It wasn’t until my teenage years that I realized I prefer to be alone. I had a somewhat normal childhood, as normal as someone could be as a Jehovah’s Witness. Witness children were encouraged not to mix with “worldly” people, to develop friends only within the church. But I had lots of friends, both at school and in the trailer park where we wandered the streets until dark, when parents would call for their children to eat dinner.
At 13, I was a completely different person. I preferred to lay on the bed in my room and read Stephen King novels (something else that was frowned on by the Witnesses), until sleep would overtake me and I would dream of pet cemeteries and Salem’s Lot. Sometime during puberty, I became a quiet and moody child. But, I was never rebellious like my brother, who argued with mom until he got the wooden spoon across the forehead more times than not.
At 13 I was often depressed, and anxiety caused me to develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome that would keep me on the toilet most of the time. Mom took me to the doctor, which didn’t happen very often because we were very poor. The doctor put me on a medication for my anxiety, but my parents promptly took me off my pills one day because I would often walk around in a daze appearing as if I were stoned. I was never to look as anything but a good Witness child. I would go to our meetings 3 times a week and go out and preach from door-to-door on weekends when I had no school. The image you projected was important, and a medicated child was not part of that image.
I quit school at 15 and went to work in my dad’s bakery. At 16, I got my first “real” job at Burger King and worked 40 hours minimum each week, but still keeping up the facade of a Witness. When I wasn’t playing Witness, I was very much a loner, always with my face in a book, dreaming of the day when I would be a writer. I would fill notebooks up with my “novels”, mostly scribbles of short stories of adventures I played in my head, much like “The Hobbit”, my favorite book at that time.
At 17 I moved out of the house of my parents and moved in with my brother. On my own, I made the decision to stop attending meetings with the witnesses, and wore the clothes of a worldly person from then on. From there I embraced the life of a loner with my whole being, becoming somewhat of what kids today would call an “Emo”, before it was in fashion.
Being a loner meant I never developed lifetime friendships. I would move around the country, burning bridges as I went. Being a loner meant I never put much effort in to my first marriage, and after 18 years, my wife left me for a more devoted man.
These days I am trying to break out of the mold of the aimless loner, embracing the love of my wife and infant child. Recovery to me means sharing with them every aspect of my life, not hoarding all of my time sleeping or reading books alone in my room like I did for most of my adult life.
I am walking a new path, a path of redemption, where even a quiet and moody man can learn to love someone else as much as he loves himself.