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My Story

By Doug Kelley

July 2000; Updated February 2005


I was disfellowshipped in August 1999 for some complicated reasons. 

Here is my story:

I am a 4th generation JW.  My folks have done everything in the “Truth” one can possibly do—yes even Gilead.  My mother is still a strong Witness, as was my father until his death in October 2002.  My brother and sister are as well, in addition to nearly every one of my aunts, uncles and cousins.  Many serve as elders and pioneers; one is even in the circuit work (or traveling work if you prefer).

My mother has had problems with alcohol ever since I can remember.  She has had two brothers who also fought drinking problems.  My father's brother died from the complications of alcoholism.  His father also had a problem with alcohol, although it was not as pronounced.  I believe that my dad inherited codependence from his mother.

So, after also growing up in an environment of alcoholism and codependence, I unwittingly carried on the tradition and married a sister who later developed the illness of alcoholism.  For the last 15 (and especially the last five) years of an 18-year marriage, I had tried everything known to man to help her with the disorder, but I unwittingly enabled her to continue drinking due to my own codependence.  At the same time, I served as an elder (for last seven years of my marriage), struggled to make a living with my own businesses, did all of the grocery shopping, cooked most of the meals, did all of the laundry, took care of our 12 year old son, prepared meeting parts, handled District Convention parts (1996, 1997, 1998), served on special committees, and saw to all of the other necessary things in life.  There was really no time for anything else, much less personal pursuits.  If anything got done, it was because I did it.  I felt like I was a single parent with a 12 year-old good boy, and a rebellious teenager—my wife.

For the previous 10 years, I had troubling concerns about the scriptures, as I understood them.  Like many others, I just ignored and denied these concerns by pushing them to the back of my mind.  I have always found it impossible to believe that Jehovah would destroy 99.9% of the earth’s population, when there are so many good people out there.  (JW's make up .1% of earth’s population).  Additionally, I had trouble with the lack of mercy shown to many that were disfellowshipped. 

In this regard one event troubles me to this day.  It was nearly 20 years ago and I was serving as a Ministerial Servant.  As I walked up to the Kingdom Hall one morning to unlock the door for Field Service, I found a box of the Society's books and a letter.  It was from a young woman (about 22 years old) who had been disfellowshipped for getting pregnant out of wedlock.  She had been coming to the meetings to try and get reinstated, but obviously felt like she was getting nowhere.  

Her letter condemned the organization because she was struggling along with a new baby with no one to help her.  Because she was disfellowshipped, her own mother would have nothing to do with her.  It was obvious that her life had become desperate, and no one would give her any kind of help.  In her letter, she could not understand that an organization professing love would completely snub her in her plight, not to mention causing her own mother to turn her back on her. She said that she wanted nothing to do with such an organization.  When I gave the letter to an elder, I asked if we shouldn't call her and try to help her.  I believed the letter to be a cry for help.  The elder just shook his head and said "No."  I asked another elder about it and he told me that it wouldn't be good to call her because "it could be a trap."  He was full of pure, unadulterated bullshit—and it doth stinketh!  

Sadly, I do not know what became of this young woman.  I can only hope that she made out okay.  Actually I believe that she was done a favor that day, because hopefully she learned what a bogus organization the Watchtower Society (WTS) is and never went back.  I also wish I had called her at the time. I thought about it.  But I too was young and still not able to "think for myself."

I used to be proud to say that in the 7 years that I served as an elder, I was never on a committee that disfellowshipped anyone, but now I'm not so sure.  However, I did make it my personal mission to prevent—to the best of my ability—anyone from getting hurt due to the incompetence of the elders—this due to the dozens of situations I personally witnessed and heard about growing up in the organization.  Of course, I always sought to do this in a kind manner.  As a result, I took many an elder to task when things were not being handled “theocratically” or in a spirit of loving kindness, especially when these men were much older and had been serving far longer than I had.  I figured that they should know better. I never held back from a lack of courage to stand up for what was right.  I feel that sometimes you must do the "kind" thing, instead of the “right” thing. I have come to believe that the primary quality an elder must possess to remain an elder indefinitely is that of incompetence.  I am simply amazed at how inept most elders are. The ones that do not possess this "quality" do not usually remain elders, since they cannot condone the stupid things elders do. The last Memorial I went to, one elder, in the prayer over the "bread," said that Jesus died on the "cross." True, he was old, but it is difficult for me to comprehend how an elder (of all people) could make such a mistake in a prayer at the Memorial (no less!).

