Adoptees, Pseudonyms & Identities

The topic of identity can be a lifelong paradox and struggle for many adoptees. It’s much easier for adopted individuals to tap into their true identity when they have the truth to guide them along the way. However, for many of us, we experience secrecy, lies, and half-truths as soon as we’re born and passed over to strangers. It’s challenging for some and impossible for others to gain a true sense of identity when we have no idea who we are or where we come from. No one looks like us, and we don’t see anyone’s face looking back at us when we look in the mirror. We all experience different variations of complexities when it comes to identity. 

It’s widespread for adopted individuals to have many names and identities in person and on the internet in the adoptee community. In the 11 years I’ve been present in this community, I’ve had my own experiences with my legal name, changing my legal name, and having several different identities on the internet in those 11 years.

There are many layers as to why.  

It can be confusing to many and downright annoying and concerning to others. Therefore, I wanted to take a few minutes to share my experience with this topic to hopefully help others who might not relate be able to understand better. 

For many adoptees, we’re forced to split between two worlds when we are born, surrendered for adoption and adopted by strangers. We’re parts of two worlds, yet usually denied one of them. Our DNA will always be a part of our first families, even when adoption tries to erase that part of our life. We are very much our first families DNA, and even with adoption legally changing our names to our new families. Many of us feel divided between two worlds. For some of us it’s internal and subconscious. For some of us, it’s like critical pieces are always missing. We create a split to protect the people around us, and to protect ourselves.

For most of my life, my legal name was Pamela L e e p e r. That’s right, L E E P E R. What does this name symbolize to me? A legal tie to my previous life, one I didn’t sign up for. It’s a legally binding piece of my life I had no choice in, that I wanted to divorce. It’s a tie to my painful past, the one where I didn’t sign any adoption paperwork. It’s a reminder of my abusive adoptive homes and the people who abused me in those homes. It’s a tie and reminder to an awful and painful childhood, teen life, and history. And let’s be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a connection to this name, well, really because it’s only my name on paper, not via DNA. The Leeper family tree is not my family tree.

It can be if I pretend as I did in kindergarten for that family tree project.  

No one on earth will ever know the depths of it all, but I know it, and this name L E E P E R was a constant reminder of it all. I hated how it sounded, and I hated writing it. I hated having the life sentence of being attached to it. No disrespect to the Leeper family; however, this isn’t about them. It’s about me, my name, and why I chose to change it legally as well as seasons in my life where I used pseudonym names to protect myself. 

What did that process look like for me? 

How many years did it take? 

Who supported me? 

Who was against me?

In 2010, I started writing under a pseudonym, “Adoptee in Recovery,” which was a way to share my journey and protect my real legal identity. Some people refer to this as a “Pen Name.” Writing under a pseudonym name for me was fear-based. First, I was afraid of people I was close to learning how I felt about adoption because if they knew how I felt, they might just leave me too. Just like my birth mother did. I was afraid of judgment and ridicule. I was fearful of being shamed because if I felt these ways, I must not be praying enough or spending enough time with God. But, I didn’t just “Let it go,” so I chose to hang onto the pain. It was clear I had to create two separate identities and keep things separate, and my life depended on it.  

The idea of bringing these identities together caused me great anguish far deeper than someone not adopted could imagine. I lived in constant fear of “What If” my adoptive parents found my writings and disowned me for feeling the way I do? What if my adopted siblings learned how I felt? What if my biological family finds me and reads my writings? Will they all leave me? Will they be angry with me? How will it make them feel, knowing adoption has wholly wrecked me? What would they say if I wasn’t grateful for being adopted and I hated it with every fiber in my being?

Adoptees are professionals at putting others first, before our wants and needs. But, unfortunately, so many of us are groomed from a very early age that our adoptive parent’s feelings are more important than ours, so we tend to be hypersensitive to how they would feel from childhood. After all, shouldn’t we be thankful someone took us in when our own biological families didn’t want us?  Would they send us back or abandon us if they knew how we felt? It hung over my head constantly, and I knew WHY I was creating a dual identity. Almost everyone else had no idea. Likewise, I have learned that many people have no idea of the complexities of WHY adoptees have dual identities. Sometimes fellow adoptees don’t even understand it. 

