Do not assume when an adoptee finds their biological family, all their problems will be solved, and the case will be closed.

 

They say to prepare, but there is no real way to prepare for what some adoptees find when they make the choice to search for biological family.

Searching for and finding biological family as an adoptee is opening up Pandora’s box repeatedly. It is the beginning of a new era of uncovering the secrets that so many think they have protected us from. Even under the best of reunion stories, it is still the beginning of a new painful path that adoptees experience.

If we’re lucky, one door closes, and another door opens. And that’s just it if we’re lucky. Society says at least you have found your truth when so many other adoptees would die to find theirs. Even when the truth has been excruciatingly painful, society thinks we should still feel LUCKY. Even our fellow adoptees suggest this at times, and I understand why they feel this way, mainly when they haven’t found their biological families yet.

I think our friends, families and loved ones sense us in agony before we search and find and in all honestly they hope we will feel “better” after we find out truth. However, when they still see us in agony after we reunite, it hurts them to see us hurt. They want to take our pain away, and they have high hopes reunion will do that. Truth and reality is, it usually doesn’t. It brings on a new set of heartbreak, pain, grief and loss.

Searching and finding biological family, I like to describe it as trading one type of pain for another. Both types of pain are different but equally painful. The pain of the unknown for adopted individuals is like the feelings a parent might have who has a missing child somewhere out in the world. Imagine your 10-year-old child was abducted on the street, and they vanished with no trace ever to be found. The agony that parents must feel every waking moment of every day having their child missing.

Adoptees think similar to this, but it is not just one family member. It’s their very own mother, father, grandparents on both sides, siblings on both sides, and cousins on both sides. We’re on an island all alone, searching in our minds from the moment we find out we are adopted for our biological connections. This is painful from the very beginning. If you don’t think so, I would like to ask you how many adopted individuals you have gotten to know and listened to their stories over the years? I have gotten to know hundreds, if not over a thousand, and not one of them has said adoption has been 100% wonderful. It’s complex, emotional, and painful at best.

Can you imagine what it feels like to not know what your mother looks like?

Or her name?

I know you can’t because it’s unimaginable.

The big difference is, parents of missing children are expected to feel the feelings they feel having a missing child. Society saves space for them, their grief and loss. They have some memories to hang onto, and they have their child’s names and they know who they are. My heart goes out to these parents, because I know it’s a nightmare on every level but I wanted to describe the difference in what adopted individuals experience.

At all costs, we are just supposed to be grateful. If we aren’t, we are labeled as ungrateful, angry, and many other hurtful words.

This is not helpful to the adoptee experience.

To feel whole, complete, and like I was an actual living human being, I had to find this woman that gave birth to me. I had to see her face and know who she was. I fought the closed adoption laws in Iowa like HELL to find her. If I didn’t, I would be dead right now. In my mind, this would solve all the pain I experienced and the heartache I lived with my whole life all the way back to coming home from the hospital with strangers at a few days old.

Living in the unknown is a different type of pain. It was for me anyway. I describe it as agony. Every waking moment of every day for me was painful. I was sad, filled with anxiety, and as I grew into my pre-teen self, it turned into self-sabotage and self-hate. All I needed was HER.

During this time, I had anticipation and high hopes that one day I would be reunited with the woman who gave me away, but things would be different this time. If she “loved me so much,” she had to want to know me and have me back in her life, right?

WRONG

She never wanted to be found, she never wanted to meet me, and she was nothing like what I dreamed about finding my whole life. She was quite the opposite. She was a disappointment on every level and I am still 20+ years later, upset by this disappointment. She considered herself doing me a favor meeting me one time, and we had a 2-hour visit together. After this visit, she shut me out and never spoke to me again. During the visit, she asked me about my life and how my childhood was. I have always been an honest person, even when it hurts. I expressed to her I never bonded with my adoptive mom, and my adoptive parents divorced when I was a year old. I was raised on welfare, food stamps and experienced significant emotional, mental, and even sexual abuse in my adoptive home.

It crushed her, and it was too much for her to handle. Twenty years passed, and she shut me out, not being able to face HER DECISION. She assumed I would have the better life promised to her. I received a message she had passed away, and I traveled to Iowa to her funeral.

