Adoptees in Recovery Powered by Adoptees Connect

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By Pamela Karanova

As the founder of Adoptees Connect, Inc. I’ve been significantly transparent about being an Adoptee in Recovery and I’ve spent years of my life documenting this journey at www.adopteeinrecovery.com

As I began to come out of the fog, I decided writing was a therapeutic healing tool for me, as no one could silence me or tell me how I should feel. Using a pseudo name was comforting to me at that time because in the beginning, I didn’t have enough strength or courage to write under the real true me, Pamela Karanova. It takes time for adoptees to come to a place of empowerment to be able to share their stories.

It takes even more time to share those stories with the world publicly.

As I navigated my journey and moved forward with my healing, I have many years of articles that document my personal journey. I look back and can hardly believe how much has changed, and how different my life is now. For so many years I was STUCK. My first article posted was an open letter to my birth mother. Sharing my journey is a way to help myself heal, but also help other adoptees know they aren’t alone.

As this was long ago but being an Adoptee in Recovery is still a very significant piece of my life today. Without it, there is no Pamela Karanova. One of the core reasons Adoptees Connect, Inc. was founded was for all adult adoptees, but it was also for adoptees like me, Adoptees in Recovery. It was my service work; it was my give back to my community and to my fellow adoptees. It was part of my step work.  I didn’t shout it from the rooftops, but my monthly small group Adoptees Connect – Lexington, KY meeting was and is my recovery meeting.

After a few years of writing under the pseudo name, “Adoptee in Recovery” I finally came to a place of empowerment and I was able to share the real true me and Pamela Karanova was born. For me, my adoption journey has run parallel to my recovery journey. For most of my life, I couldn’t make the connections as alcohol and being in the fog was blocking me from processing my adoptee pain which lasted 27 years of my life.  August 13, 2012 is my sobriety date, everything changed, and the walls came crumbling down. My adoptee reality was sitting on my front doorstep and it wasn’t going anywhere until I decided to unpack it piece by piece and put in the work to become a happier, healthier version of me.

My kids deserved it, and so did I.

The last 7 years haven’t been easy, as I say recovery isn’t for sissies, nor is being adopted! This combination of my experiences gives me a unique view of what adoptees need, and my recovery journey allowed me to understand I still have work to do. I always say, “I’m in recovery from LIFE, for the rest of my life!”

I’ve noticed so much stigma attached to the word “Recovery” as many times people already have their mind made up if they learn you are someone in recovery. I keep talking about my recovery and I never will stop because I aim to create conversations, even when they are difficult and awkward as a way to  normalized conversations when it comes to being in recovery. I also create conversations that are specifically tied to being an Adoptee in Recovery. We need to talk about these things because Adoptees are dying if we don’t.  These topics are important, and they very much run parallel to one another. I know there are a lot of hurting adoptees out there, and a lot of adoptees that could use a lifeline of hope.

For those that aren’t aware, adoptees are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than non-adoptees, and adoptees are overrepresented in prisons, jails, mental health facilities and treatment facilities. We can’t afford to remain silent and do nothing!

Adoption is rooted and grounded in loss which is compacted with root issues regarding the primal wound, separation trauma, abandonment, rejection, grief, fear, complex PTSD, attachment disorders, identity issues, and many times our adoptions are surrounded in secrecy and lies. And we wonder why so many adult adoptees are overrepresented in these spaces? As a society we must step out of denial and create change for the adult adoptee population.  I was once one of those broken and hurting adoptees and to this day, I still deal with struggles regarding being adopted. The sooner I stepped out of denial and started to work on these things, the sooner I started to heal.

In order to heal it, we must feel it.

I’ve had years of experience with AA and Celebrate Recovery, and they are huge pieces of my journey. As Adoptees Connect was founded, things changed. As I’m currently 7 years into my sobriety journey I realized something was missing and that’s my community of others who are in recovery. I had my adoptee community, which has been my saving grace but in recovery at times we must be specific of who we spend time with, where we allow ourselves to be present. Being surrounded by others in recovery is invaluable to the recovery experience! I knew there had to be other adoptees like me, in recovery out there. I decided to take some advice of my good friend, Maria and I attended my first Voices of Hope – Lexington, KY recovery meeting. I’m so thankful I did! Thank you Maria!

