Adoptees in Recovery Powered by Adoptees Connect

460333ec-f296-4978-9ccd-25ab01df8125

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!

69005550_2356881007766498_7730732698037125120_n

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

img_4065

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

d5a71516-b8fb-4335-9634-67a7c487301e

Saying “Hello” to Adoptee Grief & Loss

img_5766I decided to write a short article about this topic, because over the years of coming out of the fog and being in recovery it’s come to my attention that so much of the adoptee experience is rooted and grounded in grief & loss. If we leave it up to the world we live in, they not only deny us the right to have anything but positive feelings, they also deny us the right to grieve our losses.

Can you imagine everyone around you celebrating your trauma? Can you imagine living in a world where your trauma is considered something wonderful? Can you imagine always having to hide your true feelings, because everyone in your life can’t understand that adoption is complex, and in order to heal it we must feel it. Can you imagine there never being any space to share your grief & loss because in adoption, grief & loss is something we are denied, yet society tells us we should he happy about it! This is adoption in our world today.

No one ever told me processing grief and loss was a natural part of the adoptee experience. Navigating this journey alone, it’s honestly been the hardest experience of my life. For me personally, being adopted has carried more weight than multiple brutal violent traumatic experiences that I’ve had in my 44 years of life. Yes, you read that right. I’ve survived MANY brutal violent traumatic experiences, and relinquishment trauma compacted by adoption trauma have impacted me far worse than any other experience, even the brutal violent ones all put together. That’s how BIG the wound from relinquishment trauma has been in my life. The adoption trauma only added to it.

Yes, Adoption Relinquishment is TRAUMA 

For me, adoption, by far has hurt the worst and it’s had the most complex dynamics to it. It hits deeper layers, and the recovery time seems to expand throughout ones entire lifetime. I’ve accepted that full recovery is never going to happen, so I’ve embraced it and welcomed the uncomfortable feelings when they come. Multiple brutal violent traumatic experiences have healed much faster than relinquishment trauma. That should tell you something about relinquishment trauma. Real lived experiences trump everything you have been told about adoption.

It’s hard to come out of the fog on your own like I did. Seeking therapy for the complexities of my adoption experience has always been a dead end for me. I’ve tried and gone to therapy since I was 5 years old. I’m not knocking anyone in therapy and I encourage it wholeheartedly. It just didn’t work for me. I pour my heart into therapying the therapist, and leave with little to no relief other than having one hour to share my life with someone who doesn’t’ “get it” in the long run. If they aren’t adopted, they have no clue what adoptees experience. Thankfully more adoptees are therapists these days, and things are changing.  When I was a child in therapy, they didn’t even talk about adoption. When I was a teenager crying out in rage and pain, they didn’t even talk about adoption.  When I was in juvenile lock up, group homes, drug treatment, the mental health hospital as a teenager and in jail and a mental ward as an adult, they never talked about adoption. When I tried to commit suicide multiple times, they never talked about adoption. When I was in alcohol addiction for 27 years, they never talked about adoption! Let’s be honest, I was groomed to never talk about it either, conditioned from a very early age. But I hold therapists to a higher standard. All these therapists of my lifetime failed me. I should be dead right now, but I’m not.

Today, I say “hello” to the waves of grief & loss as they come into my life instead of turn them away.

Today we’re talking about adoption!

Relinquishment is is the root cause!

I was in addiction for 27 years to ESCAPE! Alcohol took my pain away but only temporarily. Now that I’m in a place of 6.5 years of sobriety, I have even more wisdom to share about being an adult adoptee in recovery. As I navigate close to 10 years of coming out of the fog and 10 years of being in “Adoptee Land” one thing that keeps circling back around in my life is grief and loss. I’m recognizing how I’m feeling at the moment and how I’m feeling day to day about my adoption experience. I’m acknowledging those feelings as they come. I say HELLO to them. I welcome them. Of course I’m going up against what our world says, which is just be thankful and grateful!

