The Adoptee Expressway to Recovery Has More Than One Way 

img_7963I’ve learned the hard way, that the one way that’s usually presented as an express track to recovery and sobriety, isn’t the only way. I’ve also learned that there is nothing fast, quick or express about it. I’ve found that when one way is presented, this leaves one with absolutely no options to choose from in regards to making an informed choice regarding one’s very personal recovery journey. This is part of my life story. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again that someone’s recovery journey is as unique as their very own fingerprint and DNA. No two journeys are alike.  

I’ve been sharing my Adoptee in Recovery journey since August 13, 2012 and it’s no secret my main “addiction” was always alcohol. It was my “go to” to escape my adoptee reality. But the real question is, what was the reality I was running from? How long had I struggled with this addiction? What pathways to recovery did I try? What ways were presented to me? What were my root issues?

WHAT OPTIONS DID I HAVE? 

At 15 years old, I found myself locked in drug & alcohol treatment all alone. The only way out was to believe in God, a power higher than myself, and to work the 12 steps. I had no other options. By completing the 12 steps in 6 weeks, I graduated the program and it allowed me to go home. I had no knowledge of the AA Big Book before this, and I really didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the big book even after I worked the 12 steps. I was just “Going with the flow” because if I didn’t, I would never get to go home. Adoption was never talked about! 

If you read my previous article titled “Adoptee in Recovery, When Forged Forgiveness Becomes Fatal” you learned a little of my background of my drinking career. I don’t want to repeat everything from that article, so if interested, please read it and you can to get a little background. 

img_7964Today, I navigate my 2838th day living alcohol free, I’m just now coming to the head-space where I feel comfortable talking about this topic. After 7.5 years of a recovery process, If I’m completely transparent, my drinking started before I was ever born, in utero because I was told my birth mother was never seen without a drink in her hand, even through her pregnancies. It’s no wonder I started drinking so young.  

I’ve spent 45 years on this earth, my drinking career started at age 12 years old. That means I drank from 12 years old, to 38 years old. This is a 26 year drinking career! For an entire lifetime, I’ve been told I’m an alcoholic and I have always struggled with that thought. It’s made me feel “Bad” or “Defective.” Labeling myself an ALCOHOLIC for the rest of my life seems daunting, heavy, untrue and downright disgusting when I’ve been manipulated my whole life to believe this about myself. Being told I’m in DENIAL if I don’t label myself an alcoholic is abusive. I’m exceptionally happy I’m at such a healthy place in my own journey that I can recognize this as being unhealthy and toxic to my recovery. 

In the recovery world, I have never been able to verbally say, “My name’s Pam and I’m an alcoholic.” Those words have never set well with my spirit, even during the times in my life that I didn’t understand WHY. I remember a few times between 15 years old, and 38 years old I found myself in an AA room, because I knew I had a problem but the root of my problem was adoption, not alcohol. I know this now, but I didn’t know this as a 15 year old. If I was to share in an AA room about relinquishment trauma and how it’s impacted me, they would all look at me like I had lost my mind! I already know what they would be thinking, “What the HELL does this have to do with being an alcoholic?!” 

While spending the first few years of recovery in my late 30’s in and out of the AA rooms, this lets you know how much I took advantage of the open share of the AA rooms. ZERO. Because it was known that in order to share, I had to say “I’m Pam and I’m an alcoholic.” Me being stubborn is an understatement. I wasn’t going to say something that I didn’t feel in my heart was true just to be able to share, so I never shared. I just listened even after the first year. Even when I never verbally said I was an alcoholic, AA was known for alcoholics. I feel I was labeling myself as an alcoholic just by showing up at the meetings, even when I didn’t verbally say I was an alcoholic. Sharing is healing, and if I didn’t share at all in the meetings, it was stalling my healing. Period. 

I totally understand why AA/NA & Celebrate Recovery work for so many people. They provide community for others experiencing similar stages of life. They bring on new friendships, and a safe place to share. I think this provides amazing benefits for many people, and I’m happy about that if it works for you, or those you might know and love. My experience is different, but I have been able to take away some wonderful benefits from being a part of these groups, even if it was for a season. I learned a lot! 

 

Spending the last few years on the outside of any recovery organization or ministry, I’ve learned a lot as well. I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned, and use it for good and help others who might be where I once was. I had to walk away from everyone I knew and loved when I decided to get sober. I know I hurt some people doing this, but I didn’t have to explain myself. My life came first, and it was life or death. All I have to do is see the faces of my kids, and future grand-kids and I’m reminded alcohol no longer plays a role in my life. I don’t need the label of “alcoholic” to remind me. The world hasn’t been on my side in this discovery! 

