Trigger Warning // Physical Assault // Violence // Suicide
Now that I was no longer visiting the Rodriguez’s house, I had more free time on my hands most days. At this stage of my life, Patricia was still working the night shift, and when she was home, she slept all day. We rarely saw one another, but when we did, we fought consistently. My feelings of annoyance and unhappiness around her only increased. I was repulsed by her. I continued to ask her when I could find my birth mother, only to get the same response, “We don’t have enough money for an attorney, but when we do, we will try to get the closed records opened.” The less I had to be in Patricia’s presence, the better.
With Patricia working the night shift, I occasionally had friends over to party when she was at work. I would kick everyone out before she was supposed to get off, and sometimes I would leave myself. I was clearly out of control, and at 15 years old, I only had a few things on my mind, finding my birth mother, living up to the expectations of being bad, and partying hard.
I would make copies of Patricia’s car keys, hide them, and when I needed to get somewhere or wanted to joy ride, I would steal her car, sometimes even stealing it from her job in the middle of the night. She would get off work at 7 AM, and her car would be gone from the hospital parking lot. I taught myself how to drive and had endless keys made so I could escape by wheels when I wanted to. I acquired several grand theft auto charges along the way and only added these charges to the wall of shame, adding to the list of reasons for my badness. I definitely won the heathen of the year award every single year.
I was also a liar and a thief, and I didn’t care who I hurt. Did these traits come from my experiences being groomed by the Rodriguez family? Or did they come from the profound reality that my life was built on a bed of lies, normalizing the very concept of lying? Were they rooted in me acting out from separation trauma, compacted by the trauma I witnessed in my adoptive homes? Was I really just an awful and bad person? Could it be a combination of them all? The good adoptee was nowhere in sight; she was dead and gone, never to return.
I was invincible and entirely out of touch with my body, mind, and soul. It’s almost as if I was hollow inside, soulless. Feeling feelings were out of the question. But, on the other hand, I was a runner and always kept it moving. 99.9% of the time, no adult in my life knew where I was or could keep up with me. I wholeheartedly believe that not having a birth story, or roots planted anywhere made me feel like I wasn’t alive, which flipped a switch on the reality that dying was no big deal. It’s impossible to feel alive, when you feel like you were never born.
No birth story can impact adoptees significantly, but the world never listens to us. There were times in my teenage years that I just wanted to die. I wanted someone to kill me, and I would instigate fights in hopes that my heartache and pain would all be gone. Rage continued to build up, and I hated the world and damn near everyone in it.
I remember walking down the street on the S.E. side of town in Cedar Rapids, and at 15 years old, I found the boy’s home, where teenage boys lived who had been removed from their own homes for various reasons. Some broke the law, and some were abandoned by their parents. They would sneak other girls in and out the windows and me occasionally. I always felt connected to them, even if it was just friends. We shared some of the same wounds, specifically the mother wound. It could have been a trauma bond, but we never talked about it. We just knew we were kindred spirits of sorts.
I would also hang out with my friend Shante’, who lived on 5th Avenue on the S.E. Side. She had a fully present and welcoming mom, two sisters, and five brothers who felt like the closest thing to a family I would ever experience. I was drawn to them, especially now I wasn’t going to the Rodriguez home. We could sit on Shante’s front porch and be smack dab in the middle of all drama and the happenings on the S.E. side of Cedar Rapids.
One particular day, I was approached by a girl named Renee, who physically attacked me because she heard Johnson gave me a ride home from the Rodriguez home back when I was being physically attacked. She obviously didn’t understand he helped me and thought it was more. We started fighting, throwing blows tumbling on the ground, and a few minutes into it, she got up and walked away while blood was everywhere.
Where was the blood coming from? I didn’t feel anything, and that’s because she had a razor blade in her hand. She sliced my face, forehead, and my neck. To say blood was gushing everywhere would be an understatement. I didn’t feel anything, but I knew I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. One of the many razor cuts was within a few centimeters from my carotid artery. Shante went with me to the hospital and stayed with me until Patricia arrived. I had over 100 stitches and lacerations everywhere and still have hidden scars to this day. The doctor said I was lucky to be alive.
