I’m Adopted: You Can’t Fix Me or Take My Pain Away. Please Stop Trying.

Is Anyone Even Listening?

Ouch, this might have come off as abrasive right off the title. Hopefully so because my aim is to grasp the attention of anyone in the adoption arena in hopes to help someone who might not understand that you can’t fix adoptees and you can’t take our pain away. We need to embrace it and learn it’s here to stay. The sooner I acknowledged it, stopped running from it or trying to mask it with substances, the sooner healing started to happen.

National Adoption Awareness Month to me means I need to add my voice somewhere to the adoption arena because I’m adopted, and I know how it feels. Over the last 10 years of my activism in sharing how it feels to be adopted, I keep hearing the majority of adoptive parents say things like, “I just want to take away my adopted daughters pain” or “I don’t want my adopted son to feel like he was abandoned”.

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Photo by Casey Anderson on Unsplash.

I moderate multiple platforms online where this is a common theme and every time I hear it, I cringe. I think to myself, “They can’t possibly understand what damage they are doing by this mindset!”

Because if we know better, we do better and once you know, you can’t un-know. 

I decided that time is the most important thing we have, so I didn’t want to waste another minute not putting this information out here.

When a child or baby is adopted or separated from their biological mother for ANY REASON, no matter when it happens in life, it causes a trauma for this child. That trauma has to be acknowledged, but it also has to be exposed and brought to light so the person who has experienced this trauma has a chance to heal. As a baby, born and relinquished by my birth mother, my trauma happened at a preverbal state so growing up I never had the words to tap into this trauma. I didn’t have the language or memories talk to anyone about it. While this trauma has been stored my entire life in my subconscious memory, the fact that it’s never been addressed or acknowledged growing up has led me to a lifetime of addictions and unhealthy behavior habits.

I think if my adoptive parents understood this, they would have been able to help me. In 1974 they were told to not talk about it and move on. Sweep the truth under the rug and press on with the “better life” theory and act as if this real trauma never existed. Once this trauma occurs, it can never be undone. Healing is possible, but in order to heal it we must feel it and the earlier we start to do this, the sooner we start to heal.

Adoptees deserve to heal. 

I think as parents, we naturally want to take our children’s pain away, adopted or not. I’m a mom, I successfully have raised 3 kids to adult hood as a single parent and I have said many times, “I wish I could take your pain away” when they experience painful things in life. In acknowledging my own pain, I have been able to learn to acknowledge their pain.

There is a big difference in saying this but not reserving space for the pain to be processed vs saying this but also allowing space for the pain to be processed.

We can’t heal our wounds by saying they aren’t there.

While I believe many people have good intentions, we naturally don’t like to see people hurting, especially children. We want to help them, but the biggest mistake that can be made for an adoptee is when people try to fix us, or attempt to take our pain away by trying to make us “FEEL BETTER” without ever actually acknowledging that pain (trauma) to begin with. This is really life or death for adoptees everywhere. Of course, it’s life or death for anyone that’s been separated from their birth mothers, but I speak from an adoptees perspective so that’s the lens I’m sharing from.

The biggest deception in adoption today is that LOVE will somehow take the pain away, or that love will be enough. Well I’m here to share from my perspective and experience that love isn’t enough, and it will never be enough. The feeling of pain was far greater in my life than being able to FEEL LOVE.  Let’s be honest, there has never been a safe space for me (or most adoptees) to share them until Adoptees Connect, Inc. Because my trauma and pain was so BIG and LOVE was presented to me as abandonment, LOVE is something that confuses me to this day.  Love leaves, love is loss and love is abandonment. “My birth mother loved me so much, she gave me away” is my view of love.  Because of this, LOVE has always been a foreign concept to me when it comes to other people loving me.

Having children of my own, I finally know what it’s like to love others, but I still struggle to this day believing or FEELING like anyone loves me. I know it’s rooted in my adoption experience because I’ve spent the last 7 years in recovery working on myself. I’ve been able to identify the root issue being abandonment & rejection from both birth parents, compiled with C-PTSD, grief, loss and trauma.

Throughout my entire life I longed for my birth mother. The sadness that followed is something I can’t even put into words, but it stuck with me my entire life. I drank alcohol for 27 years to COPE with this experience because I couldn’t handle processing this pain, but alcohol temporarily took the pain away. No amount of love, material possessions, people, places or things could make up for my trauma and loss of my birth mother at the beginning of life.

My birth mothers shortcomings didn’t matter to me 

ALL I EVER WANTED WAS HER. 

Instead of anyone trying to fix me, or take my pain away what I needed was my adoptive parents to open the conversations to allow me to process this pain at age appropriate times  I needed them to know AHEAD OF TIME before they ever adopted me that the pain I would experience from relinquishment trauma will be with me for the rest of my life and it will negatively impact me in many ways. I needed them to research relinquishment trauma, pre and post-natal bonding between mother and child and what happens when that natural process is broken, and the bond is severed. I needed them to know their love wouldn’t be enough to fix me or to heal my broken heart. I needed them to know that no matter what they did and how they did it that it wouldn’t take my pain away. I needed them to know about the emotional and psychological issues I would suffer for my entire lifetime because of this trauma, many years beyond being a cute baby and a cuddly toddler. The sooner the reality and truth is brought to light, the better!