I was told by some of her closest friends at her funeral that she was distraught that my adoptive parents divorced, and if she had known that was going to happen, she would have kept me. They said this REALLY BOTHERED HER.

Knowing this truly helped me understand why she shut me out, but it didn’t take away the pain or lessen it. The pain of being rejected by a biological parent is indescribable. The pain of being rejected by your mother, the woman who brought you into the world, is a pain that never goes away. Check out The Primal Wound to learn more.

I’m trying to relay that we should never assume that just because an adoptee finds their biological family that it’s going to be the key that turns the page for them. Or imagine that their life will finally be complete and that they can eventually MOVE ON. Sometimes what we find is so devastating, moving on isn’t an option for many of us. For those of us who can, somewhere along the lines we’ve come to a place of acceptance.

Telling adoptees to MOVE ON or GET OVER IT is never helpful.

It’s actually quite the opposite. High hopes are shattered to the ground, and the disappointment of what was found sets in and rips our hearts to shreds. The grief and loss process continues and will remain a significant component of our lives for the rest of our lives. Adoptees are the kings and queens of adaption, and we do our best to put on a smile for the world to see. It takes everything in our power to pretend that everything is okay deep inside. But it’s usually far from it.

We also must remember that this adaption behavior and pretending is instilled into many of us from a very early age. When we learn that our greatest heartbreak is our adoptive parents’ greatest blessing, we discover our feelings aren’t important. This makes us feel like we aren’t important. We must keep them hidden for fear of upsetting our adoptive parents. Our heartache and heartbreak for the mystery woman we fantasize and dream about are insignificant compared to our adoptive parents’ feelings of finally becoming parents.

The mental mind paradox that any adopted individual has to endure is enough to take us out of this world. It’s way too much for one person to bear. Non-adopted individuals can’t comprehend what the big fuss is all about. Accepting they never will understand because they don’t have the experience has been a critical component to my healing journey. Even when non-adoptees TRY to understand, they simply can’t. We do appreciate those who TRY.

Aside from the failed reunion with my biological mother and rejection from her, I experienced the same failed reunion and rejection from my biological father. Even after DNA confirmation that I am his daughter, he has no desire to know me or have a relationship with me. He said that he would have kept me if he would have known about me, but I was adopted without his consent, so he had no say so. In his eyes, it’s too late now. Double rejection and double heartbreak is a hard pill to swallow. It’s heavy to carry, and the pain surfaces in the grief and loss process for me, which I’ve accepted it will last a lifetime.

Aside from being rejected by my biological parents, I found a long-lost brother who was the best part of my search and reunion. We spent five years catching up for lost time, making new memories together, and being elated that we finally found one another after all these years apart. This reality turned into a shattered nightmare when DNA testing showed we shared no DNA. I can’t even put into words how this experience has made me feel. The heartbreak is accurate, and I have no words to describe it. Pain on top of pain.

After a lifetime of dreaming, I get to meet my biological grandmother at least one time, I succeeded. I can’t express how thankful I am that I had enough courage to drive across the country (even after being told by my biological father that I could not meet her) to meet her for one hour as she lived in a nursing home in Iowa. I stayed one hour, and was a dream come true. It opened the connection to my first cousin, who thought she was the only granddaughter. I was honored to be invited back to Iowa for a second visit to meet her and her family and see my biological grandmother a second time. She took me to the land where my grandparents lived, which she described her childhood memories as being like “heaven.” Even with this being a dream come true, when I returned home and the dust settled, this “reunion” became so emotional for me that it set me up for intense grieving I wasn’t prepared to experience. I became sad, depressed, and things spiraled out of control. My grief and sorrow for what was lost and what I missed out on being robbed of these relationships were all I could bear to handle. I was so sad. I just wanted my life to end because of all the pain, the grief, the loss I was feeling. Death seemed like the only way to escape the pain.

Learning to live with a broken heart has been a key component to my healing journey.

Even ten years post reunions with biological parents and all the pain I have experienced in that time from other dynamics to my adoption journey, I still wouldn’t change the fact that I chose to search and find my people. Even when they haven’t accepted me, knowing my truth has been healing in its own way. I don’t regret it, but handling the aftermath is something I will be navigating for the rest of my life.