I get it! 

The pseudonym name did a great job at protecting my legal identity. However, it was one more veil of deception because I hid behind a pseudonym; people didn’t know who I was or the real me. Nevertheless, the pseudonym name served an excellent purpose for that time in my life because I wanted to be protected from others who might look at my feelings as an insult or attack on them. 

I did what I had to do to protect myself. 

However, things change.  

It was clear when I made this decision that I was still hiding from many things, and if I’m entirely transparent, I did not have the inner strength or courage to share my true identity, not for many years to come. However, my courage and strength were building behind the veil using the pseudonym name little by little.

In 2012, I decided I wanted to be identified online as Pamela Jones. 

One more step towards genuine authenticity.

Pamela Jones was one step closer to me identifying the real true me. Jones was my biological father’s surname, and I had the chance to see his face in person in 2010. So I created a Facebook identity under this name and disguised behind it for about two years. I made many friends online under this pseudo name. I knew why I was using this pseudonym name, but reality hit me that I still wasn’t being true to myself.

Another dynamic to Pamela Jones was claiming this piece of my history and DNA, but that part didn’t claim me back. My biological father rejected a relationship with me because I have bi-racial children. His loss, I know, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. This puzzle piece made me want to divorce from the Jones name because I didn’t truly fit in with that family, although we share DNA. We have no shared history or memories together. It was a paradox non adopted individuals can’t even comprehend. I wanted so badly to be wanted by my birth father, but the reality was even after finding him and meeting him, he doesn’t want anything to do with me. 

It was time I let go of Pamela Jones

*Disclosure Statement: I support the idea of adoptees or anyone using a pseudonym name, however I do not support anyone using a pseudonym name to hide behind an account that bullies, torments, stalks, starts cyber mobbing attacks, or is vile and cruel on the internet. They are flat out cowards!

In 2014, two years after I stopped drinking alcohol, I decided I had gained enough strength that I was going to get my last name changed. I had started coming out of the fog in 2009-2010, and in that time, I became empowered by connecting with other adoptees online and sharing my story. As a result, I had a new level of strength I had never had when sharing my Adoptee in Recovery journey. 

First, I decided to ask my adoptive dad if he would mind if I changed it. He expressed his thoughts and let me choose for myself. The next step was to find a new last name. I live in America, and it’s relatively easy and cheap to change your name legally.  I wrote an entire article called Pamela Karanova: Welcoming The Real True Me!. You guessed it, K A R A N O V A was the new name I legally chose to get changed on my 40th birthday. At this time in my life, I was consumed with the church, religion, and Christianity. 

KARA was another word for PURE. 

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is PURE, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

NOVA was another word for NEW. 

2 Corinthians 5:17, “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the NEW creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!”

It was one of the most unique gifts I gave myself, a new name for a fresh start in my life. Part of me felt like it was divorcing the painful past that hung so tight by carrying the last name L E E P E R. This piece of me was dead and gone on to a new page and a new chapter.  The other part felt like I was finally controlling something in my life when other people controlled most of it. It was liberating, freeing, and exhilarating. Although I am no longer a believer, this new name was and is very special to me. 

I can honestly say that changing my last name legally was one of the most healing things I’ve ever done for myself. It was stepping into a new freedom of making a choice for myself that no one else had any say in. I wear this name so proud, and I love everything about it. It fits me. It is the new me. Today the “what if’s” that used to torment me have vanished into nothingness. I personally care more about being true to myself, than I do about offending others. I made a promise to myself several years ago, to always be true to myself and I will honor that until the day I die.

K A R A N O V A

I received 100% support from everyone in my life with whom I have relationships when I legally changed my last name to Karanova. The only person I heard disapproved of is name change is an aunt by adoption, who gave her baby away by adoption, and she talked down about my decision to get rid of her surname, L E E P E R. I do not have a relationship with her, nor do I care about her opinion. 

