R.I.P. RECOVERY

img_0181Never in a million years would I think I would be at a place where I would be writing about this topic, let alone feel like it is a piece of fabric intertwined into my journey.

So much has changed in my life in the last 6 months, like it has for most of us. For me, the good seems to outweigh the bad but that does not mean there was not a lot of pain to get here. I think if we are all honest Covid-19 has rocked our worlds to the core, followed by the racial injustices and racism we continue to see that is dominated the news and our worlds in the recent weeks. Let us be honest, it has always been there, we are just now seeing it at this magnitude.

I have been thinking recently about everything I have learned along my recovery journey all the way back to my childhood being in treatment at 15 years old. I have heard many times that once you consider yourself in recovery, you will always be in recovery. Like the saying, once an alcoholic always an alcoholic. I have heard that one too. I remember that one of the significant steps towards recovery was accepting that my recovery journey was a way of life, forever.

Ball and chain, ride or die recovery for life! 

One of the most wonderful things about growth is the ability to see ourselves differently from the person we used to be. For me, everything has changed in the last 8 years. On August 13, 2020 I will celebrate 8 years sobriety and let me tell you – It is a day I celebrate. It also happens to be my birthday. The day I came into this world and the same day I was separated form my birth mother forever, is the same day I celebrate my sobriety birthday. It might not be for the reasons you think, so let me share a little bit.

The last day I drank alcohol was the day I truly started living. That is when the shit got real, and adoptee issues smacked me straight in the face. They had always been with me, but alcohol numbed the pain at least temporarily. The last drink I ever had, was the end of the old me and I was welcomed by being an Adoptee in Recovery. It was a rebirth, a new life, and it has taken me 8 years of blood, sweat and tears to get to the space of arrival to where I am today. I could write for days at all the work I have put in to get here, but I don’t have time to write it and I’m sure you don’t have time to read it.

The reason I am celebrating that day is not because I was born that day. That is a very painful piece of my story, as it is for most adoptees. I gifted my kids a new mom that day, and I gifted myself a new life. That is why I celebrate that day. I also celebrate it as a reminder of all the heartache I had to go through to get to the place of sobriety for 8 years. I think I will always celebrate this day, and it means something different to me than almost everyone else. It is accomplishment, freedom, joy, and pain. I cried years of tears and sat with a lifetime of adoptee pain to finally get to a place where I can finally say “I’m Okay.”

That does not mean I do not have bad days or bad hours. It just means that I have accepted I am adopted and there is not anything I can do about it. I have accepted both my birth parents rejected me and my adoptive family was abusive and there is nothing I can do about it. I have walked through good days and bad days, and still process this pain daily. I have accepted that the pain is here to stay, and although it might get easier on occasion, I know it will always come back around because I will always be adopted. The layers of pain are just too great to disappear, so I have learned to welcome it and learn to sit with the pain.

Let me be clear, I will ALWAYS be recovering from the damage adoption has done! I will always share that damage, and my journey so other adoptees are inspired, and so they don’t feel alone. 

I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE.  

I think recovery is something we move through. Some of us attach it to us for the rest of our lives, and some of us can move through it and let go of the label when and if the time is right. Whatever works for each of us individually is all that matters. It’s not a life sentence and I refuse to accept it is any longer.

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I no longer have a desire to drink, and quitting the alcohol was the easiest part for me. I have been asking myself lately why I must attach the label “RECOVERY” to my life forever? Because they said so? Those in the recovery realm have told me that is what I need to do to stay in sobriety? Yes, that is part of it. I have learned for years that the minute I no longer consider myself in recovery, is a pathway to relapse to my old life. This has truly been embedded into my mind and I have always been ride or die recovery because of it. The THOUGHT of removing that label has never entered my mind until now.

I learned in the recovery world, that working the 12 steps was an ongoing process. I remember working them back to back for years. One day it was like a light switch went off and I realized years had passed me by and I was on this merry-go-round ride going around and around on the recovery wagon nonstop. Countless time invested that I can never get back, however I would not change a thing. These experiences have brought me great understanding and wisdom not only about myself, but the world we live in.  In this flip I switched, I made more changes in my life. I withdrew from Celebrate Recovery to “find myself” outside of the rules and regulations of this ministry and recovery program.

Most of you reading understand my love for nature but I will be clear, I did not reconnect with this love until after I left the church and the recovery ministry all together. They were two things that sucked my time bone dry, and I did not have time to do anything else. Fast forward to now and it is 2020 and all I want to do in my spare time is escape to nature and I have found it to be the greatest aspect to my healing journey yet to date.

What if I have worked so hard and so long at recovery, that I really feel okay with my life now? What if I have pulled out all my root issues and worked on them for years and I have moved forward with my life? What if I am no longer stuck? What if I have decided I want to write my own pages of my story and I have finally decided I no longer want to refer to myself as being in recovery? What if I am comfortable with this?