Even when our loved ones might expect reunions and finding our TRUTH might be the answer for our healing and freedom, in some regards, it can be. Still, the other side is that we suffer in silence carrying the tremendous pain and sorrow of what should have been, what could have been, and all that was lost because of adoption. The difference for adoptees is that our world doesn’t acknowledge we should even be feeling this way; they do not leave space for us and don’t understand why.

Reunion is still just as messy as adoption, and it looks different for each of us. Even being embraced by one or both biological parents carries pain. It brings grief, and it brings loss. Instead of the outlook that when adopted individuals find their biological family, it will be the CURE ALL for the adoptee, let’s reframe things to help them embrace what they are about to experience. It could be happiness; it could be sadness; it could be a combination of both. It could be feelings that are so complex, they don’t even understand them themselves. It could be emotions so difficult that they withdraw; they use coping mechanisms to get through and become shut off.

There is no limits to what an adoptee might find when they search for their biological family. I think many of us are set up for the greatest disappointment of our lives when we assume our birth mother “loved us so much” but her actions of rejection show quite the opposite. Many of us find addicts, graves, happy homes without us, that our biological parents married and had more kids after us, or single women who never married or had more kids. Sometimes we find parents who are happy to be found, and others who want to slam us in jail for pursuing them. Sometimes we are received but only if we agree to remain a secret. Sometimes siblings embrace us, and sometimes they reject us. Some of us are told our biological parents are dead, but we later find that was a lie to discourage us for searching. This happened to me! (never believe what you have been told, until you prove it) I’ve heard it ALL over the years!

No matter how the adoptee responds, non-adopted individuals must meet them right where they are, and they should accept this is a lifelong journey for the adoptee. They should also accept that nothing they say or do, can take our pain away. Being adopted never goes away, so our feelings won’t go away either. The sooner non-adoptees can get this, the easier it will be on the adoptee.

We must remember that no matter how the adoptee feels, it’s normal for a not normal situation. There is nothing ordinary about being severed from your roots, abandoned by your biological mother, and fighting the world for your truth. To my fellow adoptees, I love you, I see you, I hear you. XOXO PK.

Thanks for reading.

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

A Whirlwind But Coming Out On Top

What does “On Top” mean?

Well for me it means I’ve decided in my mind I’m working on moving forward from this previous season of my life.

My whirlwind has been more like a tornado.

It’s been a difficult season, but life is difficult right? What I’m finding out that yes, life is difficult but having things happen in life that are difficult are HARD for many people but this adoptee “thing” is also hard. So for me being in recovery and dealing with this adoptee “thing” and the “life in general” thing it’s extremely difficult and the last few months it’s been extra heavy.

I found myself slipping into a depression after I came back from Iowa from meeting biological family for the first time on my birth fathers side. My amazing cousin was so welcoming and it’s honestly the first time anyone on my birth fathers side welcomed me. I was overwhelmed with emotions not so much during the 2 trips to Iowa, but after I returned and settled back from the trip.

It’s strange to me that my entire life I have dreamed of being welcomed by them, someone, anyone and when that dream happens I’m overwhelmed with emotions I didn’t expect… The journey has been pain for me all the way back to being a 5 year old child learning of my “adoption status”. Confusion and mental torment took over and essentially, it’s never left.

So finally I’m embraced by my cousin, her father and his wife, (my aunt and uncle). On the flip side my birth father still refuses to acknowledge me and has disregarded I’m his daughter. Mixed emotions about this. I’m so thankful for my new found cousin, but reality is I still have to process what was lost.

This is easier said than done.

I know my fellow adoptees get it.

I’ve shared in a previous blog post Being Born a Burden my experience on my trip so I won’t share all the dynamics.

Basically a few months ago, when I returned from these trips depression began to set in. No motivation, and other life issues just took me down. I didn’t drink, thank God but at times I felt like I wanted too. Not for the alcohol, just to not feel all the pain I was feeling. The surrealness of seeing my grandmothers house she lived in when I was a child was an overwhelming emotional experience for me. Something felt like I had never been there physically but my spirit had been there. It was almost like an out of body experience, hard to describe.