I spent some time in a religious setting, and always made me feel like I wasn’t praying enough or I wasn’t fasting enough. I even heard I was CHOOSING to hang onto this pain, or better yet “You must not be receiving your healing because you aren’t right with God! I’ve heard it all, and today I consider it all to be MUMBO JUMBO and I want no part of it. It only caused me to AVOID the TRUTH and NOT FEEL THE PAIN! Because heaven forbid you actually process your traumatic experiences, or grieve your very legitimate losses!

I’m just saying, I’ve gone around the wagon a million times trying to be HEALED from relinquishment trauma! I have some wisdom to share, that’s why I keep writing. For you all and for me. The fact is, grief and loss are perfectly normal for a not normal situation. Nothing is normal about adoption, although our society and world have normalized it. It’s NOT normal to be severed from your roots at the beginning of life, to be handed over to strangers.

Adoption is not normal, and it’s time we STOP normalizing it.

Adoption is traumatic, relinquishment is traumatic and if adoptees aren’t allowed the space to process this trauma we will continue to see the jails, prisons, mental health facilities and treatment facilities overflowing with adoptees! We will continue to see adoptees attempt and succeed in suicide. The earlier we start to address the truth about adoption, the sooner adoptees can start to process our grief and loss.

As a child, I wouldn’t have had the language to process my pain if I wanted to have it. I didn’t know as a child what I know now. I’m here to tell you if SOMEONE, ANYONE would have told me it was okay to be SAD I lost my birth mother, or it was okay to be ANGRY she left me, my whole entire world would have changed growing up. I didn’t have that language, so my adoptive parents should have helped me find it. Yeah, I know it was 1974 and things were different then! TRUE! But they are different now too, and once you know this TRUTH that I’m sharing here based on my 44 years of lived experience being adopted, you can’t unknow it. Please, do what you can to help your adopted children access feelings of grief and loss, and HELP THEM process them!

For my fellow adoptees who have made it this far, I’m asking you how you are processing your grief and loss? What have you been able to do to tap into your real true feelings? Are you at a phase where you are numbing them and running? Or are you working towards processing them?

For me, saying HELLO to my grief and loss has been a critical part of my healing process. I’m no longer running the rat race to be healed! That doesn’t work for many of us. Being SAD about your adoption experience is NORMAL. Being ANGRY about your adoption experience is NORMAL. It’s what you do with these feeling is what’s KEY. Acceptance of them is KEY.

Saying HELLO to them is acknowledging them. Sitting with them awhile, writing about them, or sharing them with someone you love or trust is processing them. Getting alone in nature, doing your yoga, jogging, biking, hiking, and anything outside can help you release some the build up you have, and so many adoptees have anger and rage deep inside, bursting to come out. It’s going to come out in healthy ways, or unhealthy ways. What have you picked for yourself?

I picked unhealthy for 27 years, but it wasn’t because I wanted to pick it. It was because I didn’t have the tools to work on my adoptee issues. Remember, we live in a world that celebrates our trauma and celebrates adoption! This is why it upsets me when people say we are choosing to stay STUCK. Don’t you think if every single adoptee had a flip to switch, on was happy and off was sad/angry we would choose the HAPPY SWITCH? Seriously, so many of us are stuck because that was me for 40+ years because we had no tools. Thank God times are changing! –  Adoptees Connect.

The best part is, once we know that grief and loss is a normal response, and once we know it’s time to start processing it in healthy ways we can then make the choice to put one foot forward and try to walk it out TOGETHER.

Is it scary? Damn straight it is! I always say adoptees aren’t sissies! They are some of the strongest people on the planet! But I did it, and you can do it too! So my question for you is, when are you going to start saying HELLO to your grief and loss? Welcome it, embrace it and keep it moving. Only you can do this because one thing I’ve learned is that if we want something in the adoptee community or for ourselves we will have to seek it, create it, or find it ourselves! No one is going to do it for us, especially when they are so busy celebrating our trauma and they don’t acknowledge we have any losses to grieve.

It’s up to us. It’s up to me. It’s up to you.

What are you going to do?

Sending Renewed Love & Light,

d5a71516-b8fb-4335-9634-67a7c487301e

Reclaiming. Recovering. Recreating. Retreating. Repeating.