Unfortunately, the South East side was the wrong side of town, but it was the side of town Metro High School was on, so I would take the city bus, get dropped off, and make an appearance at Metro so I could say I went. Typically, I never stayed for an hour, no one noticed, and I never did a damn bit of work. Instead, I walked through like some celebrity, said “Hi” to my friends, and walked out the back door. After, I would walk the streets until I found someone I knew to hang out with. It didn’t matter what time it was or what day; at 15 years old, I felt like I was born to get the party started.
Soon I would run into a guy named Giovanni Rockwell, aka Big Rocky. Giovanni was just released from Juvenile Jail because he had reached 18 years of age, legally an adult at the time, and he aged out of the system. I had no idea what he did to get locked up in the first place, but I did know we had a spark between us that I had never experienced before. We took a liking to one another and started to spend time together.
After learning more about Big Rocky, I learned his nickname came from his last name, but it was also after the Movie Rocky because, in Cedar Rapids, Big Rocky was well known for never losing a fight. Instead, he was unforgettably known for knocking anyone out who crossed him in any way. No one wanted to be on the wrong side of Big Rocky.
I was young and naïve, and when Big Rocky took an interest in me, I bit on to the attention he gave me, and before long, we were in a relationship. We would meet at his friend’s houses and sneak into our homes, frequent parks, or Lyndale Mall. The more time we spent together, I learned about the jealous streak he had, but at the time, I didn’t recognize it as jealousy. Instead, the 15-year-old me recognized it as LOVE.
The first time Giovonni appeared to be jealous was when we were at the mall, and some other guy looked at me, and Giovanni thought I was looking at him. He insisted we knew each other, and I had no clue who the guy was. It was a random glance because we happened to be in the same place—nothing more, nothing less. He took me outside, pushed me up against a brick wall, pulled my hair, and tried to force me to admit I knew the guy. I promised him I didn’t know him! He let go of my hair and threatened that if I ever looked at another guy again, I was going to get it.
I had no idea what would come of my relationship with Giovanni, but sadly I didn’t need to look at another guy to “get it.” But unfortunately, that was only the beginning of years of emotional, mental, and sexual abuse. Giovanni had anger issues, and I was among the many receivers of his anger and rage. Nevertheless, I was willing to overlook all the usual “red flags” to be loyal to him for loving me.
We spent a lot of time together, and even when we weren’t 21, which was the legal age for drinking alcohol, we could get alcohol and weed, which were always available. So we got tipsy regularly, and the more time I spent in the streets with Giovanni, the more Patricia would stir, wondering where I was. Finally, she couldn’t control me anymore and couldn’t find me even if she tried. I would only go home long enough to shower, change clothes, and leave again.
At times, I had the police or detectives searching for me for fighting or breaking the law, which added a whole new layer to being a runner. I would hide in different friends’ attics and homes until, eventually, the law caught up with me. I woke up in Juvenile Jail more times than I could count, and it never stopped me from being a menace.
Spending so much time with Giovanni, my love and loyalty to him were intense. He was mine, and I was his, and at all costs, we weren’t going to let anyone break us up, but as soon as Patricia caught on that I had a boyfriend, she did everything in her power to try. Her famous words were, “Is he black?” which seemed to be all she cared about. When I expressed that “yes, he’s black,” she would go into the bible saying we aren’t supposed to date outside our race, and if we do, we are going to hell!
This only damaged my inner being more than it was already damaged because now that I knew I was going to hell for dating someone who was a different race than me, my feelings of badness only increased. She made me feel less than, lower than the low. Then, as if my feelings of low self-esteem and self-hate couldn’t get any worse, Patricia repeatedly threw scriptures at me and damned me to hell. I guess I was going to hell then because I wasn’t leaving Giovanni alone for anything.
Sadly, being an adoptee, I have discovered more profound thoughts about this topic. How was I dating someone outside my race when I didn’t even know what my race was? Being adopted, I always had this deep-rooted fear that I would date a biological brother or a cousin, which is something non-adoptees can’t comprehend. This taught me to tap into something that I couldn’t ignore.
I had to mentally look at everyone who looked a little like me as a biological family member because I didn’t know they weren’t! However, to bypass this, I learned that dating someone who looked NOTHING like I did was a safe zone to be in. Dealing with a lifetime beginning with secrecy and lies is much deeper than anyone thinks. It impacts every area of our lives and the choices we make all the way back to the beginning!