What if the recovery world does not support me or if they judge me or tell me I am making a bad choice? What about Adoptees in Recovery? How will I identify myself moving forward? What will people think? Can I still share my recovery journey with others? Can I still celebrate my sobriety?

The moral of the story is, I genuinely do not care what anyone thinks. These fears have been on my mind off an on over the last few months, and I am finally ready to let them go while I make a public declaration that I am saying RIP to RECOVERY. Being an outsider looking in, although this is a piece of my story, I have noticed this label has hindered me in many areas of life.

I am determined to not let this change the fact that I am always growing and moving forward. I am always striving for greatness and continuing to improve my life in all areas, mind, body, and spirit. I truly feel all I am doing is dropping the label because I have put in all the work and effort that if I want to drop it, I can. I don’t like how this can be a life sentence. It’s up to us to write the pages of our story, not one is going to do it for us. No one has the right to try to confine us to commit to any label for the rest of our lives.

I want to just live my life.

I want to be happy and free from all the rules and regulations that go along with recovery and what that even looks like depending on what recovery program I am a part of. Yes, things still hurt sometimes, and they always will but I’m no longer interested in continuing with the ride or die, ball and chain link to the recovery world that I’ve invested so much time in for the last 8 years. Recovery has been such a huge part of my life for so long, it is going to take me some time to stop using the terminology but if I am being honest that is all it really was. Nothing is going to change aside from removing the lifelong life sentence of the label. I hate labels, all labels. They can and do cause a lot of damage, so one by one I am removing them.

Can’t I just be someone who doesn’t drink alcohol?

Sure I can!

I don’t have to cling tight to a label for the rest of my life to do this. 

I am writing my own story, and today I am Pam and I am happy internally. I’m healing daily, I am moving forward and growing. Instead of saying “I’m Pam and I am in recovery from LIFE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE” I am going to start sharing that “I’m Pam and  I have finally found a LOVE FOR LIFE!”

With this, I must go live it!

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Until I did the 8 years of time recovering, this would not be possible. I do not regret a thing. I just want to enjoy life; do the things I love and spend time with those I am close too. That is, it.

RIP RECOVERY

TODAY I’M FREE

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I Keep Walking, Learning to Live for Myself, Love Myself, & Honor Myself

img_6311It’s interesting that I’ve been experiencing a new layer of an awakening process recently, even before Covid-19 came about. I’m so thankful for all things NEW, because that means I’m not sitting in the same spot for eternity. Many people are fretting about the isolation and aloneness they are feeling due to the new social distancing guidelines, but for me personally, this is something I’ve felt my entire life. It’s nothing new to me being adopted, and feeling isolated and alone. I’ve adapted to that feeling way back to my early childhood, but I sympathize for all those who are experiencing this for the the first time.

I’ve made the choice to set more boundaries in my life, which have allowed me to have more room for JOY. This hasn’t been an easy thing to do because no one has guided me, or encouraged me to do this. I’ve figured it out on my own.

As an adoptee, I’m used to giving all of my self for others wants and needs, all the way back to my childhood and juvenile years. I didn’t have a typical adoption story, I had a heartbreaking one. Every single side I look at has been nothing but heartbreak and pain. I know so many of my fellow adoptees have the same story, it’s heart-wrenching.

I’ve written before about this BADNESS I’ve always felt, being attached to me from the beginning, as I was conceived in my birth mothers womb. I was conceived out of an affair with a married man, who was also a close friend of the family. So not only did my birth mother feel shame and guilt, she kept her pregnancy a secret, but she rejected the pregnancy, and drank alcohol the entire time.

I felt this as a baby, in utero and if you do the research and study this topic, you will learn that babies feel what the mother feels while we are in the womb. We can sense our biological mothers emotions, feelings and surroundings before we’re ever born.

Scientist Say, say, “They found something interesting: what mattered to the babies was if the environment was consistent before and after birth. That is, the babies who did best were those who either had mothers who were healthy both before and after birth, and those whose mothers were depressed before birth and stayed depressed afterward. What slowed the babies’ development was changing conditions — a mother who went from depressed before birth to healthy after or healthy before birth to depressed after. “We must admit, the strength of this finding surprised us,” Sandman says.

So much to unpack here, but my motive in sharing this is the more we research the entire concept of perinatal bonding, and our pre-birth conditions, the more we understand our selves. This is one of the MANY reasons why adoptees receiving our TRUTH is so critically important. I will say it now, and I’ve said it a million times before, we (adoptees) can’t heal from secrecy, lies or half truths. The conditions of our conception is very important for us to learn, so we can gain a better understanding of WHY.

This is the ONLY way to acceptance & healing

While the topic of our experiences is very important, so is the topic of being born into a world to serve others wants and needs. I can share from my story, I felt like I was “the help” when it came to my experience in my adoptive moms home. I was her caretaker from the very beginning, and lived my entire life catering to her wants, needs and demands. Not just her physical needs, but her emotional and psychological ones as well.