Knowing these alarming statistics and knowing what it’s like to be an Adoptee in 69590297_10214366441259609_2222345056818298880_nRecovery we’re exceptionally excited to announce our first “Adoptees in Recovery” group that will be launching here in Lexington, KY on Wednesday, October 2, 2019. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it is to be able to have an opportunity to not just create a safe space for our monthly small group meetings for all adoptees, but also add an additional resource by creating a space for Adoptees in Recovery.

My hope is that one by one, Adoptees in Recovery will find us and come so we can allow them a safe space to share their hearts and hurts and in return we can offer some hope. As we hold the torch by creating the first space for Adoptees in Recovery powered by Adoptees Connect, we believe our vision for this resource will reach many in our community and beyond.

Our Adoptees in Recovery meeting will be hosted at an amazing local nonprofit here in Lexington, KY called Voices of Hope – Lexington, Inc. Voices of Hope promotes life-long recovery from the chronic disease of addiction through recovery support services, advocacy, research and education. They have been kind enough to open their doors to our cause and we will be forever grateful. Visit our Facebook page to learn of all our events.

Our facilitators for this group will be Harris Coltrain, Maria Gatz and Pamela Karanova as we are all adult adoptees in recovery residing in Kentucky. As we move forward planting a new resource for the adult adoptee community, please help us celebrate!

Adoptees in Recovery – We’re Planting Seeds of Hope!

Thanks for reading and for your support!

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Still Grieving Adoptee Losses, What My Adoptive Parents Could Have Done Differently

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I was born in Iowa in August of 1974. At that moment when I found out I was adopted back in 1979, I wish my adoptive mom would have sat down with me and opened the conversations about what adoption REALLY meant. I was around 5 years old.

Instead, I got something like this.

Me: Mommy, I grew in your tummy like the baby in the lady’s belly on television?

Adoptive Mom: No, you grew in another lady’s belly. She loved you so much, she gave you to me to raise because she wanted you to have a better life. It was a dream come true for me to become a mommy. I couldn’t have children of my own. I will always love her for that because she’s given me the greatest gift of my life.

Me: Who is she?

Adoptive Mom: I don’t know who she is. You were adopted. If you want to know who she is, we will have to wait until we get enough money for an attorney to get the sealed records opened. Right now, we don’t have enough money. I just know she loved you so much and wanted you to have a better life.

Me: Where is she?

Adoptive Mom: I don’t know where she is.

Me 1980: Who is She?

Me 1981: Where is She?

Me 1982: Who Is She?

Me 1983: Where is She?

Me 1984: Who is She?

Me 1985-1994: Every Single Year – Who is she? Where is She?

Every Single Year

Adoptive Mom: I don’t know who she is or where she is. You were adopted. If you want to know who she is, we will have to wait until we get enough money for an attorney to get the sealed records opened. Right now, we don’t have enough money.

At 21 Years Old in 1995 I said to my adoptive mom, “WHO IS MY BIRTH MOTHER? WHERE IS SHE?’ It was like a broken record. 

Adoptive Mom: Well, there’s something I want to tell you. When your dad and I signed the paperwork for you to be adopted, the doctors accidentally gave us the wrong paperwork. We saw your birth mothers name, and the street she lived on. If you call your dad, he might remember the information.

I remember this exact moment, because I immediately became enraged and the anger that took over, is something that’s hard for me to process. I’m just telling you THE TRUTH because once I found out she lied to me my entire life, I have never looked at her like a mother again. EVER! Yes, for the record I have forgiven her, but we had an estranged relationship until she died and I don’t regret it for a minute. I can’t have people in my life who lie to me, for any reason at all. Hopefully this will help adoptive parents understand, lying and deception under any circumstances is never okay.

What kind of mother lies to their child repeatedly? I have had to unpack this, and there are many layers and dynamics to it but this layer (along with all the layers of adoption) of the onion has impacted me greatly my entire life.

I was adopted in 1974 and things were different then. I’m certain my adoptive parents were told to not talk about it, to sweep it under the rug and act as if me being adopted didn’t exist. So many adoptive parents weren’t given the correct tools to use so they knew how to navigate these complex dynamics of the adoptee experience.