In those 26 years, not only was I forced to admit in my mind, and publicly by showing up at meetings that I was an alcoholic, but it was necessary that I believe in God. I was told I needed to forgive all those who have hurt me, and I was encouraged to make amends with those who have traumatized and abused me. I was told if I didn’t admit I was an alcoholic, I was in denial and denial would only lead to death, failed recovery, relapse, among other things. 

Somehow I finagled my way through the 12 steps MANY times, without ever verbally saying I was an alcoholic. In 2012, I would say, “I’m Pam, I’m in recovery for alcohol abuse.” but that was the closest thing I have ever come to labeling myself an alcoholic. It seemed to fit me and my situation better at the current time. It was more TRUE to me to say that, than attach a label to myself for the rest of my life. I absolutely despise labels, and I find them to be a box of confinement of rules and regulations that I refuse to fit in. Currently, May 21, 2020 I say, “I’m in recovery from LIFE and relinquishment & adoption trauma!” This suits me at this present stage of my life. See how the labels can actually hinder us and trap us in a space we have the abilities to move beyond? Especially the phrase, “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic!” –  Dangerous! 

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It feels so wonderful to share this publicly, and not feel like I’m going to get thrown under the bus in the process. I feel labels only construct us and hold us back within the limits of those ideas and we deserve the freedom to go far beyond that. I know I have one friend who understands this and that’s David Bohl.  David is also a fellow adoptee in recovery, and we see things very similarly. He’s given me the inspiration to share my feelings about such a complex topic and he continues to share his on his website. 

DavidBohl-headshot-740x1024David shares in his article called The World Post – AA,, “I’ve learned a lot from AA and I learned a lot from leaving it. The biggest lesson is the one that tells me I need to be kind with myself and that I need to stay as diligent about Reality as I’ve always been. I no longer live in the delusion that I can drink without some dire consequences and I don’t need meetings to tell me that. But just because I don’t go to meetings, it doesn’t mean that I’m off the hook from reminding myself every day and practicing what keeps me sober and happy.” –  David B. Bohl 

I can so agree with David about learning a lot from AA and also learning a lot from leaving it! Same with Celebrate Recovery. Today I asked myself, “Did I really have to admit I was an alcoholic in order to be in recovery, seek healing and wholeness in my life? Did I need to admit I was an alcoholic to stop drinking? How has this idea stalled my healing?”  What I’ve finally discovered is that, “NO, I don’t have to accept or admit I’m an alcoholic!” I can’t tell you how refreshing, freeing and wonderful this realization has been. If it’s true for me, it can be true for you too! We have to step into writing our own story, and stop letting others write it for us. 

Over a 20 year period, I learned that both my biological parents were alcoholics. I found out my biological mother was first, and it’s ultimately what killed her. Some years later I found my biological father, and I was told he was a raging alcoholic. He will likely die the way my birth mother did. Discovering these two very important pieces of my history is something that rocked me to my core. This is why ALL adopted people should receive 100% of their truth. It’s the KEY to healing!  You might ask, “How are both of your birth parents alcoholics and you are not when you drank for 26 years?” 

That’s easy for me. I don’t drink anymore, and I’m in recovery and I no longer have a desire to drink. I’ve put in the work to make changes. They, on the other hand are going to die from alcoholism as my birth mother already has, and my biological father is right behind her. If either of my birth parents put in the work to become sober, I wouldn’t label them alcoholics but they never got help, sadly. I broke the cycle and I’ve applied a lot of blood, sweat and tears to do this. I can not consciously attach being an alcoholic to my name and my legacy because of this. My kids are my motivation! 

I BROKE THE CYCLE NOT JUST FOR ME, BUT FOR THEM! 

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From my experience, in AA never admitting you are an alcoholic is denial. This thought process that influenced me kept me confined for a very long time! It’s very scary for a lot of people who are considering recovery or living an alcohol free life. From my experience, in AA, if you don’t label yourself an alcoholic, you will NOT make it. Relapse is inevitable and you will be told you are in denial. Let me be clear, I know AA, NA and Celebrate Recovery, and all the other recovery programs and ministries have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. I can find goodness in all of these programs. But due to my experiences with them, I can also take some steps back and see how damaging they can be. I’m not knocking them, or those who believe in them or those that are faithful participants of any of them. I’m just saying what worked and didn’t work for me, along with my views being on the outside looking in. 