It’s currently 2021, and my only regret is not changing my first and middle name when I legally changed my last name. However, I know that in 2014 I didn’t have the strength to change my full name. My kids were still in school at that time, and I didn’t want to put them through the process of their mom changing her first name. 

One day, I desire to legally change my first and middle name, but I’m not sure yet what it will be, but I have a few ideas. Maybe for my 50th birthday? Maybe next week? I’m not sure yet, but I worry more about how other people will respond to this change and don’t want to inconvenience people to try to remember a new name for another chapter of a new me. Finally, one day I will get up enough strength to “Just Do It,” and at that moment, I will have reached another milestone of stepping into genuine authenticity.

I think it’s important to remember that all adopted people are transitioning to a new person every step of the way. Every time we get a piece of the puzzle, it changes us in some way. Although most people have the truth handed to them when they are born, they can’t comprehend what it’s like to fight for your truth your entire life and be spoon-fed pieces of the puzzle over a lifespan. It’s a different kind of life, and one only other adoptees will understand. 

I have learned from my journey of discovery that all of my names have been very symbolic to me and my healing journey. They have each served a great purpose to help me feel safe, depending on whatever space I was in at that time. I can’t speak for all adoptees, but when I see adoptees change names, and hide behind a pseudonym name, I can say from the bottom of my heart, “I GET IT AND I UNDERSTAND.” Sometimes these extremes go with the territory of being an adoptee and finding ourselves when our truth has been kept captive for so long. I’ve seen adoptees attach four and five last names to their names as a way to honor their birth mother, birth father, adoptive mother, and adoptive father. I’ve seen them change their names more times than I can count.

Being adopted is complex! 

As you can see, identity plays such an essential part in the dynamics of the adoptee experience, and this is directly reflected in how we represent ourselves in the names we are assigned at birth, changed by adoption and the ones we choose for ourselves. 

If you are a non-adopted individual, hopefully, this article sheds a little light on why names and identity go hand in hand with the adoptee experience. Hopefully, you understand a little better. Be easy on the adoptees in your life, and accept whatever places they are in regarding names and identity. We weren’t offered the privilege non-adoptees are given. Many of us have to fight the world for our truth, and every clue we get to who we are and where we came from opens a new door of self-discovery. Change is going to happen—identity matters. 

If you are an adoptee who’s considering changing your name, legally or online, I am cheering you on. With every fiber of my being, I understand how we can spend our entire lives getting to the point of finding strength from within ourselves and the courage to push forth with an outward expression of legally changing our names or even creating pseudonym names for ourselves. 

Every step of the way, healing is happening. 

For any adoptees who have changed their names legally or created pseudonym identities online, I would love to hear your stories on how you navigated this piece of your journey? Why did you pick the name you chose? Have you wanted to change your name but haven’t done it yet? Why or why not? 

Whatever you do, be true to yourself and follow your heart. 

Put yourself first. 

You deserve it. 

Love, Love

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Adoptees, Mental Health & Daily Self-Care

Once again, I’m noticing a significant amount of changes in the adoptee community, and it’s helped me reevaluate and reorganize my commitments on where I stand within this community. We all have the abilities to make these choices for ourselves.

Back in 2010, when I started to emerge from the fog, Adopteeland (the online adoptee community) was a welcoming place to be in. It was a light to not only me but hundreds of thousands of fellow adoptees. We made online friends, we built online relationships, and we helped one another online when the other was down. 

I remember all of the “aha” moments I experienced in hearing other adoptees share their stories, and little by little, my story started to come out just like the adoptees I knew that shared their stories before me. It was empowering. I was finally able to tap into my deep-rooted issues that stem from being relinquished by my birth mother and being adopted into an abusive adoptive home. I started to share my feelings little by little, and it was validating and freeing in many ways. Eleven years of being completely consumed in Adopteeland has passed, and I’ve learned many things in that time. 

