Why I Started an exJW Podcast

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Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 000

HELLO, AND A VERY GOOD EARLY MORNING! It’s 2am here and I am your host Daniel Torridon. This is OnionUnlimited and you are listening to episode zero where I get to tell you a bit about myself and the aims of this new podcast.

So why did I start this podcast? Well, it’s simple really. I have a story to tell, and I think it will benefit others. It’s a story of religion and abuse. Sadly, for so many people, those two things seem to go hand in hand. It’s a story of loss, tremendous loss, and trauma that led me to a place in my life where, at the age of 50, I found myself starting over. As of now, my family has disowned me due to religious sanctions imposed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. My wife of 27 years has divorced me. We should have never married, but that’s a story for another time. My former friends—all Jehovah’s Witnesses—have turned their backs on me, and it all comes down to having been raised in a cult which is, I feel, what Jehovah’s Witnesses is. Some will say it’s not—Jehovah’s Witnesses will definitely say it’s not—but I think it is, and for good reasons which I shall give in future episodes.

I was born in 1969, not long after the moon landings. My parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses, as indeed were their own parents, and they raised me as a Jehovah’s Witness. I was out knocking doors and offering people copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazine from 4 years old. I got baptised at 16, and then over the next 33 years—between 1986 and 2019—I served in a number of roles within the religion. I was a regular pioneer, which is a full-time—but unpaid—door-to-door preacher spending from 60 to 90 hours a month trying to convert members of the public. In my twenties, I became a ministerial servant. That’s like a helper to the congregation elders or overseers. Eventually, when I was 30 I became an elder myself.

Most of my problems within the religion began in 2004 after reading the Bible with an open mind instead of just accepting what Jehovah’s Witnesses had taught me to believe. After doing so, I identified as one of the “anointed”. That’s like a born-again Christian, which as any Jehovah’s Witness will tell you, is quite unusual. Normally, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they’ll survive into a post-Armageddon world—Jehovah’s Witnesses only—which they will then transform into an earthly paradise. I, on the other hand, felt that my destiny was in heaven with Jesus, which is what pretty much all Christians believe. These views, although normal among Christianity in general, got me in a lot of trouble with Jehovah’s Witnesses as I’ll explain in another podcast.

So anyway, during my time as a Jehovah’s Witness, I experienced a lot of mental health issues. I had acute symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and even bipolar disorder due to what my doctor has since termed “situational stressors”. This was caused by abuse—sexual, mental, and spiritual—within my personal life and also within the religion, which gradually, over time, I began to think of as a destructive cult, not just a benign religion—and definitely not the only true religion on earth.

In spite of my deteriorating mental health, I was disfellowshipped, or excommunicated, twice by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first time was in 2006. I was disfellowshipped for 3 years on a charge of “apostasy”. Basically, I had questioned some of the crazier doctrines being taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they didn’t like it. So to silence me, they kicked me out. That in itself caused me a lot of trauma, in part due to the 14-hour interrogation I was subjected to—what Jehovah’s Witnesses call a “judicial hearing”—brutal! My mental health was never really the same after that, and it was already fragile!

I was reinstated as a Jehovah’s Witness in 2009, for the sake of my family—I didn’t want to lose my kids as they got older—but I was disfellowshipped again in 2019, this time for having an affair—not my proudest moment, but my marriage was falling apart—my mental health was shot to pieces. As a result, I’m now completely shunned by my family and all of my former Witness friends. Literally, none of them will talk to me, let alone offer any support or encouragement. Even my own dad shuns me because of the mandate from the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses who say that disfellowshipped persons should be completely avoided, regardless of the circumstances. His last words to me were “I am choosing my faith over your apostasy”. So, as a disfellowshipped person, I’m basically viewed as dead—the walking dead—with absolutely no hope of a future in heaven or on earth. I’m viewed as “mentally diseased”—a term they use for apostates—immoral, and wicked.

Since exiting Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2009 [Edit: 2019], and then being divorced by my Witness wife this year, I’ve been navigating the very difficult and painful process of healing and attempting to rebuild a new life, which anyone who has ever escaped a bad marriage, let alone a cult or high-control group, will tell you is a monumental task. As a cult member, you are effectively brainwashed into being totally dependant on the cult for everything. Suddenly finding yourself in the big wide world with no social network is scary! I liken it to a child being dropped into a massive city, with no coping skills whatsoever. Fortunately, I’ve had the help of an excellent abuse counsellor who really did grasp the situation and helped me move forward somewhat.

I still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, and periods of major depression and in the last two years, I’ve attempted suicide on several occasions due to the barbaric shunning policy that has robbed me of my family—even my kids. However, I’m still here, and I have a story to tell. Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t want me to tell it because it doesn’t portray them in a particularly favourable light, but hey!—I’m just being honest, and I think what I have to say needs saying. So, this podcast will be a place for me to share my life experiences with you, and hopefully, if you are facing similar challenges you will find some benefit. If that’s you, be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed at rss.com/podcasts/onionunlimited. You can also listen to me on iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. Or head over to the Podcasts page on my website at onionunlimited.com/podcast for the latest episodes.

Although I’m no longer a member of any religious denomination—and I doubt I ever could be now, to be honest—I continue to explore my insatiable thirst for spirituality through prayer, more so through meditation, and also through the creative arts—I’m into photography, writing poetry, and song-writing which I find therapeutic and surprisingly spiritual. My aim is to seek truth, peace, and purpose apart from religion, which I feel is generally destructive, especially religions—or should I say “cults”—like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Scientology and so forth.

So, until next time, stay safe, and remember: We are all One, so be nice to each other.