by Gary Busselman

When I walked away from the Watchtower in 1974-75, I walked away as a personal failure. I had just seen the prophesy of 1975 being set up to be swept under the rug. I had just witnessed the total denial of the 1975 teaching by a Watchtower district servant at the spring Sioux Falls circuit assembly. I had just been "counseled" by an elder about the "theocratic look" . . . I wasn't wearing a complete costume to the group meetings . . . I had left my neck tie at home in the closet. I had just been belly pushed away from a perfectly okay candy vending machine with a hand lettered, scotch taped, "Out Of Order" sign on it at a Watchtower district assembly in Bismarck ND, by two adolescent Watchtower convention cops (attendants) while my three year old son stood by watching with a roll of Rainbow Life-Savers in his hand and a tear in his eye. I walked away from the Watchtower thinking I was the failure because I could no longer accept the way I was treated, nor could I accept the gossip, slander, child beating, and lies. The Watchtower fear indoctrination worked very well on me at home, in school, and at the group meetings. I was full. I was full of fear and guilt I couldn't hold anymore.

When I left the group activities, I walked away with my head down. I was very afraid, lonely, and angry at myself for not being able to simply follow directions, not think, and complete a few short years in "Jehovah's organization" before Armageddon. I was sure I had been abandoned by God. I knew I was not good enough to be part of "His organization" and I was doomed to die at Armageddon, which I believed was coming shortly.

When I left the Watchtower, I was working with my dad to make money to feed my family. My second son had just been born. Delores had refused the organ transplant and blood treatment like the Watchtower asked and had been in her grave almost 4 years. I had just turned thirty years old.

I worked extra hours on the job to try to complete the promised work the Witnesses did not do when they left a job undone to attend a group meeting or to go out door to door, recruiting new group members and raising funds for the group leaders.

To live with the tremendous inner conflict that resulted when I quit group activities I tried to close the door on my JW experience. Putting the Watchtower experience way down in my gut and not looking at it was my plan. However, the Watchtower did not rest easy in my gut. I had been indoctrinated with the Watchtower doctrines as my core beliefs, and I ran my life on a series of lies that I had accepted as true, because they had been presented to me for acceptance by my parents, my church leaders, and reinforced by my Watchtower friends and school teachers. Everyone in my life was either involved in indoctrinating me with Watchtower doctrine or reinforcing what I had already been taught by the Watchtower group members.

I tried to run my life with the core beliefs from the Watchtower and It was not working at all. I was liking people I was supposed to hate. I was angry at people who supposedly were God's appointed leaders, "Princes on Earth." My family  was in turmoil. My relationships with my parents and family members were strained and conditional. The Jehovah's Witnesses relative's relationship with me was conditional, based on how well I was conforming to the Watchtower leaders model, and I was not at all conforming. I was treated like an outcast in the extended family, at work, and eventually in my own home. I was not aware of Ray Franz leaving Bethel and the subsequent attempt to isolate and silence him, nor was I aware of the September 15, 1981 Watchtower that required shunning of those who left the group voluntarily.

I took the rejection of me by my parents and relatives personally.  There was only one book written by a former Witness when I left in 1974 - 75, and I did not know how to get it. There were no groups made up of former Jehovah's Witnesses that I was aware of, and no former Witnesses that I knew of to talk to around here. I very well would not have talked to them anyway because I was still a Witness mentally. In my mind the Watchtower organization was not at fault, but I was. Plus, I and anybody else who could not live up to the requirements to the organization (i.e. God's requirements) was faulty and doomed to eternal destruction by God.

It was not until 1991 that I was introduced to the concept that my history with the Jehovah's Witnesses had anything to do with my living problems. In 1992 and 1993 I stumbled upon and read the book by Ray Franz, Crisis of Conscience. That led me to other books and eventually to meeting many of the writers of the books.

Early in 1995  did an in-depth search into the methods and messages used on me by the Watchtower. What I found shocked me, and motivated me to try to be available as a resource to other victims of the Watchtower.

Today, based on my experience, the Watchtower is nothing that I can turn my back on, nor do I wish to. I tried to do that and it did not work for me. I did much harm as a Jehovah's Witness, and later as a believing walkaway.   I get a phone call or letter every day from a Watchtower victim. Many Watchtower victims are searching for answers and a friendly listener to their story who understands. The Watchtower disfellowships, according to their published records, something like fifty thousand a year (one percent). We are aware of at least that many if not more, who walk-away. All are hurt, lonely, afraid, and shunned by all their Witness "friends" and family.

When Witnesses start to question the Watchtower organization, I have found, they usually do this from a distance and as anonymously as possible. I am currently in communication with a number of Jehovah's Witnesses who are seeking answers and are reaching out "long distance".

Reaction, The Test

by Gary Busselman

Some days the only exercise I get is jumping to conclusions and running from myself.

I have a free weight set, a treadmill, and a stationary bike at home for exercise inside during the winter months, as well as membership in a fitness club with countless exercise machines and free weights available for exercise. To me, exercise is simply training my body to respond a certain way when it encounters a predictable situation, e.g. bending, lifting, and stretching. When I am physically in good shape, not much bothers me in a physical way. I can sure tell in a hurry if I am not in good physical condition though, because certain exercises will cause me pain. If I am in poor condition, about everything bothers me.

If I am recovering from an injury, like I currently am with my right elbow, I am very sensitive to touch on the affected area, and trying to exercise it causes me to recoil and protect the damaged, unhealed area. However, experience has shown me that if I do not start to use the right arm and endure a little pain at first, it will just get weaker and weaker, and more sensitive to weight and natural use. I have lifted weights with that arm when just moving it made me break a sweat. I have gone out with my sons and my wife and thrown a ball back and forth when it caused me pain to do so, because I knew from experience that by doing that and other exercises, my arm would improve, and eventually lifting and waving would not hurt at all.

A good test for my physical condition is doing all the exercises in my routine. If my legs are in good condition they do not hurt after stair climbing or walking up hill. If my back is in good shape it does not hurt to bend and lift reasonable weights. If my arms are well and strong they will be okay with training and testing. However, if I have a weakness, the workout will expose that weakness, and then I have a decision to make. Do I protect the weakness, allowing it to go untreated and continue to be a weakness? Do I stay home from the gym because my arm is weak and sore? Or, do I start to exercise it? Do I start to limber it up and make it stronger to eliminate the pain? Do I get strong and well?

A good test for my mental condition is interacting with other people. Similar to weights and muscles, relative to health or pain, is my perception and reaction to what you say or do. A healthy attitude for me is this: "Everything you say and do is about you. . . . not me." A real test of my mental health and my resolution of my issues, is how I "act" or "react" to what you say and do. Every time I take something personal that you say or do, I identify another unresolved issue in me. I have problems and unresolved issues that are difficult to identify. If I become emotionally upset by something you did or said, I have just identified another area for me to strengthen. I have exposed a weakness, or flaw. I have been given an opportunity to improve my health. Every time I run from you when I take something you say or do personally, I am leaving the gym rather that working on the real problem. . . . me.

I have nothing to fear from you. The only thing I have to fear is me and my secrets, as well as the unresolved issues I am protecting. Many of us grew up in unhealthy families and belonged to unhealthy groups where the "Don't Talk" rule was used and respected by all members in good standing. That was a wonderful rule to protect your vulnerabilities and secrets and to keep me away from them. That is a wonderful rule to protect my vulnerabilities and secrets and to keep me in bondage to them.

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