Part of sharing my feelings on my website has been for my healing, but it’s also to help my fellow adoptees who might be reading from afar so they know they aren’t crazy for feeling the way they feel. Our feelings are expected for a not normal situation. Nothing is normal about being separated from your biological mothers at the beginning of life. 

As years have passed, I saw the recognizable need for adoptee-centric spaces that meet in person, in our neighborhoods, and our communities. After a close call with my contemplation of ending my life in 2017, I decided I wanted to take all the pain I was carrying from my adoption experience and do something positive with it. For me, I describe it as finding purpose in the pain. It’s saved my life to create Adoptees Connect, Inc. In return, the resource itself has saved the lives of many adoptees around the USA and beyond who attend our in-person groups. 

Around 2018, I noticed an overwhelming and alarming amount of cyberbullying and cyber mobbing in Adopteeland. It was disturbing in every regard. I have seen fellow adoptees bully other adoptees to the point of attempting to take their own lives. It was so disturbing to see, and I created an Adoptees Connect Social Disclaimer because of this activity. I decided that any of the platforms I am a part of cannot and will not turn a blind eye to this type of behavior.  All of our volunteers and facilitators must agree to abide by this disclaimer to join our organization. 

I was hoping many of the other organizations in Adopteeland would follow suit, but sadly I have been greatly disappointed in that area. 

Let me be honest, aside from the adoptee vs. adoptee discord, the internet, in general, isn’t a safe space for anyone. Adopteeland is filled with triggers for adopted individuals, and time and time again, I see the fallout from these events. Someone is always getting hurt, and that’s never a good feeling. Adopteeland, just like the internet in general, is a breeding ground for keyboard warriors to flex their muscles and mistreat people disrespectfully and downright awful. Many people have big balls on the internet, even women. I have seen adoptees turn on other adoptees or adoptee-centric organizations and the drop of a dime. It doesn’t matter how much good they have done in the adoption community. This is the same community they wish to protect and care for. No one can be trusted on the internet. All of my real adoptee friends are ones I connect with offline, off the internet. There is a small group of them, and they know who they are. 

Because of the increasing toxicity of Adopteeland and the internet in general, I have decided to make some very significant changes for myself, and I hope you consider doing the same. First, I had to self-reflect and ask myself how these interactions with other adoptees and organizations made me feel? Do I feel consciously good about them, or do they leave me feeling drained, sad, depressed, isolated, and alone? Do they trigger me? How do I respond to the triggers? Are they interfering with my quality of life?

A lot of the time, I had so many fires in the oven all over Adopteeland, I sacrificed my time as if my commitments to Adopteeland were a full-time job. I knew the commitments created needed resources, and they were areas that had never been touched in the adoptee community before. I held my commitment to Adopteeland as one of the primary and most significant commitments of my life. This is 11 years of time I can never get back. 

I can’t lie; it’s taken a toll. 

I woke up one day and learned I had been misled by this community I put so much trust in because I saw what they would do to others. I knew they could do the same to me. Adopteeland can and will turn on you in a heartbeat, stab you in the back, and LITERALLY leave you for dead. Most of them don’t care about you. You are just another adoptee on the internet. I have seen adoptees set up cyber mob attacks towards other adoptees or organizations and not think twice about the person they are cyberbullying or what they might be going through in their personal lives. After many years of seeing my fellow adoptees get dragged through the mud, I realized I could no longer witness such travesties. My heart hurts and hurts deeply when I see these interactions online, and it aches me to the core to see adoptees harm fellow adoptees. This is not the community I want to put my hope, trust, and time into. This is one of the main reasons Adoptees Connect groups meet in person in real life. To bypass the internet and build genuine in-person relationships.

It’s life or death for many of us. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are adoptees worldwide whom I have built relationships with online and who mean the world to me, and I will never meet many of them in person. They aren’t included in the Adopteeland problematic scene. They are kind, loving, compassionate, and would do anything for the adoptee community. I would do anything for them. They know who they are. 