She suffered from severe emotional and mental illness, and her issues impacted my life greatly. One reason was because she was never officially diagnosed, or treated although she was given several pain medications, and mood stabilizing medications and was addicted to them until she died in 2015. She was consistent in over medicating herself, which only added issues to her mental illness.

My life until I was 30 years old was centered and focused around HER. She had it planned out that she wanted to adopt 2 daughters, so she would have someone to take care of her in her old age, because her greatest fear of life was dying in a nursing home all alone. She adopted for us to take care of her, and that’s exactly what happened for 30 years of my life, until I broke free and escaped by moving across the country with my children. She created a very toxic and unhealthy codependent relationship, that was VERY hard for me to break away from, but I did it in 2005.

I’ve done a lot of research on codependency, and as complex as it is, it’s some real live issues that come with it. When I was a child, I had no way out and I had nothing to compare it too. What was a normal relationship with a mom, or a parent, and what did a healthy relationship look like? I have no idea.

Needless to say, when I spent 30 years catering to her wants and needs, it’s taken me the last 15 years to learn what taking care of myself looks like. When every waking moment of my childhood was to serve her, and the entire reasons for my existence was to take care of her, this hasn’t been an easy task to learn. As it turns out, I’ve been a private independent caregiver for a stroke patient for 15 years as my full time career.

It’s interesting how I leave a very toxic care taking and codependent relationship ends, but I once again pick up a career taking care of someone else, because it’s all I know. A big difference in the two situations is one is healthy, and a wonderful relationship as my career, and it’s something I enjoy with my whole heart. The other was something that was forced upon me I had no control over that was very toxic. I know for certain, that care taking responsibilities run deep in my veins, because of my childhood and my role in taking care of my adoptive mom all the way back to pre-verbal days.

Besides by life growing up in my toxic adoptive home, I’ve been a mom for 26 years, taking care of my kids. They have been my #1 motivation to keep going and taking care of them has been priority. Between being a mom, being a caregiver by career, and my history in the toxic adoptive home, how in the actual hell have I even learned how to take care of myself?

It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn to do. I didn’t start taking care of myself and actually enjoying MYSELF in the process until I walked away from the church. Walking away from the church, and religion is a whole different topic, article and discussion. I don’t care to share much here, but I will eventually. However, leaving the church has allowed me the time to serve, but instead of serve 4-5 days in the church, I’ve been serving 4-5 days a week at getting my life back, the one that was stolen from me.

I’ve learned that consistently, things come in our paths that will take our time and energy from us. Time is the most valuable thing any of us have, so the more commitments, the less time we have to use for ourselves. Just what if, we took all the energy we’ve been pouring out into systems, people, places and things outside of ourselves, and turned it back around and put it into ourselves? What would happen then?

I can tell you what will happen, because it’s my life, my story. I’ve spent a LIFETIME walking away, and escaping situations that don’t suite me well. At the end of the road, all I have left is myself, and my children. I say all the time I didn’t sign any adoption paperwork, so I’m not committed to anyone aside from MYSELF. I can no longer give all my time or energy to any family that doesn’t honor and respect the fact that I’m an adult and I can speak for myself. I can no longer pour my life into serving in a church, or slaving for my adoptive mother only to feel empty and depleted in the end. I have no more energy to put into relationships that have gone sour, for whatever reason. I have no time to explain myself, or try to “plead my case.”

I walk. And I keep walking. Those who are meant to stay will stay, and those who aren’t meant to stay will go along their way. Along the way, is the new path that I have chosen for myself. It’s a path that I CHOOSE, and it’s one I am learning to enjoy. The key has been, learning the TRUTH, and then REMOVING THINGS NO LONGER MEANT FOR ME. Doesn’t matter who or what it is, if it’s not healthy for me, it has to go.

This has left my life wide open for a choice. I can either sit around and feel sorry for myself, and live in misery or I can accept the truth, work toward healing for the rest of my life, and in the process get to know myself, which has allowed me the space to learn to love myself. In this, I’ve learned what I love, and what I don’t. I’ve learned what I stand for, and what I don’t. I’ve learned who I want in my life, who I should share my very valuable time with and who I shouldn’t.

I’ve learned out of all the experiences in life, and of all my attempts to fill the void and huge hole adoption has left, after I found my TRUTH, the very thing I was searching for was inside myself the entire time. And let me share, I’ve searched everywhere. Partying, drugs, alcohol, men, sweets, committing to serving and being present in the church FULL TIME. Nothing filled me up, nothing helped permanently.

I know, it’s hard to find ones self when we don’t have our truth, and if I’m completely honest, It’s impossible to do. This is why THE TRUTH is 110% critical for adoptees. But once I broke away from so many commitments, responsibilities, and systems, I found the time to look myself in the mirror, and find some time for myself. Little by little over the last few years, I’ve uncovered that life everyone talks about being beautiful, is something I can find beautiful too. But this isn’t easy to conclude. It’s hard work.

