Honoring My Rebirth-Day!

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Here I am again as another trip around the sun comes to an end while the last few months of 2020 is fast approaching. Yesterday I embraced the beginning of a brand-new trip around the sun.

A new page.

A new chapter in this book called LIFE. 

This year has had a million twists and turns and I have found myself slipping into a surreal state of bewilderment on many occasions. I think many of us have.

August 13th is my earthly birthday and I turn 46 years old yesterday. This means that 46 years ago yesterday I experienced the saddest day of my existence, the day I lost my birth mother. Birthdays are difficult for adoptees. If you don’t believe me, check out my friend, David Bohl’s most recent article Happy Birthday Relinquishment Day to Me! I know I’m not alone. I know many other adoptees feel a deep-rooted sorrow on this day. Here’s another article to consider reading – How Adoptees Feel About Birthdays.

I have been celebrating another milestone on my earthly birthday and that is my Rebirth-Day. My Rebirth-Day is my yearly milestone of living an alcohol-free life. I wholeheartedly feel this is the day I truly started living. This is why I’m calling it my Rebirth-Day.  8 years ago, on August 13, 2012 was the last drink of alcohol I had. It just so happens these two “occasions” fall on the same day. Spending a lifetime of running from adoptee pain, my Rebirth-Day is the day I started processing relinquishment trauma, grief, loss, C-PTSD, abandonment, rejection, anger, and rage from my adoption experience FREE FROM ALCOHOL. It’s the day I stopped using alcohol to numb the pain.  Not many people can say they have done this without substances of some sort. Adootee pain is SO GREAT! It’s not easy, but my kids have made it worth it. 

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My Daughters & I – My sons missing from this picture. ❤

Even when I have a great reason to celebrate my 8-year milestone, the realities of the BIRTH day still haunt me. To be completely honest, I have been dreading this day all month, even before August gets here. It has taken every bit of strength in me to get out of bed and even be halfway functional. This year has been hard, not just on me but our entire world.

Remaining SOBER through the stresses that have come due to the pandemic and this year has been a challenging feat, to say the least. More and more I am learning how to handle uncomfortable emotions, that I would not process in my old, PRE-REBIRTH-DAY ways. Alcohol was my best friend, in good times and bad for 27 years.

What have I done to live an alcohol-free life for the past year? Besides finding enough strength to pick my face up off the floor on many occasions, there is much more to it for me.

  • I have set hella boundaries for myself.
  • Be true to me, no matter what.
  • I completely removed myself from Adoptionland. It is taken a toll on my mental health, and I can no longer participate.
  • I have ended relationships with people who are the type of people who only allow those to sit at their table who believe like them. This is a true gift I have given myself. I will never fit in their box. It is time to move on from these relationships.
  • I have listened to my intuition on how people make me feel when I interact with them. Interactions that leave me feeling drained that no longer serve me in a healthy way will be discontinued.
  • I put myself first, and stay away from blood suckers who drain my energy dry.
  • I am getting more sleep and making my body rest when I feel tired.
  • I discontinued the use of many of my social media accounts. I no longer have Twitter, a personal Facebook, Snapchat or TikTok. I cannot tell you how much this has helped my overall mental health and well-being. I still have a public Facebook, and I have Instagram but I’m not as active as I once was. Disconnecting from social media apps and electronics in general has been a wonderful boundary I am setting for myself, especially from my current state of affairs.
  • I am reading more books and I’m educating myself about topics I’m passionate about.
  • I am being very intentional with my time and who I spend my time with. I will always believe time is the most valuable thing any of us have. Certain things I used to entertain; I no longer entertain.
  • I am sleeping grounded. It is helping my mental and physical health in many ways. Click here to learn more. Grounding is one of the most amazing ways to heal our bodies. When I can’t be connected to the earth 24/7 I am now connected to the earth when I sleep at night. This is one of the best investments I have made on my health.
  • I am trying new plant-based recipes and changing my eating habits. It is taken time, and I am not exactly where I want to be, but I’m headed in the right direction.
  • I am learning as much as possible about cancer and getting educated on alternative preventative ways to stay cancer free.
  • I am creating my own happiness in my surroundings at home, and out in nature. I spend AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE out in nature, connecting with Mother Earth! This has been one of the number one ways to heal in my personal journey. I’m still chasing waterfalls, as Kentucky has over 700! This has been great for my mental health, and I always feel rejuvenated when I return from one of my hiking day-trips.
  • I purchased a flip phone, and I also have a smartphone. I keep the smartphone put away on airplane mode about 99% of the time. It is a huge distraction and blood sucker of time. The older I get; I feel this way about all electronics. I do see the need for some, but the way the world is going with AI taking over, I am not a fan AT ALL.
  • I am calling my friends more and talking on the phone. It seems like a lost art these days, and I am doing all I can to stay connected to my friends and family. I want to talk and hear their voices. Everything is so digital, and I truly feel people are missing out on real connections because of it. If you want to talk, CALL ME!
  • I am cutting back on texting all together. If you read the above message, you know why.
  • When I get angry, or feelings overwhelm me to the point of paralyzation, I make myself go to sleep. I do not respond to these emotions.
  • I stopped saying “Sorry for the delay.” We are all busy, and I do not want to keep apologizing for being human and not responding to text or emails like a robot.
  • I stopped explaining myself when others do not have the willingness to listen.
  • I no longer insert myself into spaces that are not adoptee centric. I have been shafted and had one too many gaslighting experiences by adoptive parents and birth parents. My presence is a gift and I choose to insert myself into spaces where my fellow adoptees reside offline that are safe spaces. We get one another and I’m saving my sacred energy for them.

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Believe it or not, I am still learning how to process life on life’s terms by living a life without alcohol. Every day is a new challenge and a new milestone. I have recently experienced some setbacks. To be honest, I was not sure how I was going to overcome them. I have spent a lot of time sleeping, because that is the only way I know how to shut my brain off. But instead of feel “dysfunctional” I am learning that resting my body and mind is a healthy thing to do. More so when I am going through what feels like an emotional or mental health crisis.

One of the best things I have done for myself is acknowledge that no matter where I am in life, I will always have setbacks, and things happen that make me feel bad and sad. Embracing this truth as a “part of life” has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

Processing 2020 without alcohol is a milestone to be celebrated. While my birthday is a sad and sore subject for me, my REBIRTH-DAY is something to be honored. So today I shall save space for my sadness of loosing my birth mother 46 years ago today. I will also save space for the celebration of 8 years living life alcohol free.

I cannot end this article without extending a special shout out to my main squeezes who have supported me along the way. My kids, my close friends and family. My kids always have been and always will be my motivation to keep going, even when I have not wanted to keep going for myself.   My friends & family, thank you for listening to me, and sitting with me in my sadness. I would not have made it this far without the support of some amazing people in my life.  Thank you!

Cheers to 8 years!

Even in the middle of a pandemic, I still have so much to be thankful for. 

Q. For my fellow adoptees, how are you maintaining your sanity in our current times? What have you done to shift your atmosphere to be in better alignment with the added stresses we’re all going through?

Sending you sunshine, love & light,

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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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