From a very young age, most people strive to belong to a group. Whether it’s their immediate family, peers, or people with similar interests, we are driven to connect to one another. For people who have been adopted the quest of belonging is harder. After all, many of us enter this world from what might seem like a losing position. We might believe (and the evidence speaks to that) that we’ve been rejected by the very people whose main job is to take care of us. A young person doesn’t understand the complex reasons for why they might’ve been put up for adoption. A baby certainly doesn’t. Many of us believe that they were born and that there was something inherently wrong with us that caused our biological parents to give us up.
I am not here to dispute this belief because I lived it. Despite having all the information about my biological mother’s unfortunate circumstances, I still felt rejection on a cellular level. And there were certainly periods when I thought of her situation and tried to come up with reasons why she should’ve kept me and felt terrible that she didn’t “fight” for me enough. My mother was not in the position to raise a baby—she was very young, she was single, and she was unmarried in a place and time where those were enough reasons to get you ostracized by society for good. In many ways she herself was still a child, her life hadn’t even begun, and I don’t think that, without support, she would’ve been able to give me the sort of future I received from my adopted family. Yet, I couldn’t shake the grief over an opportunity missed.
I never met my biological mother. I didn’t even get sober until after she passed on. But my entire life, I felt that I didn’t quite fit in with the people around me and the feeling of otherness has always plagued me. My family and siblings were loving but I couldn’t help but feel that we were essentially too different from each other. When I was older, I made friends, but even my friendships seemed strained as I became a people-pleaser, trying to anticipate what was expected from me and how I could best fulfil that expectation. What all of this tells me now is that I didn’t connect with others authentically for a long time. Where I believe biological children can experience a familial connection naturally, for adoptive people this is something that we have to work at. I’ve been working at it all my life, and in some ways still do.
But it was my adult connections in sobriety that made me finally understand what it meant to belong. When I first got sober, I met likeminded people who struggled with drugs and alcohol. I felt their pain and I felt that I was one of them. Later, I met other relinquishees who had similar traumatic experiences of feeling less-than. I also felt connected to them. I finally felt understood and like I could understand others.
My personal relationships are what keeps me sane and happy today. I believe in bonds and I believe that deepening them is crucial to our development as human beings. And in cases of people who suffered trauma, developing bonds and being able to see ourselves mirrored in others is what helps us get over our trauma. I know that it’s a huge leap of faith to trust others when you come from the position of rejection and uncertainty, but I am here to tell you that this will bring you closer to recovery and will help you flourish in it—in some cases, beyond your expectations.