A few years ago, before Adoptees Connect, Inc. came about, I felt like I had no purpose, and I didn’t even want to be alive because I was in so much pain from my adoption experience. Finding PURPOSE in Adoptees Connect, has been a huge piece of my healing journey. Between finding purpose in the pain, and seeking outside fulfillment within myself, things have dramatically changed for me.

I still have bad days, and extreme days of sadness due to my adoption experience. The difference now is that I sit with it. It’s usually GRIEF that I’m feeling, and I allow myself to feel it and process it, whatever that looks like for me. It’s not even logical to say that I will be totally healed. That’s false, and not part of my reality. As soon as I accepted this, that’s actually when more healing began. Let me explain a little further.

As I continue my steps forward there is no doubt in my mind that I will never completely forget my past. No matter who says that’s possible, it’s not realistic for me to think like that. Adoption impacts so much, I deal with daily triggers, daily reminders of what was lost, sometimes hourly. One of the best things I did for myself is accepting that the pain from relinquishment and my adoption experience is here to stay. Once I accepted this, I learned to embrace my feelings, and I stopped trying to PRAY THEM AWAY or FILL THEM WITH OTHER THINGS. I sat with them, I cried with them and I learned to process them.

No one on this earth can do this for me. No one told me this is what was going to work. I’ve learned it because I’ve literally tried everything under the sun to BE HEALED, and nothing worked for me until I made the choice to STOP TRYING TO BE HEALED and sit with the pain. For me, my pain has looked more like GRIEF than anything. No one on earth is going to tell adoptees this, but grief for us will likely be a grieving process we experience for the rest of our lives. For me, to just expect it to be gone, IN JESUS NAME is something that didn’t work for me. It actually hindered my healing process, and made things worse. It bypassed the trauma I experienced from relinquishment, that was compacted by a traumatic adoption experience.

Fighting like hell for my truth was the first step. Accepting the pain was here to stay, was the beginning of my healing process. Today I can see brighter days ahead, and I can see joy in life like I have never seen before because my pain was just too great. So many adoptees can’t see past the pain, and they are stuck. I understand it and get it because it was me for years, 43 to be exact.

The whole entire concept of taking my energy, confidence, feelings, and time and reality, and turning it over to an outside source, system or person is something I’ve found to be extremely dangerous and counterproductive to my healing.  It’s no wonder I’ve always felt empty, alone, isolated, like a walking dead woman. It’s impossible to look at yourself as a source of strength, when we’re continuously told to look for it in other people, places and things.

I challenge everyone, not just adoptees to seek inside themselves, because your strength is there. Your wisdom is there. Your happiness is there. You have the total power and control to shift your energy from seeking sources outside yourself, to that of seeking strength, wisdom and understanding deep in your own heart.

For adoptees, if you don’t have your truth and all of it, fight like hell to get it. Never give up. You deserve healing, wholeness, and happiness. My story has been heartbreaking all the way around, with double rejection from BOTH my birth parents, and I have no relationship with 95% of my adoptive family for MANY reasons. I’ve had to make the choice to put myself, my recovery and my happiness FIRST. They put their happiness first, when I was conceived out of an affair, handed over to strangers to raise. My adoptive parents only cared about being parents, they didn’t have the capabilities of caring for me, an adoptee, like I needed to be cared for. No one helped me, I was 100% on my own finding my truth. Once I received the truth, that I fought like hell to get ON MY OWN, I realized that I CARRIED ME THROUGH THAT. I HAD THE STRENGTH TO MAKE IT. MY HEART IS THE ONE THAT WAS LEFT BROKEN. I USED SUBSTANCES FOR 27 YEARS TO NUMB MY PAIN. I’M THE ONE WHO DID THE WORK IN RECOVERY. I’M THE ONE PERSON I COULD COUNT ON. I HAD THE FIGHT TO WANT TO HEAL, BE HEARD AND NOT STOP. I WANTED TO BE A BETTER MOTHER TO MY KIDS THAN WHAT I HAD. I LIVE EVERYDAY IN RECOVERY AND MAKE DAILY, SOMETIMES HOURLY DECISIONS THAT TAKE WISDOM SO I STAY IN RECOVERY. NO SOURCE OR SYSTEM OUTSIDE MYSELF DID THAT.

I DID THAT.

I walked and I’m still walking.

For the rest of my days on earth, I will not be confined to anyone or anything. I no loner believe in any belief systems or have any loyalty to any one person or families that have hurt me. I’m finally FREE, living for ME. I continue to set boundaries for myself, and I have many more I will be setting in the coming weeks, months, years. All the labels in the world can walk off into the sunset, because I no longer want to be a part of them either. They don’t define me, they don’t make me a better person, or different than anyone else. Just like adoption. It’s a piece of who I am, but it’s not all of who I am.

