mind open to possibilities, even if that is to just spite the JW way of being closed minded.

I look at my granddaughter, my boys, and my husband, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I made the right decision to break free from this cult. I would never trade this life I have created now for anything. Yes, I lost my mom, as I said before, but it never was anything genuine. The family I have and hold in my heart now, is genuine and non-fleeting. Forever gracing me with love.

My hope for all of us, is that we all can fully heal from this terrible and traumatic cult and become and embrace the person we were always meant to be. My love to each and every one of you!

 
— Michelle Wallis

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on March 22, 2019 at 13:20

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Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT gmail.com (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)

 

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