I don’t know if things would’ve turned out differently for me, but I know that it took me a long time and a lot of work to gain insight and self-awareness to get to where I am today as a sober relinquishee. I was given up for adoption as an infant, and although I was always aware of my origins, it wasn’t until I became an adult when I started to investigate those origins, putting the puzzle that I was together into a cohesive whole. The good news is I’ve been able to become whole and sober, and well enough to pursue Reality with vigilance and passion that allows me to deal well with some of the more troubling discoveries about my past. For example, as an adult, I’ve found out that my biological mother died from alcoholism, that my biological father also struggled with it. I’ve discovered half-siblings. And lots of secrets. Even at the time of finishing my memoir about my self-discovery, secrets were still pouring in, and to be honest, it seemed as if I could be writing that book for the rest of my life as there seemed to be no definite closure. But this is the difference between a life and a book—the book has to have some kind of closure, and life will keep going without any promise of providing satisfying answers.
It is for that reason that even in my late 50s I am often still very much in need of support and why I would like to see more resources available for people like me—adults who have been relinquished and who still deal with the consequences of that. I believe that there are too few qualified relinquishment and developmental trauma therapists and not enough help groups. Children given up for adoption (relinquished) often suffer lifelong traumas: they are prone to chronic stress, addiction, and identity issues. Having been adopted into a loving, caring family, I was lucky to know childhood that was relatively free of upheaval but funnily enough, that did not protect me from feeling alienated and unworthy. Or, later, addicted to alcohol. I wish I grew up in a society where adoption wouldn’t be considered something to be ashamed of and where there would’ve been resources to help people like me. But there’s no point in dwelling on that—what I can dwell on, however, is to wonder why we don’t have more help available now.
As it is with addiction, the issue of adoption is not an issue that revolves around one individual. It affects entire families; it affects generations of families in many different ways: psychological, emotional, physical. I’ve found out about medical issues when learning about my biological parents—conditions that might be passed on to my own children—and I am still learning more as the puzzle of my life keeps expanding. I have resilience now that I’m well-supported and feeling much stronger than I did when I was in the throes of addiction. Naturally, I’m someone who’s driven and curious and stubborn in a good way, so it’s also been thrilling to re-discover myself. But others might not have my drive, my ambition, or my other means. So we’re talking about a number (a large number?) of people who might feel completely disfranchised, lost, who are unaware of why they are the way they are… why, for example, they are prone to addictive behaviors. And those people then start their own families where many formerly untreated traumas will continue—because how do you parent when you’re not entirely sure what a parent even is? What values do you pass on? What culture is your culture? Who are you, even? Relinquishees don’t have the luxury of knowing a lot of those crucial pieces of information. (Consider residential schools in Canada and the effect of forced relinquishment and https://www.bcmj.org/articles/residential-school-syndrome Residential School Syndrome.)
I don’t know exactly what the solution is, yet, other than talking about it and bringing the issue of adoption and its negative consequences into the spotlight – and adding to the discussion, especially, the one big missing element: the adult relinquishee. I think that with some extra resources and care we can help a lot of families navigate the terrain of identity and its loss and becoming whole again.
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