As I continue to walk, I’m making the choice to continue to put my happiness first, as this new stage of my life approaches I HAVE A LOT OF MAKING UP TO DO. Chances are you do too!. Adoption has stolen A LOT. I refuse to allow it to steal anymore of my beautiful life. I have a wonderful career, amazing kids, and things in life I want to do. I have hobbies, and I want to be a happy, healthy mom and individual. When the end of my life is near, I hope people remember my life, but I also hope they see I didn’t stay stuck until the end of my days. Adoption will snatch up all our time, memories and freedom as we slave away at trying to bring the truth to light, and help others. I will always have certain commitments to the adoption community, but other commitments are falling to the side, because I’ve missed enough of living life, I don’t want to miss anymore.

Every minute lost is a minute I can’t get back. I ask myself daily, as I look in the mirror, “If you were to die tomorrow, what would you want to do today, if it was your last time on earth?” What makes my heart happy and what makes me tick? Same to you… What creates your happiness, deep within your soul? Don’t let adoption suck your entire life away, weather it be getting unstuck, or serving your life away in the adoption community. Finding a happy balance is KEY.

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Today, I keep walking, learning to live for myself, love myself, & honor myself. I’m focused on seeking solace and serenity inside myself, because others just let me down. I’ve never been happier. No one is going to tell you to seek this route, you will be solo but for many adoptees, that’s nothing new.  I’ve always been alone, but I haven’t always been okay with being alone.

Today, I’m alone, but I’m finally okay with being alone.

 It’s actually the safest space for me, because it’s all I know. I’m my own safe space. 

I have my kids, my career, nature, sunrises, sunsets, trees, flowers, fresh air, books, writing, my animals, health, inner peace, hiking, waterfalls, road trips, exercise, bonfires, hot tea, coffee,  acceptance, sobriety, a small circle of friends, my story, and my continued recovery.

I have all I need.

I’ve let go of the rest. 

I’m a free bird. 

For my fellow adoptees, what have you found that makes you tick?

Where is your safe space?

What JOY have you been able to find in your life, despite your adoptee journey?

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Adoptee in Recovery – When Forged Forgiveness Becomes Fatal 

1f6ae293-fe8e-4e1f-903b-0e9d69324cafTo my friends, David Bohl and GRH –   Thank you for giving me the courage to write about this! 

As I continue on my recovery and healing journey, so many things are coming to the light about different areas I’ve navigated over the years. One of those areas is the topic of forgiveness. This is going to be lengthy, so get a cup of coffee and be prepared. 

The world says “If you let go, by forgiving others you don’t have to hold onto resentment and anger” It’s said that forgiveness is necessary for personal growth. I can see this might be true in some circumstances and for minor hurts, but my thoughts shared here are relating to forgiveness towards traumatic events and situations because of someone else’s harmful actions. 

What is considered traumatic? That’s for each person to decide. What’s traumatic to me, might not be traumatic to you. My role in sharing this information is to shine a light about a topic that’s significantly complex, with many layers from the perspective of an adult adoptee in recovery. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about what forgiveness is, or isn’t and this is usually in alignment with the experiences that person has gained over their lifetime. 

I’ve heard about forgiveness over the years, but I was never in a position to apply it to my life, nor did I see a need for it when I was young. It wasn’t a topic of conversation but I also wasn’t on a healing journey as a child either. In 2012 I started my healing journey and things changed. This sparked a significant experience with forgiveness as I got involved with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and I started working the 12 Steps. Not long after I learned of Celebrate Recovery, and forgiveness was talked about even more but it was in a religious setting because Celebrate Recovery is a ministry. 

Although I have an appreciation for both of these programs and the concept of forgiveness, I’m now an outsider looking in because I no longer attend either of these programs and I’ve been reflecting on my experiences with both. 

Let me back things up to give you a little history. 

When I was 15 years old, I was lost, alone, broken, rage filled and I had no hope in life. Not only was I experiencing abuse in my adoptive home, but my fantasy of my birth mother coming back to get me was shattered, and reality was beginning to set in. 

SHE WAS NEVER COMING BACK. 

SHE was constantly on my mind, but where was she? Who was she? I acted out in every way possible and began using substances daily at 12 years old.  My struggles were 100% adoption related, but adoption was never talked about and never mentioned so I turned to substances, because I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t know how to feel. Most days I wanted to die, but somehow I found myself committed to drug and alcohol rehab in a locked facility at 15 years old. 

I will never forget being locked in an all white room, and a nurse came in and handed me the big book. I had no clue what the big book was, but for those who don’t know it’s the story of Bill W. who’s the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he shares how to recover from alcoholism. It’s focused on the 12 Steps and 8 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

I asked myself, “did I hit rock bottom at 15 years old?” I hadn’t even begun to live my life yet. I had barely made it out of Jr. High, and I found myself locked in rehab, with a big book in my hand. I will never forget reading the first few pages, and the first few chapters. So let me get this straight, finding GOD was the cure all to this recovery thing? The only way I was going to graduate this drug and alcohol treatment program, and get out was finding GOD? And working these 12 steps. Today, I ask myself, ‘what were my other options?”  

I had none. 