Things get worse

My personal situation grew worse in the closing months of 1998.  My wife's behavior took a heavy emotional toll on my son.  He was growing afraid that she might do something terrible, like try to kill us.  On one occasion around September 1998, I was consoling him in his room at a time when his mother was in one of her alcoholic episodes, and I noticed he was keeping a pocket knife under his pillow (I had given it to him as a gift). I asked him why his pocketknife was under his pillow, and he said it was for protection. Then he asked me, "You don't think mom will ever try to hurt us, do you?"  I told him, "No son, she loves you very much."  I do not exaggerate when I say that not two minutes had passed when she entered the room with a kitchen knife, made several stabbing motions in the air in our direction, and said, "There. Now I feel better."  I did not know what to tell him.

On another occasion in November 1998, she was drinking and very difficult to get along with.  She had been calling me all day at work (5 or 6 times) and wanted me to "come home and hold her" (she had become extremely "clingy" and wanted my constant and complete attention).  When my son got home from school (I took him and picked him up every day because my wife wouldn't, and I did not want to risk him getting hurt in a auto accident with her possibly drinking and driving), I told her that he had some homework to do and to please leave him alone so he could do it. I had a 5:30pm appointment at my office and I was worried that she would harass him and they would get into a fight. Well, at around 6pm, I got a call from my son at my office.  He was crying hysterically (something I had not seen him do before) and saying, "I can't take it anymore! I just can't take it anymore!"  I will never forget that phone call. He had locked himself in my den at home and I could hear her pounding on the door trying to get in.  I had to politely dismiss my clients before we had finished our business and rush home.  I was deeply fearful for his emotional and physical well being. 

When I got home, my wife was still pounding on the door to my den, and quickly went into our bedroom and got into bed.  I checked on my son and calmed him down and then went in, grabbed her chin and demanded to know what was going on. (I should not have grabbed her chin as that is not who I am.  I just felt so backed into a corner and fearful of what she was doing to our son that I wanted to get her complete and undivided attention. I also wanted to let her know that I was absolutely serious and upset.  Even though I was exemplary in controlling myself toward her, I was not perfect.)  My wife had been hounding my son to lay down with her "and hold her" and he did not think it appropriate, so it led to him pushing her and her grabbing and leaving a bruise on his arm.  This was the last straw.  

I now knew that the situation had deteriorated to the point that I was now seriously worried about my son's emotional and mental safety.  I was also worried that my son would retaliate and hurt her, or she would hurt him.  He told me that once when she was being so terrible, that he had a passing thought to pick up a kitchen knife and stab her!  What makes this even more shocking is the fact that he is a very kind and sensitive person, with a good heart. How could I keep him in this situation when there was a real risk of something terrible happening to him or her.  If I didn't make some changes, then I could become morally responsible for whatever might happen.  It was clear.  I had some decisions to make.

So in January (1999), after exhausting all possible means to help my wife, I made the decision to take my son and make a “scriptural separation” from her in an effort to get her to hit “rock bottom” so she would get help for her alcoholism.  I reasoned that if it worked, we could get back together and preserve the family. Unfortunately, it backfired on me and she became extremely vindictive and continued to harass me until January 2005. 

My wife orchestrates a "counter-attack"

One of my wife's vindictive "bombs" put me in perhaps the most difficult position I have ever been in. She had been trying to do anything possible to get back at me for all the "terrible things" I did to her.  The "bomb" she dropped happened late one evening in April 1999 (after we had separated).  It was around 1:00am in the morning.  My son was in bed asleep.  I couldn't sleep and was in my bed reading.  Outside my window I heard the sound of a car motor running for a couple of minutes.  I live on a street that has very little traffic, especially in the middle of the night, so about the time I got up to check it out, the doorbell rang.  It was the police.  Earlier that day, my wife had filed a restraining order on her and my son's behalf.  The police were just getting around to serving it--at 1:00am in the morning!  

I told the police officer that she was an alcoholic, that she and my son continually fought, and that I was desperately fearful for his well-being if they were to give him to her.  Although sympathetic, he said that there was nothing he could do.  The restraining order stated that I could not go within 500 feet of her house, nor could I call her or my son on the phone under penalty of arrest.  I could not even legally check on him the next day to make sure he was all right!  I cannot tell you the horror and fear I felt at that moment.  What would I do?  Would I fight the police to protect my son from an abusive alcoholic?  That would just have gotten me arrested, and that would have done no good.  I concluded that there was nothing I could do at the moment other than "hope to God" that nothing bad would happen before I could rectify matters. 

They called my wife to have her drive over to pick him up, but she said she couldn't because "she can't see to drive at night." (Yeah right! It was because she was drinking).  So the police went over and got her and brought her to my house to get my son (how nice of them!). Meanwhile, I had to go in and wake my son up gently and explain the situation to him.  He seemed to handle it better than me, although I would not let my true feelings show.  I just told him it would be okay and to try to get along with her, and I would do what I could the next day to get him back.  He really handled it like a trooper. 