Looking back, how I wish things were handled? 

Today I believe in my heart of hearts, my adoptive parents didn’t have a CLUE of what they were doing. I don’t think adoption agencies or adoption attorneys are preparing adoptive parents for the TRUTH, and how to navigate it as making money trumps everything in that arena.

I think the deception regarding lying to me my whole life is a way my adoptive mom was able to stall me from finding my truth. But let me just tell you, there were consequences for that. I never trusted her again, and I’ve always felt like she adopted me for her needs, not mine. This has impacted every area of my life, still to this day!  I was a pawn to fulfill her void because she couldn’t have children of her own. I would like to encourage anyone dealing with infertility issues, please seek help on your own. Don’t make your adopted child fill your void. 

I wish more conversations were opened at that moment I found out I was adopted in 1979 and moving forward.

I wish our conversation would have went like this. 

Me: Mommy, Did I come out of your belly like the lady on the television?

Adoptive Mom: No honey, you came out of another lady’s belly. She was unable to take care of you, so she decided to have someone else parent you and that someone else was your dad and me. No, she loved you and gave you away. No, you were my biggest gift because I couldn’t parent or have kids of my own!

Me: Who is she? Where is she?

Adoptive Mom: Because you were adopted, when you are old enough, we will do everything in our power to help you try to find her. Helping your adopted child search and find their biological parents means everything! Support us!

Me: I want to find her now.

Adoptive Mom: We can’t find her until you are 18, but it’s okay to be sad you lost her. It’s okay to love her and want to find her. You lost the most important woman of your life, and it’s okay to feel sad for losing her. Would you like to talk about it? How are you feeling about this? Open these conversations and never stop!

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

No one has ever asked me how it feels to be adopted!

Me: Weeping, my grieving starts at 5 years old because I have every reason to be sad for losing the woman who carried me in her belly for 9 months and who brought me into the world. Regardless of whose dreams she made come true to be parents. Regardless of how much LOVE she thought I was going to have in this “BETTER LIFE” I was promised. Regardless of how happy my adoptive parents were to be parents, and their dreams coming true, I still deserved the right to grieve my losses as soon as I discovered them.

The catch is, I was 5 years old. I didn’t know how to do this. I needed my adoptive parents to step in and open the dialog and put ME AND MY LOSSES FIRST. I needed them to set their dream come true to be parents on the shelf and BE REAL WITH ME!

Yes, this is possible at 5 years old. At age appropriate times it is possible to share the TRUTH with adopted children. If you can’t do this, you have no business being an adoptive parent. Period!

I would give anything if someone in my life would have sat me down and said “It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be mad. it’s okay to feel hurt, and broken, and lost. If I was you, I would feel that way too after losing so much!

But that never happened so at 45 years old, I have been going through the grieving process for 7 years now, all alone.

What did I lose?

My Birth Mother.

My Birth Father.

Connection.

My maternal and paternal grandparents.

My siblings on both sides.

Memories from all the above.

My ancestry.

Genetic Mirroring

My identity

My medical history.

Maternal Bonding

My peace of mind, taken by always searching for clues to my family.

My childhood, taken because I was searching my entire life.

I lost how to regulate emotions, because these are the biggest emotions I’ve ever had, and I had to keep them secret so my adoptive parents wouldn’t get hurt. This was a HUGE internal war within me. It almost killed me. Not to mention, as a child I can’t articulate how I’m feeling, and I don’t have the words to describe it.

I needed help, and I didn’t get it although I’ve been in therapy my entire life since I was 5 years old, and the THERAPIST COULDN’T EVEN HELP ME! Adoption was never talked about, and it was the ROOT issue!

Abuse of substances for 27 years took away my pain, but only temporarily. A lot happened in 27 years.

Today, I’m doing for myself what my adoptive parents and Adoption Culture didn’t do for me. I’m allowing myself the space to grieve my adoptee losses, whatever that looks like for me. Usually I run off in nature, and I cry there because Mother Nature doesn’t have an ulterior motive behind her role in my life. She want’s nothing from me. I write here on my website. I share my feelings in my Adoptees Connect group. I have ways to process, but I’ve had to figure this out alone, after a lifetime of pain.