So this huge gigantic responsibility was placed on me, TO FIGURE IT OUT. The entire treatment program and my recovery depended on it because the effectiveness of the entire AA program will depend on this decision to “turn my will and my life over to God, as I understood Him.”  

Let’s break that down a little more, “AS I UNDERSTOOD HIM.” I had no clue what this even meant, but I was either going with the punches, working these 12 steps or never graduate this program. Let me be honest. I didn’t care about any of it, because I just wanted to go drink and use again. I had no choice in this and I was forced to play along. I asked a few of the inmates (it was like jail so that’s what I will call them) what god they turned their wills and life over to in hopes to gain a better understanding. They expressed the God that created the earth, the bible was the word, and that was the only way this thing was going to work. 

I remember having experiences with that same God when I was growing up. My adoptive mom had us read devotionals, we went to church, performed in church plays, and she made us say prayers before meals. 

But now, my entire life depended on turning my will and my life over to God as I understood him. What did this even mean? To be honest, I didn’t understand him but I did what I had to do to get out. I finally worked all the 12 steps, and after about 8 weeks I graduated the program. During my time in this locked treatment facility, I never once worked on or talked about any of my root adoptee related issues, like relinquishment trauma, grief, loss, abandonment, the primal wound, etc. I got out, went and got high and drunk again as soon as I was free. 

I did NOT want to feel adoption, and at all costs and I didn’t.

 Of course, if the tools were present and I had help, I’m sure I would have been able to process but that’s not how things worked for me. I had no tools, no one opening up conversations about my adoptee reality,  it was a taboo topic. The less we talked about it, the better for everyone else. I felt truly alone in the world, but it wasn’t a happy alone. It was a deep, dark sad alone. I spent the next 27 years drinking alcohol, and using as many drugs as I could get my hands on as a way to numb my reality.  So many times in my life, I just wanted to die because my adoptee pain has been that great. Reality, I didn’t want to feel the pain anymore and I had no tools to work on my issues. In my mind, the only way to get rid of it is to go to sleep and never wake up again. Two times as a teenager I was unseccessful at trying to commit suicide, taking a hand full of pills each time, only waking up later regretful that the pills didn’t work. My adoptive parents never knew, and they still don’t. I just wanted out.  The next 27 years was a roller coaster of a ride. 

As 2012 hit, so did my next attempt at recovery and the 12 steps once again smacked me straight in my face. Here we go again. What other options were presented to me or available? 

None.

Even after seeing dozens of therapists all the way back to being 5 years old into my adult life.

NONE. 

The only way to get healing is turning my life and will over to God, and making sure I forgive all those who have harmed me, even if they aren’t sorry, and even if I hadn’t even worked on the issues at all. I also had to forgive God, and forgive myself, which was the hardest part.  As I set out on my recovery journey, I learned the rules to forgiveness in the religious realm are, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14

I remember my time heavily in the church, surrounding myself with Christian’s and church people the advice and information I was getting was solely from them and I also researched forgiveness. As they shared, and the bible shared, I knew that forgiveness was such an important part of healing, and the 12 steps so I worked on figuring out the true meaning of forgiveness and what it meant to me. I knew it was something for me, not the other person. The more I learned, I applied this to my life, but I also shared it with others on many occasions, especially during the 4 years I served in leadership for the women’s chemical dependency group in Celebrate Recovery. I remember internally struggling with the fact that I had forgiven someone like I was told to do by the 12 steps, but I still had major issues with the situation or the person I had forgiven. This only made me feel more defective than I already felt. It made me feel worse, because I must not be doing something right. It was like a dark cloud hanging over my head, combined with my heart torn into shreds. It was a horrible life for many of my years on earth. 

I learned that in order for us to be forgiven by God, we had to forgive others who had harmed us. It’s said this “deal” could potentially send us to hell, and it would always keep us in bondage if we didn’t make the choice to forgive others, God and ourselves. I learned that once we make the choice to forgive others for them harming us and when we forgive ourselves, we then had to consciously decide to never bring it up again, and never discuss it or tell others about it, otherwise it wasn’t true forgiveness. Even when we thought about it again, we weren’t to speak about it, at all. 

In my mind, this is more like coerced and mandatory forgiveness, (forged) but not true from the heart and it’s also ABUSIVE.  Writing this today, I’ve come to the realization of how I personally feel this can be extremely damaging and even fatal for some people. I know in the AA Big Book, it says to find “God as I understood Him” and the forgiveness rules are possibly a little different than in the religious settings. But both of these ideas of forgiveness ignited the fact that I had to forgive others in order to make it out alive and complete these 12 steps. And what about there truly being no other choice towards healing, aside from working these 12 steps? 

Why wasn’t I given anymore options? 

Let me make this clear, I wholeheartedly believe that the 12 steps in AA and Celebrate Recovery have worked wonders and saved the lives of many individuals, and for that I’m very thankful. However, this topic is a critical thing, and it’s important it’s shared, especially with Adoptees in general, but specifically my fellow Adoptees in Recovery. 