The ironic thing about this situation is that my wife had no idea what she had done.  True, she had gone down to the courthouse to fill out the restraining order paperwork, but she honestly did not think she filed it.  When my wife came she told me that she was sorry and that she didn't think she filed it because she couldn't do that to our son.  Just one more example of her lack of mental clarity.

The next day, I promptly went down to the courthouse and was there the minute they opened.  I filed a counter restraining order in my son's behalf.  I had to outline on the paperwork why I believed my wife was a threat.  I related several examples, some of which are in this story.  I also included something my son wrote for his language arts class.  This is what he wrote (it still brings tears to my eyes):

"My dad is a hero for many reasons.  He has done many things in his life.  He has been to different countries, and been employed in number of different types of jobs.  Here are some reasons why he is a hero:

"His mom was an alcoholic and he went through many hardships. The police were at his house several times because of his mom.  His mom even injured his dad a couple of times.  That must have been hard to go through.

"For some reason, he married my mom.  After a few years, she too became an alcoholic because of some childhood experiences.  For the past six years, we have had to endure that.  I admire him for acting so calm in this situation.

"Just recently, they separated from each other.  That has been hard on him.  He has had to continue to support her somewhat.  Life is nicer now that we are away from my mom. 

"He is definitely a hero for going through all this and still being able to help people.  I am surprised he still sane.  I admire him a great deal.  I believe he is one of the true heroes on Earth."

Fortunately, it worked, and I got him back later that same day.  He continues to live with me.

At last, salvation! Well... Almost

Around the same time as I separated from her, (January 1999), I also found out from talking with my wife the full details about an incident that occurred back around 1989.  She and her friend (another sister who was married to my best friend) had taken a trip back to a state where we had lived for a year and a half.  While there, the two went out dancing at a local bar and had met a couple of local minor league or college basketball players.  After dancing with them, the two invited them to go to breakfast, as it was now around 2am in the morning.  The guys took them to an apartment.  The sister and one guy made out on the couch, while the other guy and my wife went into a bedroom to make out.  They closed the door and were in there for about 45 minutes.  Up until this time, I knew that they had danced with these guys, but I did not know that they had spent time alone in an apartment behind closed doors.  

Even though my wife adamantly denied that any sexual activity had taken place, I felt that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to become scripturally free, especially in view of her now intolerable behavior.  Being an elder myself, I had the benefit of the elder's handbook and it states on page 111 that someone staying “all night in the same house with a person of the opposite sex … under improper circumstances” would constitute acceptable circumstantial evidence of porneia."  

So I wrote a letter to the Society and asked them what constitutes "all night."  They wrote back, but would not directly answer my question, nor would they accept my very logical reasoning that I was scripturally free.  After I wrote a second letter, the Society wrote to the local elders and asked them to give me some "spiritual help."  I decided that this was a joke and also decided to forget them and their unloving religion.  They would not support me when I had given my whole life trying to do what was right and "by the book," and especially at a time that I really needed it.

I quit!

In January 1999 (the time of my separation), I also resigned as an elder and stopped going to meetings, because I found them extremely discouraging, after all, I was separating from my wife.  This was contrary to everything I had ever learned, believed and taught.  Additionally, I could just not cope with the unspoken disdain and judgmentalism on the part of the “friends.”  One older sister, who had been in the Book Study group I conducted, made a comment during the Watchtower study stating that “God hates a divorcing.”  That really hurt in light of the fact that I was honestly trying to do what was right, and she knew it.  It was easy for her to say this—she had no clue as to the hell we were going through. I would like to see how she would handle being in my situation at the time.

During all this time, only my son and I went to the meetings--my wife rarely ever went.  I was serving as an elder and doing the Theocratic Ministry School.  The "friends" always saw me there, rarely her.  When she did go, there were several who told the elders that they smelled alcohol on her breath, something she vehemently denied (she said it was "mouthwash" — Yeah right again!). 

After seeing a therapist and doing research on codependence, I decided that I could no longer bear the agony of existing for 40 years—my entire life—with the effects of alcoholism (my mom and my wife), and I filed for divorce.  It took several months, but my divorce was final in August 1999.  You see, I was so low from so many emotionally bad things happening to me, that I reasoned that I would gladly trade one or two years of sweet peace and die at Armageddon, for an eternal life of peace that may not ever come.

Finding my soul-mate

During this time, I had become very good friends at work with a sister who herself was having trouble with her alcoholic husband, (who incidentally had been an elder for many years, but was no longer).  As coincidence would have it, she too separated and filed for divorce about the same time as me.  Needless to say, this in itself caused a lot of speculation as to “what we were up to.”  But it was purely coincidental—our relationship was purely platonic.  During the summer of 1998, I even encouraged her to stay with her husband and try to make it work (yes, I was infected with the "Jehovah will make it better" BS). To make a long and complicated story short, we fell in love after it was crystal clear that there was no hope of reconciliation with our spouses. 