Avoidance will only work for so long, and then our emotions start to come out in unhealthy ways. I would much rather sit with my child and HELP them PROCESS the pain by allowing them to feel feelings than watch them self-destruct because they aren’t able to articulate the words about why they are feeling the way they are. We need our parents help to find the right words, and the space to be able to share freely how we are feeling about our adoption experiences. It’s impossible to tap into this when society silences adoptees unless they have a thankful and grateful narrative to spin.

WE HAVE TO STOP BEING SCARED TO SIT WITH SOMEONE IN THEIR PAIN.

WE HAVE TO STOP TRYING TO RUN FROM PROCESSING PAIN. 

WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WE CAN’T PUT A TIME FRAME ON HEALING.

Pain is a natural response to different experiences that happen to us. I say all the time that the way adoptees feel is normal. What’s not normal is being separated from our biological families at the beginning of life. I say this to validate every single experience and feeling of every adoptee who might come across my words. I want them to know they aren’t alone, and they aren’t crazy!

I grew up, and here I am. I survived and I’m surviving daily. I’m in recovery from relinquishment trauma, compacted by adoption trauma. All I have really ever needed was my adoptive parents and those who aren’t adopted to acknowledge my pain, and in acknowledging that pain, sit with me and listen to me share pieces of my story.  They need to understand that there is much more to adoption than what society shares. It’s not all cute and lovely. It’s not all happy and positive. All adoptions are rooted and grounded in the biggest loss of a persons life, and until that’s acknowledged adoptees will continue to be stuck like I was for so many years.

45 Years of my life I can never get back…

I knew someone awhile back who wanted to fix me and was constantly trying to make me feel better. I had to tell them to please stop it because there is nothing anyone can do to change my reality. I certainly don’t need anyone else to try to re-frame my reality for me as an attempt to make me “feel better”. What is so hard about acknowledging someone else’s pain, and just listening to them and sit with them in the pain?

I’m a realist who’s focused on the truth. I didn’t fight for 45 years to get my truth, to turn around and pretend it’s not my reality. I experienced that in the religious settings of my x-church which is known as “spiritual bypassing”. This is when someone uses spiritual practices to avoid dealing with reality. I’ve broken free from that, and I will never live a lie again. So, when I cling to my truth, I don’t appreciate anyone trying to come into my space and change it after I’ve fought my entire life to receive it and I’ve spent many years working towards healing from it.

As a child I never could acknowledge my painful truth because my adoptive parents were busy pretending, I was a blank slate, and they were my only parents. Reality, I had a broken past and history before I ever came to them but them denying it, and pretending like it didn’t exist wrecked me, and it still impacts me to this day. How do you think it feels to be a part of 2 families, but never being able to feel like you fully belong to either? Like an outsider always looking in. It’s extremely difficult to navigate so I’ve made the choice to opt out for my own sanity, mental health and recovery.

I share no DNA with my adoptive family, and I have no shared history with my biological family. I’m learning to adapt by accepting I will never truly be a part of either family, so I’ve moved far away across the country from everyone to try to recovery from this experience the best I can.  I now have 3 adult children who are my family. Although, I’m 7 years into my sobriety and recovery journey and I consider myself an adoptee who’s worked through a lot of these issues, not one day goes by where being adopted doesn’t impact me in some way.

I’m thankful for my kids because without them I wouldn’t be here. 

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Damia, Keila, Damond – Twins 21st Birthday Celebration

It’s us against the world. 

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all. 

I’ve accepted that I will be in recovery for the rest of my life due to my adoption experience. Thankfully I’ve been an adoptee whose found my adoptee tribe that meets in real life and they get me. They understand and they will sit with me in my pain. They don’t put a time frame on it, they don’t try to silence me, and they understand the adoptee journey.  This has been very validating, but I can’t help but wonder who’s narrative might change if other’s hear this side of the story?

Will adoptive parents stop trying to avoid dealing with the truth after reading this? Will non adoptees in society try to listen more and talk less, with compassion and understanding? Will they listen to what I have shared here? Will they try to learn more, and stop trying to bypass the process of dealing with the truth of adoptees all over the world?  I can’t help but hope that if my adoptive parents had this information back in the day, they would do whatever they could to learn to understand the adoptee experience and having the willingness to listen and learn.

Is anyone even listening? 

If you are, this is for you. 

Please know you can’t fix me. 

You can’t fix any adoptees. 

You can’t take our pain away either. 

Please stop trying. 

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Adoptees in Recovery Powered by Adoptees Connect

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By Pamela Karanova

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

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

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

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

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

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

My kids deserved it, and so did I.

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

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

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

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

In order to heal it, we must feel it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and for your support!

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