Besides my three amazing kids, knowing both my birth parents were alcoholics was my motivation to want to be nothing like them. I didn’t want to be like them, and I didn’t want to die like them. I have wasted 26 years of my life, with alcohol being at the center of almost everything I did and I didn’t want alcohol to take anymore from my life, or my kids lives.  

The older I get, the more wisdom I gain, and the more I begin to think for myself. I never understood how labeling myself an alcoholic for the rest of my life would help me? If I’m doing everything in my power to become happy, healthy, and recover from my previous life experiences, why do I have to call myself an alcoholic, yet be manipulated into doing this? I never fell for it, and I have never been comfortable with ADMITTING I’M AN ALCOHOLIC. 

Today I celebrate 2838 days of living alcohol free, and I’ve made it this far never claiming the label of being an alcoholic. Can I agree I had an alcohol problem? Definitely. Can I drink today even if I wanted to drink today? No sir. I can’t. I know this and I have way too much at risk. I can also agree that the root of my drinking, and alcohol problem was relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma from my adoption experience. That’s my truth and that’s where I needed to put my focus if I ever wanted to be a happy, healthy individual. 

So how did I get to where I am when I’ve never publicly admitted I’m an alcoholic? Being true to myself was KEY. In order to know what that looked like, I needed to be by myself. I know not everyone can do this, or wants to do this. That’s okay.  I spent years, single not dating at all in order to learn who I am and who I’m not. What were my likes and dislikes at this stage of my life? I had to leave all the systems that were presented to me like church,  AA & Celebrate Recovery and walk away.  I had to create my own program that works for me which has been Adoptees Connect, Inc.  I walked away from many of the reasons (people, places and things) I drank to begin with, I got real with myself and got honest. I’ve applied the tools that I’ve been given and aligned them with what works for me and I’ve thrown the rest in the trash. Some of these things, others inside and outside of recovery settings might not agree with. I’ve learned to be okay with that. I don’t need anyone’s approval. I’m no longer collecting CHIPS for my recovery milestones. I collect ROCKS which are symbolic to me. I’ve found more healing in nature, chasing waterfalls than I have inside any church, program or ministry. 

MY WAY. 

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There’s a lot of stigma attached to recovery, that it has to be done a certain way. I’m no longer buying into it. I’m now doing things my way. Going against the grain is in my DNA but it’s been a significantly difficult journey to always be the one “not listening” or “not following directions.”  Or better yet, “THE REBEL WITH A CAUSE” – This is what I prefer to be called. 🙂 But here I am, 2838 days into sobriety and I have a story to tell on how I got here. The instructions of finding god, labeling myself an alcoholic and demanding forgiveness in order to heal and be in recovery has not worked for me, and news flash…

I’M STILL IN RECOVERY! 

I’M STILL SOBER! 

I HAVE A NEW FOUND LOVE FOR LIFE THAT I NEVER HAD BEFORE. 

MY WAY ISN’T ANYONE ELSE’S WAY. 

I’M OKAY WITH THIS. 

I BROKE THE CYCLE! 

I AM NOT AN ALCOHOLIC! 

I would like to share a message of encouragement for all my fellow adoptees in recovery, and anyone else who might be reading this article. You don’t have to admit you’re an alcoholic to get help, nor do you have to admit it in private. You don’t have to forgive everyone, or anyone for that matter. You don’t have to believe in God to get the help you need. I encourage you to explore other options outside of the 12 steps of AA, and religious settings because as times change, recovery doesn’t fit in a box. It’s not a “One size fits all” method like it was when I was growing up, and entering the recovery 12 step world in 2012. There are so many other options out there now. Keep searching until you find what works for you and realize that your way isn’t anyone else’s way. 

 One of the people who I follow and admire greatly is my friend mentioned above, David Bohl. Follow his Facebook, get his memoir. Read his article, Blue Mind and Relinquishees/Adoptees. The idea of being close to water and the healing dynamics to it is a very powerful healing tool! I can wholeheartedly agree, because this is what I get when I chase waterfalls. This is one of the many things that’s worked for us, but the mainstream recovery outlets aren’t talking about it. We learned it on our own and have a lifetime of experiences to back it up. Research Blue Mind.  You will be happy you did! 