The flip side is that Patricia repeatedly pointed the finger at me and told me I was going to hell for dating outside my race, but she forgot she signed on the dotted line that cosigned me, never knowing my ethnicity or race! Talk about a mental mind fuck. It was apparent I was on the opposite side of the tracks from this God character, and no matter what I did, I was not going to be good enough! Ever! This wasn’t the least helpful to me; actually highly damaging. So I might as well pull up my bad bitch shoes even higher, and I decided to wear them proudly and didn’t care who I pissed off or hurt. Sadly, I didn’t even care about myself.
One afternoon in 1989, I decided to go home to take a shower and change clothes. However, Patricia insisted I go to turn myself into Drug and Alcohol Rehab at Mercy Hospital. So, at 15 years old, I went but resisted the entire way. I didn’t need drug or alcohol rehab or help, nor did I want the help, but just like Melanie being removed by the tough love people, now it was my turn. Patricia never once took accountability that her actions could have impacted Melanie and me in a traumatic way, nor did she ever acknowledge her part or the adoption component to my behavior.
I spent 30 days of strict routine by waking up at 5 AM daily, walking across the street to the track at McKinley School to start some laps to get the morning going. Then, for the rest of my time in rehab, I was in a locked facility and couldn’t get out if I wanted to. However, there was a warmness about the structure in rehab. A hot meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, no Patricia or her emotional outbursts, and no Mark to torment me and molest me. I made friends and embraced the 30 days. It was much more peaceful than being around Patricia or her outbursts or being sexually abused by Mark.
Not long after I arrived, I remember them handing me the Alcoholics Anonymous big book, and to get out in 30 days, I had to start reading and applying the 12 Steps to my life. In a nutshell, I had to find God.
“Oh, you mean I had to find the same God who was already sending me to hell for various reasons?” I said to myself. Ah, gotcha. Not one person or trained professional asked about my childhood, adoption, or how it felt to be adopted. No one talked about the childhood trauma of growing up in abusive homes. No one wanted to hear about the childhood sexual abuse I had repressed from Mark. Or the suicide attempts from Patricia. No one asked what it feels like to be lost, searching for clues to your beginnings. No one cared why I used drugs and alcohol; they just wanted me to stop using them, and, like this God character, they shamed me for using them.
The responsibility to “find God” was placed on me, along with forgiving all the people who had hurt me. This told me that my heartache and pain were irrelevant, and it didn’t matter. It told me I didn’t matter. It told me my traumatic experiences weren’t real, and my feelings about being adopted were insignificant.
No options, no choices, Just find God.
My experience with God goes much deeper and more profound than “Just having a bad church experience.” God was responsible for shame, punishment, belittlement, and religious trauma, which began in my childhood before I ever stepped foot inside the doors of a church. And my adoption experience goes much deeper than, “She just had a bad adoption experience.”
Where was God when I was being sexually abused by Mark? Where was God when I was watching Patricia lay in the street to try to kill herself and lock herself in her room trying to kill herself? Where was God when my birth mother decided to hand me over to strangers? Where was God when he knew the agony I felt searching for my birth mother every day of my life? Where was God when I was being physically and sexually abused by Diego and Giovanni?
He must have been sitting back watching the whole thing, which let me know God wasn’t looking out for me, but now I had to put everything I had into him to get out of this shit hole? Fake it till you make it was my new motto, especially if my freedom was involved. Finally, I found God all right, long enough to get out of drug and alcohol rehab to freedom.
I pretended I found God, graduated from the program, was released, and was drinking alcohol and using drugs again within the hour. I reached out to Giovanni, and we got together and made up for lost time from being separated for 30 days. Giovanni showed me love that I didn’t feel anywhere else; sometimes, it was because he showed up consistently. The other part was that he told me he loved me and spent time with me.
When I was growing up, loyalty was everything. I remember thinking, “If my birth mother LOVED ME SO MUCH she handed me to strangers, and leaving was considered LOVE, then Giovanni must love me because he stayed.” This thinking also sparked me to prove my love to him because if love was leaving, I wanted to show Giovanni I loved him by staying.
It didn’t matter how abusive he became; he kept showing up. That was more than I got from my birth mother, who abandoned me and never showed up. Trying to make sense of my biological mother giving me away to strangers because she loved me will forever taint my view of love. This was twisted love at its finest and completely wrecked my ability to view what real true love is. It’s taken a lifetime to unravel the roots of my adoptee experience. Even today, at 47 years old, I’ve accepted love as a topic that isn’t for me.
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