I am often asked about the title of my memoir, Parallel Universes, and how I came up with it. There are many different reasons it fits for me, but the simplest explanation is that I needed to describe what it was like to be born twice during one lifetime—as someone who had been relinquished at birth and as someone who recovered from addiction and healed from trauma. And I also needed a title not just to my book, but to my life, something that would be stamped into the fabric of my world and signal both to me and to others as to what sort of story I’d been living.
I talk about my story often —and how it all came about—because I know I am not alone with this experience and it’s crucial to my recovery to share it with others. Being able to share stories is what makes us feel less alone; it’s what connects us more than anything. Sharing stories is also how we honor and acknowledge both our pain and our joy, how we situate ourselves among others, and how we relate. I often encourage clients and friends who ask for help to try to learn their own story and to consider sharing it. I don’t mean the way I do—often publicly—but with a therapist or a trusted confidante. Being able to share and being known is one of the first steps to healing.
It’s a human pursuit to look for the meaning of life, to try to make sense of the world and of our past. Stories also inform how we might act in the future. In mutual support groups (including 12 step rooms) stories are the currency of our healing. If it wasn’t for the stories I heard when I first got sober, I’m not sure I would’ve stayed and stayed sober.
I didn’t arrive at my Parallel Universe place out of the blue nor easily. I had to die first—metaphorically, of course, but it was a total spiritual relational death, the one that shook me up and started up my rebound. I had to face my Reality, however painful, and I had to look back into my past for some answers. Did I get all the answers? Hardly. But I got enough context that I was able to develop that narrative. And I continue to add to it today as I further develop my identity.
There was always a lot of love in my life. From my adoptive parents, from friends, from the family I’ve created. I had a lot of opportunities and was given a lot of chances—if it wasn’t for the people and the love I had in my life, I would’ve never arrived at my particular crossroads. Every abandoned person has to acknowledge that there was a family of origin, but how they deal with that is unique to each person.
There are people who prefer not to know anything about their origins, who don’t consider the alternative reality that never was – where they grow up with different parents and in different circumstances. And there are people for whom this knowledge is essential and who find solace in putting as many puzzle pieces together as possible. There is no wrong or right way to do this. I’ve talked with people who shared that their apprehension comes from not being able to find closure and not wanting to add to their problems. There are people who have tried to find closure and ended up further traumatized. There are people like me for whom those findings were a bitter-sweet discovery, one that I’m still processing and probably will process for the rest of my life. What unites all of us is that we all need some kind of a narrative to our life to simply make sense of it.
Having a narrative doesn’t mean that we get an explanation or that we might even get better (at first). But having a narrative helps us recognize our misperceptions, our patterns of behaving, and also what brings us peace.