Adoptees are tender individuals, and no matter what anyone does that I don’t agree with or dislike, I don’t have a right to cyberbully them or set up cyber mobbing attacks on that adoptee or an adoptee-centric organization. If I was to lower myself to that type of activity, it’s CLEAR that Adopteeland isn’t a place for me. 

I think it is safe to say the old days of Adopteeland back in 2010 are dead and gone, and for my mental health, I have had to disconnect and release myself from 99.9% of adoptee-centric spaces on the internet. Let me be honest; I don’t give my time too much on the internet these days. I have a beautiful life to live, and I don’t like the primary bloodsucker (internet) stealing the most valuable thing I have, my time.

Another dynamic to my mental health is not over-committing myself to adoptee/adoption-centric responsibilities. I sometimes think, as adoptees, when we find the online community, we get so excited we jump all in headfirst. But the kicker for many of us is that we forget to swim back to shore and find life again. It’s sometimes tough, if not impossible, to find a happy balance between life outside of adoption commitments and to be adopted and finding happiness in the world. 

For me, Adopteeland and adoptee-centric activities have drained the life out of me. I think it’s so important that we listen to our bodies and make changes when things aren’t bringing us solitude and happiness. It’s essential that we learn that many things are for a season, and we’re not supposed to sit in Adopteeland or the Adoption arena FOREVER. It will keep us stuck, and I am a prime example that it’s kept me stuck for a long time. 

I don’t regret a minute of my time in Adopteeland, and I am not disappearing. However, I have to put my mental health first because my mental health suffering was impacting my physical health. I encourage anyone reading this to listen to your bodies and what they are telling you. It’s okay to back out of commitments and also prioritize them. 

Adoption and Adoptee related topics are draining AF. The internet and Adopteeland are draining AF. Self-care is an essential dynamic to being knee-deep in something as heavy as adoption. I have developed a very effective self-care routine, and most of the things I do to take care of myself have nothing to do with adoption other than writing. For me, this means removing myself from ALL THINGS ADOPTEE/ADOPTION at times. My self-care routine are the things I’ve found that re-energize me and allow me to stay grounded and centered. Hiking, walking, writing, reading, bonfires, sunrises, sunsets, outdoors, spending time with my kids and loved ones, my dogs, arts and crafts, kayaking, tending to my plant addiction, etc.

Staying in something so heavy so much of the time can and will impact our quality of life. 

I challenge you, if you are an adoptee in Adopteeland spaces, to be mindful of your emotional, mental, and physical health being challenged. Be aware of your interactions on the internet, with others and how you treat people, and how you allow them to treat you. Be mindful of the triggers you experience and how your body responds to the triggers. Adopteeland can be an unhealthy place to be involved in. In the beginning, it’s like you finally found your tribe, a euphoric feeling. It has a lot of pros to it, but all of a sudden, you get sucked into something, and your whole life is consumed into it, from the minute you wake up to the minute you lay your head down at night. Nothing as heavy as adoption can be healthy without consistent and committed self-care and a healthy balance.

Every. Single. Day. 

If anyone on the internet has mistreated you, adopted or not, I encourage you to report them if possible and block and ban them from all of your platforms. However, if you are the creator of a platform and allow this behavior to occur on your platform, I would like to ask you why you let abuse happen? Turning a blind eye, you are no better than the cyberbully or emotional abuser. I used to have a loyalty to the adoptees in Adopteeland, but that ship has sailed and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Unfortunately, there are many problematic adoptees in Adopteeland, and I will not tolerate anyone’s bullshit. Period. 

We have to realize that sometimes people make mistakes in person and online. We’re all human beings, and we don’t always get it right. If you make a mistake and have tried to right your wrong, and someone won’t allow for an honest, professional, and open dialog to find a solution for the mishap, you can walk away. If someone drains the life out of you, you can walk away. If anyone is bullying you and cyber mobbing you, you do not have to tolerate this behavior. I wonder what the online cyber bullies would do if they pushed another human being over the edge to end their lives? Would they still advocate for adoptee suicide?