She too was raised a JW and most of her family are as well.  She too had serious questions about what she had come to believe and we have spent many an hour discussing the deep things of God and life. She is the finest human being I have ever known.  She is also extremely capable, intelligent and thinks deeply.  We have found that we are “soul mates” and “kindred spirits” in the truest sense of the word.  Neither one of us intended to ever marry again, but then decided to make a life together. The WTBTS has an unscriptural policy that says if the "innocent" (just love that word!) mate accepts the "guilty" mate back, and the "guilty" mate won't go back, but chooses the other person instead, then the "guilty" mate must be disfellowshipped.  It is because of this "technicality" that we were disfellowshipped because there was no way in hell that we were going back to alcoholic relationships!  We were married in December 1999.

As for my ex-wife, she remained a JW in good standing, the "hero."  She almost died in the hospital in October 1999 from alcoholic withdrawal, but recovered and remarried in April 2000. Many of my old friends were there (some friends!).  In the Spring of 2004, she was disfellowshipped for "drunkenness," and only because it involved some notoriety. She tried to get reinstated several times, but couldn't let go of the drinking. On January 16, 2005, she died from liver failure due to alcoholism at the age of 42. 

As for my new wife's ex-husband, he still does nothing about being a JW.  He is wrapped up in his own world of trying to make it big as a jazz musician. 

My problems with the WTS

My biggest problem with the Society is that they go beyond what is written and make rules, both spoken and unspoken.  Through this error, they endeavor to “micro-manage” and control people’s lives.  The hard truth is that if God’s word does not specifically forbid something, then it is generally allowable, although perhaps not “advantageous.”  No man, let alone any human organization, has any authority whatsoever to impose controls on others when God’s word does not support it.  A few brief examples include: the putting of names on Publisher Record cards, celebrating birthdays, telling people how to dress and groom themselves, what movies they can or cannot see, what intimate practices they can carry on in their marriages, and, of course, shunning.  I am not saying that some of these things are not reasonable, sensible and sometimes applicable.  I just believe that since the Bible is silent on these things, it is a decision that we must make for ourselves.  It is between us and God—no one else.  This is the only conclusion one can come to; otherwise, God would have specifically mentioned these things in His word.  Furthermore, no where in the Bible can one find any support for a human organization to exercise authority in these personal matters.  

By the way, after reading Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason," neither my new wife or I believe in the Bible any longer. We waver between Deism and Agnosticism.

My pain

I have come a long way in recent months.  Never did I ever conceive or believe that I would ever be out of “God’s organization,” let alone disfellowshipped.  This has hurt my family very much, and frankly, the reality that our relationships are forever changed has hurt me deeply and been difficult to bear.  I miss my family and friends very much.  My brother, who is an elder, has not spoken to me since I was disfellowshipped—and we were very close growing up.  My sister rarely talks to me.  My mom is the only one who has not written me off.  She does not suffer from the effects of alcoholism today like she did when I was growing up.  I think my whole bad experience made her think twice about her own situation. She has been very supportive.  However, she will never give up believing that I will one day ”come back to the truth and be twice the elder I was."  I was already twice the elder.  She believes that the organization has many problems.  She thinks that if I came back, I could help so many others.  The only way I can truly help others is to steer them away from this immoral and bloodguilty religion (but what religion isn't?)

Even though I have felt much pain over the loss of family and friends, I must insist on my human right of free will, and to live life as I see fit.  And this is exactly the same right that I afford every other human—but without the judgmentalism.  I choose to accept people for who they are, despite their differences. 

My new wife has a good perspective on the loss of friends and family.  She says that "if losing everyone we knew and loved is the price we have to pay to keep our own children out of the Watchtower organization, then it is worth it."  I wholeheartedly agree.

Finding "paradise"

For the first time in my life, I feel like I am standing on my own two feet, and taking control of my life.  Right or wrong, good or bad, consequences or benefits.  I refuse to be taken hostage and held captive any longer by a religion or what others think of me.  I am the one who must decide for my life—no one else.  Only me.  For I am the one who will be held accountable for my actions and mine alone.  No one else is responsible for my decisions, and I am not responsible for anyone else’s.  That is the Law of Free Will.

I am now very comfortable with who I am, and the fact that I am a spiritual man, not a religious man (I have always hated religion anyway).  I look forward to my continuing journey of self-  and life-discovery.  I believe that I now have a far more open mind about God and the Grand Scheme, and what’s more, I know that I am no less of a man because I am disfellowshipped.  And no matter how I fare in the end, at least I made my own choices and walked my own path.  A statement made by Thomas Paine has become my motto: "The world is my country and to do good, my religion."

I must say that I feel surprisingly comfortable and at peace with my decisions, and believe that I have finally found happiness and contentment.  Even with all the losses, life is so much happier now. Free Peace (at last!)  

Doug Kelley


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