TNM_book-hand-mockup_jan_2018-400x386Another sober living tool I’ve been following and learning about is This Naked Mind.  This Naked Mind has helped me realize that many people struggle with alcohol, and we have many options to try to seek understanding on the WHY, so we can make an informed choice on getting help.  I also encourage building a support system of other adoptees in recovery. Consider starting an Adoptees in Recovery® group via Adoptees Connect, Inc.®  I suggest EMDR Therapy because it has been highly recommended for adoptees, trauma work and inner child work is also a great step in healing. If you can find a Adoptee Competent Therapist at Beyond Words Psychological Services, LLC. I highly recommend it. 

268x0wListen to the podcast, Adoptees On. This has been a major healing tool for adoptees all over the world. Haley is a personal friend of mine and her gift of this podcast has changed the lives of so many people. She’s exceptionally gifted on creating a safe space for adoptees to share their adoption experience. In this, the validation that adoptees receive by tuning in is a valuable tool in our healing. Check her out!

I can share from experience, HANDS DOWN – I COULD NOT WORK ON RELINQUISHMENT AND ADOPTION TRAUMA WHILE I WAS DRINKING ALCOHOL. I HAD TO STOP DRINKING COLD TURKEY TO DO THIS WORK! I became suicidal mixing the two, so if you are TRULY wanting to work on your adoptee problems, trauma, and issues I suggest getting sober FIRST. After-all, that’s a huge part of the reason many of us drink and use substances to begin with. If you haven’t made that connection yet, here is a helpful video for you. Paul Sunderland – Adoption & Addiction.

We all deserve to know the truth that there are more ways than the one way that might be presented to us as contemplate entering into a recovery journey. Your “thing”  might be drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, sex, divorce, anger, rage, self esteem, abandonment, rejection, C-PTSD, and the list could go on. Alcohol was the substance I used to run from processing abandonment, rejection, grief, loss and trauma regarding my adoption journey. Keep searching for what works for you and please know that this world is now full of possibilities  to living a life of happiness and wholeness beyond the confinement of any programs, rules and regulations of others telling you how it needs to be done.

Do not settle for one way. 

Your way isn’t anyone else’s way! 

Sending Love & Light,

Pamela Karanova

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Happy Mother’s Day to The Missing Mother

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Mother’s Day is approaching and it is a touchy day for so many people, especially adoptees. I seem to find words to write about how I feel about Mother’s Day each year, and I’m noticing the more I heal in my own personal journey, the less I have to say. The more I heal, the less intense my feelings are about the whole concept of a MOTHER. Things really started to change for me, when I started to mother MYSELF. 

What does mothering myself look like for me? Taking care of myself. Setting major boundaries in my personal and professional life. Not being so available, which is leading to less stress and anxiety.  Doing small and big things to feed my spirit. Surrounding myself with things I enjoy and love. Saying “No” when things don’t interest me. Saying “yes” to more adventures, and being outside. Making changes when things aren’t in healthy alignment with my mind, body and spirit. Telling myself that I’m wonderful and amazing. Accepting my flaws, and still providing myself with the love I deserve each day. Speaking kindly to myself, and about myself.

This isn’t always easy for me. It’s hard to see ourselves like others see us, especially like a mother sees her child. If I’ve never felt that from a mother, it’s challenging to see that in myself. But I do the best I can. Allowing myself the space to mother myself, as well as the inner child, the little girl that was abandoned has really helped me on my healing journey. 

Besides my role in being a mother to my kids, It’s interesting that the first time I saw what a mother was supposed to be like was 14 years ago in 2005, when I started taking care of a stroke patient. This is the same amazing lady I still take care of today. Going on 15 years, I will never forget the first time her daughter was visiting from out of state, and they went to say “Goodbye” to one another. The daughter and mother put their faces really close together, they touched each other’s faces, looked in each other’s eyes and told one another how much they loved one another. This lasted for a whole minute, which was a painstaking reality for me of something I never have had, and I never will have. I had never seen a mother and a daughter with the closeness they have, and still haven’t to this day. 

Is what they have a rarity in life?  I have no idea, but it was definitely a rarity in my life, for me to see. Never having a mother in my life, has really caused the biggest wound I have been working towards healing, and that’s the mother wound. When you are adopted, this wound is also understood as the primal wound. It’s a really deep wound, and for me personally nothing has caused me more pain in my lifetime x2 because of the adopted and biological mom dynamics. I didn’t strike it out once, but twice in the mother area. Sometimes I have a hard time believing this is real. 