WALK AWAY. 

REPORT ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR. 

BLOCK. 

BAN. 

DELETE. 

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th is approaching. I picked one day on behalf of Adoptees Connect, Inc. to be a day we highlight Adoptee Suicide and all the other dynamics ARD symbolizes. I thought long and hard about this. One day was picked (over a week or month) because of the sensitive nature and focus of the day and how it can impact the adoptee community long term. One day seemed like a better idea than a week or a month because I worry about the mental health of anyone participating in such sensitive topics for a longer duration than a day. 

I am noticing the rise of a three-month highlight, starting with September being Adoptee Suicide Awareness Month, followed by October and November trailing on with some of the same highlights. I commend all adoptees who are pouring their hearts and souls into bringing awareness on such an important topic for the adoptee community. I support each of you!

First, of course, November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and it’s heavy and triggering for adoptees in its own way.  I worry significantly and even gravely for the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of all the adoptees participating in these topics for up to three months in a row. Do they have the resources they need? Are people spreading love and light during a difficult time? Who’s on standby when someone is on overload with emotions piling up during such a lengthy focus on such a excruciatingly painful topic?

I know for sure, my emotional and mental well-being can only take one day of it, and I am dedicating that day to Adoptee Remembrance Day. After that, I can not and will not be able to participate in more. It’s just too heavy. I would die committing to more, and I am not saying this lightly. 

One of the main points of me writing this article is that I’m worried about the adoptee community, and I see some awful interactions happening that are harmful and hurtful to the productivity of so many amazing causes. I’ve witnessed dark sides of adoptees I have known online and loved for years that I never thought I would see. In experiencing and seeing these things, I will continue to take steps back away from the same community I have poured my heart and soul into for 11+ years. My main focus is Adoptees Connect, Inc., and that’s the only commitment I have time for these days. Keep in mind, while Adoptees Connect does have a social media account on Facebook and Instagram, the root and main focus of the entire vision of the organization is creating OFFLINE adoptee-centric spaces that meet in person, in real life for many of these reasons. That’s where I choose to put my focus, time, and energy. I can’t get sucked into online drama, and I avoid it to the fullest at all costs. 

Please be careful with your online interactions and the amount of trust you put into Adopteeland. Please give yourself the gift of walking away from anything, anyone, and everything that doesn’t serve your emotional, mental and physical health positively. If Adopteeland is too triggering for you, either walk away entirely or set yourself boundaries and participate in small microdoses. Understand and recognize when your time’s up, and you can cross over to finding other fulfilling things in life. If you don’t do it on your own, your body will do it for you!  

Take care of yourself, and above all things, please put your Mental Health first. 

For any adoptees struggling right now, here are some Recommended Resources we have listed on the Adoptees Connect website. Please share them in your online communities.

Love, Love. 

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Twenty Seven Years of Wishful Drinking Died Nine Years Ago, So Did I

AUGUST 13, 2012 – MY WHOLE LIFE CHANGED!

“NEW BEGINNINGS ARE OFTEN DESCRIBED AS PAINFUL ENDINGS” – LAO TZU

August 13th – This was not only my earthly birthday, but it’s my re-birthday.

What’s my re-birthday? It’s the day I decided to live alcohol-free.

I have double reason to celebrate, so I shall.

I can hardly believe I’ve made it to this milestone of nine years alcohol-free. I remember nine years ago on that day, I was utterly lost, frightened, and all alone and had no idea what the next 24 hours had in store, let alone the next nine years. While I continue to walk forward towards a new season, it’s clear parts of the old me are dead and gone.

A little back story, I started drinking at twelve years old. I grew up in a small town in Iowa and was introduced to alcohol very young. Twenty-seven years after that introduction, on August 13, 2012, I was finally at a place where I decided alcohol was no longer for me.

Twenty-seven years is a long time.