I’m not addressing forgiveness for minor or petty offenses. I’m not talking about when someone TRULY makes a mistake, and they are sorry they did something and us forgiving them and giving second chances.  I’m not talking about those that don’t intentionally hurt us. We can easily say, “That person didn’t know what they were doing” but many times forgiveness is extended to people who knew what they were doing. Improper forgiveness can keep us in bondage, and it can set the forgiver up to be victimized again, and again, and again with the offender never being truly sorry or remorseful. This is ABUSIVE. THIS IS BONDAGE. 

Do you ever feel like forgiveness defends the abusers? I do. Do you ever feel like forgiveness feels like giving our abusers a free pass? I do. When someone has root issues that are trauma based, the whole idea of forgiveness can be very damaging, and oftentimes deadly. I can share this, because this is how forgiveness has impacted me, when it’s been presented in a way it has throughout my lifetime. Forced upon me by scriptures backing it up, and through programs I had to complete to LIVE, it’s clearly had me backed in a corner with nowhere to turn. It manipulated me to the core of my being. 

Until Now…

I realize that there are more resources today than there were when I was 15 years old, and even when I started my recovery journey in 2012. Today I’m thinking for myself, and I’m not being backed into a corner with no options.  I realize that I possibly didn’t have all the tools for recovery in my recovery tool box and there are more possibilities today than there was before. The more I learn about forgiveness, and all the different dynamics of it, the more I’m informed if it works for me or if it doesn’t work for me. 

I resent the fact that from the biblical concept of forgiveness and the world’s standards, I’ve felt 100% manipulated and duped into forgiving others, God and myself. What I wonder is, if I’m supposed to forgive all those who hurt me, myself and God and if I don’t God won’t forgive me, but he sends so many people to hell, so where is his forgiveness for others? Isn’t this quite the double standard and mental mind manipulation?  It’s lead me to question God all together, and rethink my entire approach on what I believe and what I don’t believe. I’m going to save that for another article, but it’s coming. 

I don’t know about you, but the idea that a person that has been victimized has a responsibility placed on them to forgive their perpetrator/s is pretty disgusting and a topic I’ve found to be very disheartening. Anyone who is pushing forgiveness onto others is doing it for their own gain, and their own agenda, not yours. A lot of the wounds people care are inner child wounds, and being forced or coerced to forgive others is extremely toxic and damaging!

For me, where I am today, what if I personally don’t believe in forgiveness based on my experience with it, but I believe in holding people accountable for their shitty actions? What if I make the choice if I want to allow them in my life or not without being manipulated into forgiving them? What if MY WAY isn’t the WORLDS WAY but who gives a shit, because it’s what works for me? Would you believe me if I told you that I’m at peace with things, but I haven’t forgiven anyone by the world’s standards? That doesn’t mean I still don’t have traumatic memories, or have trauma work to do.  What if I take forgiveness and everything about it and toss it in the trash? Shouldn’t we want to consciously and organically in our hearts want to give people second chances, be better people or come to peace with things on our own time without an entire belief system manipulating us into doing so? This manipulation with forgiveness has actually hindered me, kept me in bondage, and held me back from true authentic and organic healing. This is life or death for many of us. 

 Forced and Forged Forgiveness can add layers of shame onto victims, for not “getting over something” or for “sharing their trauma.” Once you forgive someone, you’re supposed to get over it, and move on with your life. What if you don’t get over it or move on? “Here you are talking about it again” … Shame comes in after we’ve said to forgive someone,  when you are simply having natural and very legitimate feelings associated with a very real situation for you. This isn’t helping people, only hurting them worse. I’ve had people09be5a42-2952-4e14-810c-0c40893545c9 silence me with scriptures, when I share very real feelings with them. “You’ve already forgiven yourself for that, the devil is only bringing it up again because he wants you to live in condemnation.”  Talk about BONDAGE and MENTAL MIND F&^KS. It’s becoming apparent to me that this belief system can cause great amounts of harm, and even become fatal to some. (I plan on writing about that later) 

Let’s touch on the our society’s “positive culture” that surrounds our lives today. Positive vibes, clearing any and all negative energies from our sacred spaces, and much of the time we’re denying our own feelings, stuffing them down and bypassing processing them just to fit into the mold of the world and the preaching of positive vibes. You see motivational speakers kicking into high drive, and spiritual circles silencing you with scriptures all to keep the positive vibes going.  Have you learned what Spiritual Bypassing is? I suggest you research it, and it’s a real thing. Also research Religious Trauma Syndrome. Your life will never be the same. 

As adoptees, it’s so important we understand that anger, and feelings of grief, loss and sadness are perfectly legitimate feelings, and they come in waves for many of us. Are you leaving room for these feelings within your friends and family and within your circle? If not, please reconsider because it’s life and death. I don’t have time to preach positivity when adoptees are dying! Once we are in a position to process these feelings, in natural ways we then start healing. When positive culture is shoved down our throats, like it is in churches, spiritual settings, and in society as a whole it leaves no room for us to share our pain. Just like forged forgiveness, this can be fatal. We really need to rethink our approach, and stop forcing this culture on everyone. We have to do better. 