Finding out I have a sister out there, and my new Ancestry DNA sample and test didn’t bring any good hits on making a connection. This was another major disappointment for me that mixed with my emotions of finding I have a sister to begin with who knows nothing about me, and I have no information on her.

I called my birth father to see if he would tell me any information on this long lost sister. He said he didn’t know her name, her mothers name and he didn’t remember my mothers name! He said “She doesn’t bother me like you do!” and the conversation quickly fizzled. More disappointment and hurt of losing more from adoption.

Why the world things adoption doesn’t impact adoptees for a lifetime is beyond me.

It’s heartbreaking. 

NAAM17 Has been triggering! I literally had multiple adoptees lash out at me on social media!!! This is tragic! Hard to grasp and understand!

So emotions have been swirling, I’ve been taking sleeping pills to just sleep things off and obviously that’s not going to work for very long. Sleeping pills slowly turned into a cocktail of pills, anti depressant, muscle relaxer, and an anxiety medication all non-narcotic because my doctor knows I’m in recovery and I have a very addictive personality. Yet I slowly started to take more pills and more of these same pills just to be able to go to sleep and not feel things. I’ve been stuck in this depressive cycle for a few months now. I thankfully learned this was an unhealthy pattern I was experiencing and I needed to do something about it. Emotionally eating has taken hold. Seasonal Depression has set in, and holidays are EXTREMELY hard for many adoptees, including me.

There is no help for adoptees, not yet anyway.

Soon Adoptees Connect – Lexington, KY will connect and a support system will be built in my area.

I woke up a few days ago and decided if I was being honest with myself, and those close to me I needed to talk to my doctor about this issue I was having and tell her I wanted to discontinue all medications. I did just that.

Now, I’m weaning myself off a anti-depressant and stopped the other medications with no desire to take anymore.

Now I will be feeling again.

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This is daunting for a person who internalizes everything and a very deep thinker. All I can do is take one day at a time. I decided to share THIS because I know some people have missed me, missed my Facebook posts but I tend to isolate when I’m going through things but I’m always with God. He’s my sidekick working things out behind the scenes. I don’t want to burden people with my pain, sorrow or tormenting thoughts.

In recovery we learn we are only as sick as our secrets. My secrets are in this blog and this is why I write. I have to release these things somewhere, especially when there are very few adoptees in my local area I can talk too. I do have fellow adoptees far away and they have been lifesaving! But again, I don’t want to seem like a Debbie Downer, yet this is what my life feels like much of the time.

To be quiet honest, I’m tired of the struggle. I believe I could handle life issues better, if all the adoptee “STUFF” wasn’t also overflowing on my plate. This is why I always will say adoptees are STRONG, yet much of the time we don’t feel like it.

Today, I’m excited to stop taking these medications and hopefully have my life back a little bit. Adoption triggers so many emotions for adoptees, and when multiple things hit all at once it can be paralyzing.

This is all for now, but I wanted to share where I’ve been and what’s been going on. I know many of you can relate. Have you experienced anything like this before?

Blessings,

Pamela K.

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Confliction Brings Content

The weekend of April 21st & 22nd I had the honor of going to my first ever adoptee conference. It was an experience of a lifetime for me and I enjoyed so much of it. My favorite part was meeting my fellow adoptees near and far.

Other parts were simply overwhelming. Emotions I had stuffed for years came flooding back. It was tough on many aspects.

I left the conference with a ton of emotions way up at the surface. I didn’t quite know how to process it all. My plan was to come home and spend some time writing about it in the days to come.

That plan was halted by some news…

Within a few short hours of being back in Kentucky from the conference I found out my adoptive mother had passed away some time over the weekend.

More confliction.

It could hardly believe it.

I took all things I was feeling regarding the conference and put them on the shelf. (a safe space I will return to deal with later.) The emotions and feelings associated with my adoptive mother’s passing had taken over me.

My cell phone rang and on the other line it was my adoptive father whom never calls me for anything unless its sad news or a health issue. I had been working a double shift that Monday April 24th. I was at the tail end of the last shift when I got the call.

Adoptive Father- “Hi Pam- How are you?”

Me- “I’m good Daddy, at work. How are you?”

Adoptive Father- “I have some sad news for you. Your mother has died at some point over the weekend”.

Me- “Wow I don’t really know what to say. What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to do something?”