So, I seek Mother Nature the most, as no one in this world seems to understand that adoptee grief is something I will process for the rest of my life. It never goes away. Just like grief from someone loses their mom in childbirth, or someone losing both their parents in a car wreck.

The difference is, those people are given the gift and privilege of being able to grieve their losses as soon as they happen and usually throughout the duration of their lives, it’s normal to coach them through the grief process.

Not for adoptees.

We are stripped of that privledge but that doesn’ t mean we aren’t grieving on the inside. 

We must grieve in silence, and for many of us, it kills us. I’ve attempted suicide multiple times as a adopted teen, and have contemplated suicide many times as an adult due to my adoption trauma. Mix grief, loss, abandonment, rejection, C-PTSD and the internal confliction I experience daily, it’s a miracle I’m alive and I feel the same for all adoptees who make it out alive. We also live in an Adoption Culture society that celebrates our losses and tries to talk down upon us for feeling anything less than “thankful” or “happy” about our experiences.

I’m just telling you; adoptees are dying out here and there is something adoptive parents and Adoption Culture can do about it. If you know all of this, you can’t unknow it and you can’t say someone out there didn’t share it. If you have adopted a child, please understand that this child can and will have lifelong difficulties that will need ongoing care. Please know that we never outgrow being adopted. Yes, adoption is complicated and it’s messy. No one story fits all. We know this.

But please understand that being adopted is with us FOREVER. The sooner we can start grieving our losses, the sooner we start to heal. Please understand that NO AMOUNT OF LOVE IN THIS WORLD CAN REPLACE THE LOSS I have always felt by losing my biological parents, and all the losses that come with that. Please understand no ivy league college, a brand-new car at 16 years old, or a huge house on a hill can take away these losses. We should be allowed to grieve as early as possible, at age appropriate times and this is life or death for us.

If any adoptive parents might be reading, please allow these conversations to be opened at age appropriately times. Please seek therapy on how to do this. Please don’t ignore this. Please understand no matter how much of a blessing you feel adoption is, it doesn’t change the fact that we experienced a trauma the moment we lost our birth mothers, and that trauma is compacted by pretending it’s not there by adoption being celebrated. I’m sharing here what I wish was done differently based on my experience.

I will be grieving these losses for the rest of my life, but I can’t help but wonder how my life might have been different if I would have started grieving at the moment I found out I was adopted. Please don’t let Adoption Culture deceive you, because I’m here to tell you if you ignore the grief and loss process for your adopted child, you will be sorry you did.

Please don’t mistaken this article as I’m sitting in sadness, depressed, angry or mad at the world. I was in that space for most of my life, because I couldn’t grieve my losses. But today, becaue I’ve allowed myself the space to do this, I’m healing daily and I have actually been able to find love in my life. Love for myself, love for life itself, love for others, love for all things around me. It’s almost impossible to get to the space I am, without grieving my losses. Today I enjoy life. Today I welcome my sadness when it comes, I embrace it and I invite it to stay awhile. I sit with it, I talk with it, and I process it. Then I let it go, until it circles back around again. Procesing adoptee grief is a lifelong journey. The sooner we embrace it and stop running from it, the sooner we start to heal.

 If you’ve made it this far, I commend you.

Adopted Adults are the KEY to learning what should have been done, or what could be done differently. If you’re an adoptive parent, and you have any questions for the adult adoptee community, visit Ask an Adoptee on Facebook. This platform was designed for you in mind.

Adoptees, What are some ways you have been able to grieve your losses? What age did you start this process? Did anyone ever encourage you to do this growing up? Have you been alone in this process?

Adoptive Parents, where are you at with this topic? Did the agencies or attorneys give you information on how to proceed with this topic? Have you been able to open these conversations? If yes, what has that looked like for you? If no, what are you waiting for?

Love, Love

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The Wilderness is My Rehab, Nature is My Church, Mother Earth is My Mother, Waterfalls are My Worship

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It’s taken me 44 years to figure out what works for me and what pulls on my heart strings from the inside out. Some people spend an entire lifetime and never get to this point. My hope is, I can share a little about how I got here, in a way to help inspire others, specifically my fellow adoptees. I know so many of you are waking up daily, hurting and broken in a million pieces.

I’m sorry. I feel your pain.