I would be confronted with many life-altering situations; however, the need to keep alcohol close by was constant. I remember the days where I didn’t think I could survive without alcohol. And in my mind, I couldn’t, so I didn’t. It was my best friend and my confidant. It was always there for me and created a bridge I happily crossed every time I consumed alcohol. My reality was too much and too hard to process.

Alcohol created many fun memories and vibes, and it also made a lot of traumatic ones. The traumatic ones caused lifelong altercations on how I view the world and also myself. 

When I walked away from alcohol

August 13, 2012 – I had no idea it would cost me damn near all my friends, but it did. I walked anyway. I went from an extensive group of people I hung out with to literally less than five. 

What was I going to do with my time now? 

What person would I become? 

What hobbies did I have that didn’t involve alcohol? 

WHO WAS I? 

The truth is, I had no effing clue. Alcohol was the center of my life for my entire life. I stepped into a new space and a scary one. They say when you drop addictions, you have to replace them with other healthy things. I started going to church regularly, and the next thing you know, church friends, church activities, and church serving took up all the space I used to use partying. Then, Although I have different views on the church now, it did step in and create a bridge I needed to get to where I am today, and because of that, I am thankful. 

When you remove the center of your world, the walls come crashing in and you have to pick yourself back up and rebuild yourself and your life. It was like I died that day when I stopped drinking alcohol, and every day for the last 9 years I’ve been rediscovering who I am without alcohol, slowly coming back to life again. It’s like a brand new baby being born but for me I was re-born. Not the giving my life to Christ reborn, as that ship has already sailed and sank. I’m talking about every fiber of my being being transformed into a new me, not what other people told me to be or what my environment influenced me to be. Between beliefs, conditioning, and experiences I had to break out of the old and step into the new.

“You don’t know this new me; I put back my pieces, differently.” – unknown

This quote fits perfectly.

Over the last nine years, my life has progressed to great lengths and many times I’ve had to look myself in the mirror and I’m finally at peace with what’s looking back at me but not without a lot of blood. sweat and tears FIRST. I’ve had to get alone with myself to find myself. I’ve been single the majority of the last nine years, and even when I have been in brief relationships or been in the dating world, I continue to find myself learning more about the new person I have become. Hardships help us grow, and so do those we have around us inside our inner circles. Even with heartbreak, I’ve learned lessons that are of great value to me. 

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” – Cynthia Occelli

I’ve loved, and I’ve lost, and I’ve been betrayed and hurt. The kicker is that now I’ve learned that processing difficult emotions and feelings isn’t something I need to run from. Drinking alcohol every day for 27 years, I was clearly running from processing pain. I couldn’t sit with my sober self and alcohol was the great escape. This is one of the most significant dynamics of my career with drinking alcohol. I didn’t know how or want to feel those feelings of abandonment from my birth parents and the trauma I experienced in my adoptive homes. When I stopped drinking, all my adoptee problems showed up at my front door, and I was forced to sit with them, and I’ve been sitting with them for nine years now. It’s been painful but humbling at the same time. Crying and showing emotions is like the dried up well is living again. Finally, I can look at myself in the mirror and know I am not going to die like my birth parents, and I have done the work on myself to turn the page to live a happier and healthier life. 

Not just for myself, but my kids and future grandkids and my legacy. 

I have always had a tough time with my birthday, but this year was different.  Things seemed lighter and happier. I decided I wouldn’t wait for anyone to celebrate me because I had enough reasons to celebrate me. Waiting on others leads to disappointment. I have learned that I need to put my happiness into my own hands. I had a brief moment of sadness, which I feel was part of my processing the realities of the day I was born. My birth mother left me at the hospital, and I lost everything that day. Being adopted is always a hard pill to swallow. I had challenged myself in recent years to allow space for those feelings and process them and save room to enjoy my day because even when my biological mother abandoned me that day, one badass woman was born. 

Here’s an article on How Adoptees Feel About Birthdays if anyone is interested. It’s not just me; it’s many adoptees who struggle with our birthdays. 