Like many adoptees, the whole concept of a mother is a tough topic. Some of us were fortunate enough to have a close relationship with our adoptive moms. It’s possibly we reunited with our biological mothers and rekindled some of what was lost, having a good relationship. Other adoptees could have had a rejection experience with our biological mothers, and others we had strained relationships with our adoptive mothers. For others, like me, we had toxic relationships with our adoptive moms, and our birth mothers either rejected us, or things have gone sideways, leaving many of us with broken hearts. 

I had a broken heart from my adoption experience for most of my life. It was only over the last 10 years of me sharing my journey, and finding purpose in the pain that everything changed for me. It’s only been since leaving the church that things changed as well. I’ve ran away to find myself, and it’s worked for me. I’ve broken out of the systems set up to keep us confined, and I’m free to be me. I’ve eliminated all toxic relationships, and each day I’m working on self improvement. 

Little by little, my broken heart has been transformed to a heart that’s learning to love myself, mother myself. I’ve accepted I will never have a mother. I’ve accepted that triggers of this reality will plague my life every time I turn around. Between social media, holidays, television shows, others talking about their mothers, and the daily, hourly reminder that there is no mother’s love for me, I’m reminded. I’m reminded when something exciting happens and I have no mother to call. I’m reminded when I get a scary doctor’s diagnosis, and I have no mother to call. I sure could have used a mother in my life but that’s not the cards I was dealt. I have accepted it which has been a pivotal piece to my healing journey. It seems I’ve always been hyper focused on my mother LOSS, it wasn’t allowing me to celebrate GAINING the fact that I’m a MOTHER to celebrate. The pain was too great for me to shift focus for most of my life. 

Another very important step in this mother wound, as Mothers Day approaches is allowing my sadness to come and not running from it. I need to process it, however that looks for me. Usually when I wake up, or go to bed that night I have a really good cry! Like a sobbing, snot slinging cry. I sometimes write my feelings out as a way to release them. It’s likely I usually don’t share them with anyone, because who really wants to hear it? If you have someone you trust, you feel you can talk to, that’s a wonderful tool in sharing your feelings.  

Most people say, “Celebrate YOU and the mother you are!” This is such a good point! The img_7118part that brings me happiness on Mother’s Day is being a Mother to my 3 amazing kids. Once I started to try to reframe my thinking from being REALLY SAD about the loss of a mother, and the gigantic mother wound and try to think about how awesome it’s been to be a mom, things got a little easier for me. 

It’s been the hardest job I’ve ever had but definitely the most rewarding. Maybe some of us (adoptees) don’t have kids, and we aren’t parents? Maybe we have pets that have been our babies? I have that too, and I celebrate being a pet mom to them. Maybe we don’t have pets, but we have someone special in our lives that we’ve been able to be a mother type figure too? Maybe you have close relationships with your adoptive or biological moms, yet you can’t see them due to the Covid-19 situation? This is likely going to be a tough Mother’s Day for everyone, adopted or not. I’m sorry. It truly sucks. Just know you aren’t alone, and I’m sure this is heartbreaking and difficult for everyone. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some amazing women in my life who are like mothers to me. I would give anything for this to be true, in them TRULY being my mother by DNA, but obviously that’s not realistic thinking. I’m thankful for each of them and for our relationships over the years. Patsy, Jan, Cousin Linda – I love you! Thank you for being the closest things to a mother I will ever have! Thank you for accepting me and loving me through the storms & the celebrations. I love you right back. ❤ 

For my fellow adoptees, whatever this Mother’s Day brings you, I hope somewhere in the img_7120midst you are able to celebrate YOU, because you survived this thing and you are wading through the trenches to survive daily! I think we all are truly doing the best we can. I hope you allow yourself to feel the grief and loss, and you also allow yourself some space to bring yourself some happiness on this day. Maybe get your favorite ice cream, or go outside and sit in the sunshine for 30 minutes and put your feet in the grass? Take a walk outside, and watch your favorite television show. Whatever your “thing” is, don’t forget to take care of you! 

For my fellow adoptees, how does Mother’s Day impact you? How do you feel about it? Do you have a mom to celebrate? Do you celebrate yourself?  How do you make it through it?

For those who have minimal or no issues with it, how did you come to this place? We can learn so much from one another. I would love to hear how you are making it! 

Sending Love & Light 

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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.