All of the experiences I’m sharing are intertwined into my adoptee experience, my recovery journey, my leaving the church, and my lifelong mother wound from my adoptive mother and biological mother, failed therapy, chasing everything under the sun to attempt to feel whole and find happiness.

This is what worked for me.

The Wilderness is My Rehab – The wilderness has always given me the gift of freedom like I’ve never experienced in any other way. To fill the void from adoption, I’ve spent my entire life chasing different things and all the way back to my beginnings, the wilderness has always embraced me. It’s rolled out its beautiful red carpet, and touched me in a way that inspired me to come on in and explore. The wilderness has provided me with the gift of a greeting, a welcoming of sorts every single time I choose to visit.  It’s provided me with a secure escape away from all life’s problems, even if it’s only for a little bit. It’s life changing for me, ever time I go into the wilderness, into the wild. The birds sing to me as if it’s a song dedicated just for me.  The breeze of the trees provide a soothing tone I’ve yet to experience anywhere else. The dew drops in the early mornings remind me of a new day, a new chance to make a difference in this world. As the sun rises and kisses the tree tops, sparkles illuminate glimmering down over the beautiful green lush plants and shrubs grown in the wilderness.  Green is one of my favorite colors because it reminds me of the wilderness, and yellow is also a favorite because it reminds me of the sun. I escape into the wilderness as much as possible either alone or with someone else. It’s always a divine experience no matter how short or how long the visit. Practicing mindfulness in the wilderness has been a key factor to my healing and happiness.

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Nature is My Church. – I’ve finally found the church I’ve been searching for all these years! For most of my life, I’ve been told how I need to do certain things and one of them is finding and attending a church in my community. I’ve been conditioned to believe this is an extremely important part of one’s spiritual journey, to find the right building and visit every Sunday. One dynamic that keeps playing over like an echo is other’s telling em I need the “COMMUNITY” of believers in my life and how important that is. Why do they have to be believers? Over my experience, the community of believers is no different than a community of non-believers. My experience showed me that the only way that community is going to be real is if you attend the same church. Walking away from the church, I’ve learned those aren’t the relationships I want in my life. I want real, true and organic relationships and I won’t settle for anything less these days.

When I experience nature, a new found freedom takes over my mind, body and spirit. Suddenly I’m back to being the 3 year old little girl that would run free in the country of Iowa playing and laying in the fields. My memories of finding the closest creek come back, searching for crawdads and frogs. We would build tree forts, climb trees to the highest tip and shout as loud as we could with our voices echoing across the fields.

Nature has always made me feel safe and it’s always embraced me. It’s the place I run too to feel God’s presence therefor I feel nature is my church. I’ve finally found what it is I’ve been looking for. Nature is the only place I feel at home.

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Mother Earth is My Mother – This might be a little too deep for some people, but I feel most of my fellow adoptees will be able to understand and relate. Out of two chances in the mother area, I’ve never felt love, compassion, acceptance or valued in a healthy way. I’ve actually been one of the adoptees who’s experienced two very VERY deep mother wounds, that still impact me to this day. My biological mother surrendered me for adoption, and after spending a lifetime of searching for her she rejected a relationship with absolutely no explanation. She slammed the door shut, locked it up and threw away the key. My adoptive mother was never able to be a mother due to extreme mental health issues. I was her caretaker held captive for 31 years, until one day I got up enough courage to leave. I packed up a 22 foot uhaul and my kids, and moved across the country. I consider it my great escape and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my lifetime. Essentially, I started my life over so my kids could have a better life, and so I could one day become a happier, healthier mother to them which is something I never received.

I say Mother Earth is my Mother because when I look at the bigger picture, she’s been far more kind and compassionate to me than any mother I’ve came across here on earth. From a spiritual standpoint, I’ve always been a believer in God,  I’ve been able to look at God as my Heavenly Father where it helped ease my pain with my father wound. I was able to look at my brothers and sisters in Christ as spiritual family, but at the end of the day there was never any help with the MOTHER WOUND. None. Of all the things that have happened to me here on this earth, the Mother Wound has been by far the biggest wound I’ve experienced and for my specific journey I’ve experienced it two times. I think the hurt and pain from my experience has been the fueling fire for all my adoptee advocacy, because I know there are other adoptees out there like me who have gigantic mother wounds, and they have no idea how to heal them. I’ve purchased a host of books about healing the mother wound, I’ve tried therapy, etc. I’ve written about it until I’m blue in the face. The mother wound is DEEP.