I’ve been stuck in the dark sadness long enough. I’ve paid the price and done the time. I’ve put in the work to overcome the damage adoption has caused and lived a sober life doing it. THIS IS A MIRACLE! I will be working towards healing for the rest of my life; however, it’s critically important that we equally carve out space to enjoy our lives. We must find the balance not to let our adoption journeys dominate our lives. I’m guilty of doing this for the last 11 years, but today is a new day. 

This year, my gift to myself is to step away from almost all things adoption-related and step into a new life that I should have been living many years ago before the adoption trauma and alcohol tornado took over and consumed every fiber of my being. I think as adopted people; we owe that to ourselves. When we remove something unhealthy from our lives, we have to replace it with something healthy. My career with alcohol was unhealthy for me, not to mention what 27 years of consuming alcohol has done to my body. Adoptionland hasn’t been a healthy place for me either, for the majority of my time being present in the adoptee community. I stepped away from most of it long ago, however I still have areas I’m stepping away from in attempts to make my load lighter and my life happier.

This year, I had my birthday month all planned out for myself to bypass the familiar disappointment I get from outside sources. I also had a sweet friend tell me that I needed to celebrate my birthday month, not just the day. So while I didn’t exactly celebrate the whole month, I did celebrate a few weeks. 

The weekend before my birthday, I met with one of my forever friends, Christi. I took her on an adventure to Pine Island Double Falls, located in London, KY. We had a blast and enjoyed spending the day running wild, as we youngins love to do. 

The following week before my birthday, my youngest daughter accompanied me on a mini-photo shoot at one of my favorite parks in Lexington, not far from my house. The purpose was to celebrate my 9-year milestone of living alcohol-free with my MOTHER, AKA Mother Nature. I had a nine balloon, and my daughter took some lovely photos to capture this celebration beautifully.  

August 13, my actual birthday and re-birthday, I decided to take a mini road trip with my kids to Joe’s Crabshack to get some Dungeness Crab BBQ, one of my favorites! All I wanted was a little time in the presence of those I adore the most and who mean the most to me. My kids! It was a surreal experience because as I walked into Joe’s Crabshack with my kids, I realized the last time we had been there together was nine years earlier, TO THE DAY. The last day I drank alcohol on August 13, 2012. I wanted my birthday dinner to be at Joe’s Crabshack in Louisville. While this fact dawned on me, I couldn’t help but reminisce about where I was nine years ago and where I am today. WOW, at the difference nine years makes. We ate a lovely meal, went outside to take some pictures of the sunset of the river, and had a precious time together. Then, we drove back to Lexington to have cake together, my favorite pistachio from Martine’s Bakery here in Lexington. It was a perfect day to remember, with those who make my world go around. 

The following day, I decided to run off into the wild on a self-care solo trip to Tennessee to Cummins Falls State Park. This was an adventure to remember, and I must do it again and stay a weekend to explore the area more. There were two waterfalls I made it to, Cummins Falls and Waterloo Falls. Being able to be solo and hike this gorge was an excellent experience. But, sometimes, we have to take off and go live life. 

The following week on August 20, I flew to Salt Lake City to visit my best friend. It was the first time seeing her in almost three years. You can learn more about that visit by reading my article “Learning to Live and Hike with Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)”  We had a super time together, and it was fantastic to have my first hot springs visit with her, despite the SVT. It was also exciting catching up with another friend, seeing my best friends cute little family, and spending time with them. 

Here are some photos I would love to share with you! 

The changes I’ve made in the last few months have resulted in a lighter feeling with life in general, and I’m optimistic about the future and the path I have set for myself. 

Little by little, letting go of the unnecessary things makes room for the things that matter. I don’t want to waste more time on things that set me back and keep me stuck. I will write about that more soon. 

Special thank you to everyone who made my birthday special and to those who donated to my birthday fundraiser, sent me texts, called me, mailed gifts, and made my day one to remember. Special shout out to my close friends, family, and supporters near and far. I appreciate you all! Thank you! I love you!

Love, Love