Anger can be a very positive thing when used the right way. Anger can be used to fuel change, create visions, and put action behind them. We have to stop silencing people when they share it, and stop trying to dish out feel good juice, and learn to sit with people in their pain. I’m not talking about ANGER that abuses and hurts other people which is HUGE as well. This is when anger is toxic to others and it isn’t productive. We can each set our own boundaries if this type of anger influences our lives, or the lives of others. But before we get to the other side of healing starting, we have to process the anger FIRST. 

If you step out of the box filled with influences from your lifetime, please know It is entirely possible for someone to get to a place of acceptance, and peace about a situation and forgiveness has never been extended. Please know forgiveness culture can be very damaging when it’s forged and forced in anyway.   

What if I have been on a healing journey, and I’ve decided on my own that my goal is to come to peace with things in my life, and for me that process happens by accepting things are the way they are and there is nothing I can do to change them? What if forged forgiveness does more harm than good? What if expecting others to FORGIVE THOSE WHO HAVE HARMED US actually retraumatised us and damages us more than the actual offense itself? What if we’re placing an unrealistic and damaging burden on those who we expect to forgive who are perpetrators and those who hurt us and it only adds to our pain and trauma? 

“Forgiveness is for you, and no one else and it should never be forced on anyone” – Says the world.

Yes, this is true yet the world is set up as the opposite, especially in religious circles. The 12 steps are focused around forgiveness, and for me I was giving FREE PASSES TO PEOPLE WHO ABUSED AND TRAUMATIZED ME. Is anyone manipulating me into “coming to a place of peace?” No, no they aren’t. It’s something I do on my time, through healing (whatever that looks like to me), and trauma therapy, and TONS OF TRAUMA work. Not because GOD AND THE SCRIPTURES SAY SO. 

For me, forged forgiveness (a huge burden and responsibility) to forgive those who have traumatized and hurt me, was actually BONDAGE. Not the other way around. Forged Forgiveness feels like gaslighting to me, and that’s only adding trauma on top of trauma. It’s up to each of us to decide on our own, without any influences if we want to forgive someone or not. It should be from our hearts, not because of manipulation or to complete a program. If forgiveness has worked for you, that’s wonderful but we must understand what works for some doesn’t always work for everyone. Have you spent as much time sitting with someone, listening to them in their grief and pain like you have encouraged them to forgive their perpetrator/s? 

Today, I’ve decided I’m withdrawing my forgiveness claims, and reevaluating each and every situation on my own terms, in my own time. Right now, I have a clean slate and I have forgiven no one. From this day forward, as situations arise and thoughts come to my mind, I will process them organically either alone or with someone I trust and I will REMOVE any forged and forced idea of forgiveness from my mind. This is freedom to me. 

 If the idea of forgiveness comes naturally, then I will apply it to that situation. If it doesn’t, and I can come to a place of peace, then wonderful. Maybe I’m not at a place of peace yet about certain things, which means I still have trauma work to do. Maybe I will never get to that place, because trauma impacts us all in different ways. It can change our brain wiring, it can change our memory and our mobility. Trauma can change everything and not all trauma just goes away.  Sometimes acceptance that the trauma and it’s symptoms are here to stay is what’s needed to be able to cope. 

No two stories are the same, and we all need and want different things in life. This article is long, and it’s filled with a lot of thoughts. I’m sharing because this is a HUGE topic, and recently having someone tell me “MAYBE YOU SHOULD FORGIVE THEM” even after I shared many traumatic situations with that person, really rubbed me the wrong way. It made me reevaluate forgiveness all together, and made me really think how abusive it can be. It also made me realize how forged forgiveness has impacted my life, and how I’m the only one who can change things for my future. 

After reading ALL THIS, I’m not here to tell you forgiveness isn’t productive and it’s not for you. I’m here to share my truth, as my experiences back it up. I’m here to share there is a damaging side to forgiveness and I hope each person reading is given more tools than what I was given. I hope for each of you, forgiveness is a CHOICE that you choose.

I’m glad I got to share this, and I feel even more free than when I started typing it. I’m thankful I’m at a place of freedom where I can recognize the abuse behind certain areas that are portrayed to be positive things. The healthier we get, the more BS we can recognize. I hope to continue to share what’s worked for me, and what hasn’t worked for me. My hope is, it helps someone out there, specifically my fellow adoptees. Please understand, if you can’t bring it in your life to FORGIVE others, for ANY REASON please don’t allow others to place that BURDEN on you. You don’t deserve it, and it’s not yours to carry. You don’t owe anyone, I MEAN IT!

No matter who it is. 

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Love, love. P.K.

P.S. I know some might mean well, but if you feel the need to send me scriptures about forgiveness, please spare yourself the time. I’m not interested.