Nothing has helped me until I mindfully started to explore nature going on healing nature walks and hikes. During these adventures, I set out to truly connect with nature, like I hadn’t done since I was a child. Some of my first memories and connection with nature were climbing trees to the top, reaching out and touching the sky because the sky made me feel close to my birth mother. It was the tree that assisted me in touching the sky, so my memories and connections to trees and nature have been a part of my life for most of my 44 years on earth. I write a story about feeling close to my birth mother by being closer to the sky. If you are interested in reading click here.

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When I was a child it was innocently part of my life, but it was in my DNA from the very beginning. The forREST became a place of rest for me. It embraced me, took me in and was kind and compassionate to me like no Mother has ever been.  It was always there, with open arms and a dirt trail to meet me at whatever place I was in my life at the time. As my body would enter these sacred spaces, untouched by man of the earth my moods began to shift and change. I got happier inside. My spirit lifted, and joy would come strong and take over my mind. All the things in my life would fall to the side, while I had this time with Mother Earth, everything became relaxing and all my problems seemed to go away for that moment, with HER.

Over the last few years, I’ve been seeking HER more and more, and I’ve healed more and more. I have more internal peace than every before. When I escape into the wilderness, I find it to be extremely relaxing and restorative. Not only does it help my physical well-being, but my emotional and mental state as well. This has helped me in so many ways, and this is why I feel Mother Earth is my Mother.

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Waterfalls are my Worship – A few years ago when I decided to step down from my leadership position as a small group leader for a Women’s Chemical Dependency group for the ministry called Celebrate Recovery, I decided to focus on myself. What that looked like for me was finding out what Pam liked and loved. So many adoptees struggle with identity, and many other issues. Of all the issues adoptees can face, I believe I’ve struggled with every single one of them and then some. My family also decided to walk away from our church of four years due to many different dynamics that I don’t care to share in this article. Needless to say, we we’re all come to the ending of different chapters in our lives, but it’s also the start of something new which has a potential to be beautiful.

I’m rewriting my story. 

I had never taken time out of my busy life to look myself in the mirror and figure out who I am. First thing, adoption created such a void that my deep seeded issues we’re rooted in not knowing who I was or where I came from. I would not be where I am today without finding my truth, and all of it. When I discovered my love for waterfalls, I had no idea at the healing that would follow. In my process of self discovery, I decided to do something I had never done before. I decided to create a bucket list. In this process, I learned that my great state of Kentucky has over 600 waterfalls. I learned so many people add things to their bucket list that are sometimes so far away from achieving because of financial reasons. I set out to create a bucket list that was attainable for me, and as I did this I learned that so many adventures were in my own back yard, and the state of Kentucky had so many hidden gems, waterfalls, and beloved spaces in nature I set out to discover as many spaces as possible. Over the last 3+ years that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve seen dozens of waterfalls, all within a few hours from my front door. Most of them I’ve been to a half a dozen times, because I love taking friends and family on these adventures with me. That’s half the reward, is taking those you love to experience the solitude nature has to offer.

When I set out to find waterfalls, I experience an excitement I can’t describe. I’ve never experienced something so lovely, that it makes me forget all about my past, my future, and it allows me to focus on being present in the moment. Although I’m working on living a mindful lifestyle (focusing on the present moment)  daily, anytime I have a chance to run away to nature and soak up something that’s so beautiful, untouched by man makes me feel closer to God than ever before.  The water and the birds are the music, and the serenity of the surroundings fills my spirit like nothing else has ever done. This is why I seek out to find waterfalls, as they have been a huge part of my healing journey.

Below are some of the photos I’ve taken as a way to capture some of my most amazing moments, so I can share them with you and others. My hope is, I can inspire my friends, family and fellow adoptees to seek nature for healing because it’s worked for me, and it might work for you too!

To my fellow adoptees, what’s worked for you?

How are you rewriting your story?

 

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Sending Renewed Love & Light,

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Reclaiming. Recovering. Recreating. Retreating. Repeating.