Disfellowshipping (and disassociation) have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was six or seven, my dad, after opposing my mother's becoming a witness for several years, had a whirlwind flirtation with the organization and got baptized (as my mom put it, he was so disappointed that nothing special happened when he got baptized that he left the assembly at the lunch break). Within six months he was out, disassociated for voting I believe (though at that point it was a technicality; there were plenty of other things he could've gotten nailed for), and my parents' marriage also collapsed at the same time, for many other reasons as well.
So then came the fun and exciting ritual of visitation with a disassociated dad. I was oh-so-very conscientious to never say amen when he would say a prayer over dinner, because I knew how spiritually dangerous that was. My earliest memories of "dealing" with my father when he started talking to us about 'postate stuff was to tune him out. (Hehe, great preparation for teenagerhood ;) ) I used to get so exasperated with him for harping on us about not showing proper "Christian love" and (his favorite) not "honoring our father", because he just didn't understand. How clearly I saw that he was twisting scriptures! How equally obvious was it that his own lifestyle, a constant jumble of losing jobs and bad roommates and homelessness and creepy drugged-up "friends", was not what I wanted! I was a very perceptive eight year old, and drew the connection between being disassociated and having a messed up life all on my own. (Mostly.)
Fast forward a few years. My dad had at this point left the area and I hadn't seen him regularly in several years. This was also the zenith of my witness days, when I knew it was the truth beyond a shadow of a scrap of a shred of a doubt. A few weeks after my brother and I got baptized, I at a very mature thirteen (hah!), my dad called us up to say that he was back in the city we grew up in (we had moved away). Somehow it comes out that we had gotten baptized, and he got furious at us for not telling us about it. Two hours later (the minimum time it takes to drive up to where we lived), he was there at our house, yelling at us.
Now, of course, I understand exactly why he was so upset; but then it was just the perfect way to reinforce how much apostates like to trouble good lil' witnesses. We didn't see him again for a while - much, I am ashamed to admit now, to my relief.
Fast forward another year or two. We've moved again, and I'm now in high school, as well as in a congregation where I have absolutely nothing in common with anyone. I still see my old friends, but only once or twice a year, since they are a good six hours drive away. My dad then decides (to my mother's chagrin) to move down to San Diego, where we were, and for the Ūrst time in many years begins to hold down a regular job. He wanted to start up seeing us on a regular basis again, and we started going out to dinner, he and my brother and I, maybe once or twice a month.
At this point, he'd been away from the witnesses so long that he just didn't bring up "objectionable" subjects all that often, and my brother and I were masters at steering the topic away from ones where he would start ranting. (Heck, he rants enough on subjects completely unrelated to religion. ;) ) My mother was unhappy about having his "bad influence" around again, but I was old enough that I knew what I believed (at least I thought so). I also thought I knew where to draw the line between familial ties and showing respect and not associating too much with an ex-witness (or non-witness, for that matter). Eating the occasional dinner with my dad was not going to change anything.
Until the elders told me to stop it.
The stories I've read online about other people's experiences with bad elders leave me shaking my head in amazement, because I must've been in pretty decent congregations (or else too oblivious to notice); but I had this one run in. One of my favorite elders and someone else came by on a shepherding call when I was 16, in my junior year of high school. They told us that, since my brother was no longer a child (he was 19), he was not under "legal obligation" to see my dad any more (ie, visitation arrangements) and thus he should "seriously weigh" how much time he spent with him. I, of course, would face the same "decision" when I turned 18.
To give some idea of how "serious" this was, they informed me that if I didn't cut off seeing my dad, I wouldn't be approved to auxiliary pioneer again, as I had just Ūnished doing that spring break. In other words, I would be marked as "spiritually weak".
Now, I had never done anything wrong at this point. I was the model witness kid - did very well in school, was always out in service, liked being out in service, pioneered a lot, never got in trouble, etc. But I was very, very offended by their "loving counsel". Especially since they had NO IDEA what growing up with disfellowshipped parents was like, both being from model witness families. But they had come up with an arbitrary rule that non-custodial ex-witness parents get the shaft the instant you turn 18 (and before that if you're "reaching out"). I was supposed to meekly obey.
It was, as they say, the beginning of the end.
My brother and I did not stop seeing my dad. My brother never was approved as a ministerial servant, and has now been inactive for at least a year. I refused to pioneer that summer in protest of their unfair decree - made excuses to my mom about being "tired from the school year" and carefully scheduled my trips up north to see my friends so that I wouldn't have any given month with enough free time to pioneer.
And, when I got online that June, and naively starting doing research about the tax on the witnesses in France (such noble intentions!) and opened the floodgates of 'postate sites, I was much less inclined to skip over them. I wasn't disenchanted enough to stick around long (the old H20 scared the heck out of me when I stumbled across it), but I gained a vague knowledge of organ transplants and 1975and the AJWRB. And they remained in my memory throughout the next year, when other things began to bother me; when I was pretty much forced into pioneering again (they didn't remember their threat, evidently ... but I did) that spring by the PO's wife, trying to drum up support for some campaign or other; when I was faced all at once with the prospect of getting free by going away to college and the realization one meeting that I wanted nothing in the world more than to be OUT of that Kingdom Hall and never have to come back.
What Ūnally made me decide to leave, for good, was when I realized how much I hated the idea of belonging to a religion that makes you choose between your friends and family and your peace of mind and self-respect. I hated disfellowshipping and disassociation, with a passion born of long experience on the one side and the realization of what was going to happen to me on the other. So I disassociated myself.
My mother blames my dad. She has no idea.