Adoptive Father- “No, I don’t think anyone wants you to do anything.”

Me- “I just wish she was different and things were different but at least she’s at peace now and hopefully she will finally be happy. I know for certain she was never happy here on earth.

Daddy- “Well your sister is taking it pretty hard. (Haven’t had contact with her in many years)

Me- “Well she still had a relationship with Her, I didn’t so that would make sense I suppose. I had to let go for my own sanity but thank you for sharing the news. I appreciate it”.

My mind was racing a mile a minute. What would they want from me? What would my responsibilities be in this thing? Would I have to travel back to Iowa? Would I be expected to DO SOMETHING? I was a mess thinking of all these things. I just wanted to run and hide.

Interesting that I was not able to process losing my “Mother” because I have done that every single day for the last 42 years. How was this any different?

You see, back in 2012 when I decided to get sober a lot of things changed for me. I learned that to fully live in recovery I had to get honest about all areas of my life. During that process and over the last 5 years I realized that I was forced to be in this family with dysfunction but as I got sober I learned I could make my own choices in all areas. In that time, I had discontinued my relationship with my adoptive mom because of the toxicity she brings to my life. I had accepted the fact that I will never have a mother because she has never been one. I was always the one taking care of her, not her taking care of me. I tried to set boundaries and she wouldn’t abide by any of them.

For my own mental health, sanity and recovery I had to close the door and keep it closed. I had learned in 42 years if I even cracked the door a tiny bit her toxicity impacted me in negative ways and I didn’t want anything to do with that anymore.

It’s awesome when we figure out that YES, we have that choice!

NO MATTER WHO IT IS!

My entire life I have been petrified about what is she going to do next? What area of my life is she going to come back and haunt me. She’s tried hard to use my kids as a manipulation tool and it infuriated me. Aren’t the horrible memories of her trying to commit suicide by laying in the street enough? Or the memories of her tying us to chairs as kids? The manic-depressive episodes- they weren’t enough?

Fear was always on my mind when it came to HER. Fighting off bad memories from my childhood has been a daily struggle. Thank GOD, I have God in my life or I wouldn’t be here! I have forgiven her but I have also closed the door and moved on with my life.

So now what?

I struggled with feeling inhumane for not FEELING LIKE I LOST A MOTHER WHEN SHE DIED. I felt guilty for not feeling any sorrow like someone should feel when their mother dies.

STOLEN!

One more thing adoption has stolen from me. Not only 2 entire families but my mother too! If I had a good mother would things be different for me?

I will never know.

I came to the realization I DIDN’T LOSE A MOTHER WHEN SHE DIED. She was never a mother to me. She took more than anyone could ever imagine.

If I was to weigh the pain of losing my first mother and being rejected by her later in life to the pain of my adoptive mother passing there is no comparison at all. What I am trying to say is that the pain I have felt every single day of my life is the worst pain I have ever felt and that’s because I lost my birth mother at the beginning of life. It’s because I’ve lost 2 entire families because of adoption.

I have accepted THIS.

But it still hurts.

If you aren’t adopted, we are triggered by essentially EVERYTHING IN LIFE!

My adoptive mother dying has no comparison to me. I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh but I am being transparent here. What I did feel was a sadness and sorrow for her that she never found happiness or wholeness here on earth. I felt sorry for her she was in addiction, had gone her entire life never being diagnosed with mental illness therefor she tore through people’s lives like a destructive tornado and she never relented. If it wasn’t a family member (who almost all cut her off) it was someone where she worked, where she lived and her own children. I felt sorry for her that the adoption industry set her up for a fairy tale and I was never the daughter she wanted or needed.

Our adoption story is a flat our disaster!

I was her caretaker.

She was never mine.

Until I turned 31 and packed up a 22 foot U-Haul and moved myself and my kids across the country. I have never felt freedom before like I have sense I moved.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD IT WAS!! I HAD NO HELP & NO SUPPORT aside from my best friend. I had 3 small kids and was a single mother making this decision.

IT WAS THE HARDEST YET BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE.

I had to do this not only for myself, my mental health and sanity but for my children! When I saw her doing some of the same things with my kids I knew it was time to go. GOD KNEW!

Life has never been more peaceful for me because I moved far away.  Now it was time to recovery from the first 31 years of life!  I tried to have a long-distance relationship with her but that didn’t work either. She would come visit and it was like the devil himself was showing up at my door step. I had to put an end to it. There comes a time when we must put ourselves FIRST.

I was unsettled on how this was going to play out. For some reason, I thought they were going to need something from me or I was going to have to go back to Iowa to clean her apartment out. I was petrified! Given the circumstances I had dreaded this more than anything in the world and the scene played over and over in my mind all these years.  I had visions of this day coming. FEAR! Fear of facing something I ran from tormented me all these years. 

I just wanted the nightmare to end and for it all to go away.

It was like a dark cloud hanging over my head.

I certainly didn’t expect it to happen within 24 hours of connecting with my fellow adoptees in real life. I hadn’t even been able to process the conference yet!

After my conversation with my adoptive father (him and adoptive mother divorced when I was 1) He asked me to call my adoptive sister. I hadn’t spoken to her in years and years. I believe my adoptive mom used triangulation tactics our entire lives and played us both against each other. We never stood a chance at being sisters because of her.

Now I was supposed to call her?

All I wanted to do was the right thing considering the circumstances.

I called. We spoke about 5 minutes. She was tearful and crying. I was the opposite = Emotionless. She hadn’t let go yet, and I had many years earlier. I didn’t make my decision lightly. I prayed and contemplated and received some guidance from people I’m close to. I felt sorry for my adoptive sister but I know she will be okay.

It comes down to this. If you don’t bring happiness and positivity into my life you must go. I am not making any apologies these days for cutting toxic people, places or things out of my life. Neither should you.

Do I feel any regret for making this decision? No I don’t. I prayerfully made this decision and many tears were involved for along time.  I had to do what I had to do to survive. I had to put my recovery and mental health first for once. I didn’t regret moving across the country and I don’t regret cutting her off with this unhealthy tie legally attaching me to this toxicity.  It was a strange feeling at the end of her life being someone who had to sign her cremation paperwork.

As if the beginning was an adoption transaction.

The end was a cremation transaction.

I didn’t sign any adoption paperwork.

But I had to sign her cremation paperwork.

Confliction.

There is supposed to be a memorial at a later date. I decided it would not be in my best interest to go back to Iowa to help with her apartment. I experienced massive anxiety and fear even contemplating it. I didn’t have peace about it at all and peace comes from God. This spoke to me. I helped with some of the cremation costs and will be sending more money asap to go towards expenses my sister has had to face regarding this manner. Neither of us asked to be in this situation. It’s certainly not all her fault. I will not attend a memorial at this point unless my children want to attend. Being an adoptee loosing 2 entire families with no funerals, no nothing I’ve learned to say good-bye without funerals!

 I know my kids are sad and I can respect and understand that because they are in a different position than I am. They didn’t experience what I did and I never want them too- THANK GOD!  I respect the need for them to process the grief and loss they might be experiencing. After all, legally she was their grandmother.

Out of every darkness in life God will turn around and use it for His good. I am content knowing that even when my adoptive mom brought so much darkness to my life she’s in a happier place now. I know she believed in God and I know her mental illness was left untreated. I know she’s in heaven healed, happy and whole. Finally, she’s in a place where she could receive all God has for her and it wasn’t here on earth. Heaven isn’t 2nd place you know! Her infertility and not being able to have her own children haunted her and I was adopted to fix the problem. What a heavy burden to carry. I’ve forgiven her. She was sick. I am sad she lived such a miserable life.

John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Today I choose to live life & live it more abundantly. I am excited to move forward to receive all God has in store for me. I’m looking forward to taking back all the enemy has stolen from me as the days move forward in life. I have a bucket list now and I’m moving forward with those people in my life who love me for me and are real, true, genuine and sincere.

Content.

I still haven’t even processed the conference yet. I don’t know if I will ever be able to do that but hopefully I will be able to write about it soon. It was tough on many levels. My favorite part was meeting all my fellow adoptees who GET IT!

I love you all.

Say a prayer for me and I’ll say a prayer for you too!

I have my Facebook back up for now!

Follow me @

Adoptee in Recovery

Twitter- @therealpwishes

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Pamela Karanova