My Journey As An Alcoholic and Adoptee By Miguel Caballero

My Journey As An Alcoholic and Adoptee By Miguel Caballero

AA & Adoption

 

“Here is something I have believed about myself and my adoption since I was a child, since before I knew I was an alcoholic: My birth mother took one look at me and knew that I was worthless and unlovable and unredeemable. She didn’t want to keep me because she knew something was wrong with me.”

(I know that this absolutely isn’t true and that my birth mother loved me very much and made a very difficult choice. But this is what I have told myself.)

 

This piece was originally published in the January issue of http://www.keystorecoverynewspaper.com/

 

For me, as an alcoholic and an adoptee, the feelings of loss, uncertainty, and identity that come from being given away by my birthmother can be as cunning, baffling and powerful as alcohol. And as I’ve been trudging our road of happy destiny, I’ve met a lot of other adoptees with similarly persistent feelings.

 

It’s why I started AAA. It’s a new group focused on AA & Adoption. It’s at the intersection of 2 triangles – the AA triangle – unity, service, recovery – and the adoption triad – birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptees.

 

For adoptees in recovery, our root causes and conditions stem literally from our origin, from our birth and the circumstances around it. There’s often an unexplainable feeling of loss that haunts us and a fear of abandonment that persists throughout our lives.

 

From some estimates, adoptees are 5 times more likely to become alcoholics than the average person, 10 times more likely to be in therapy, and 10 times more likely to be in prison.

 

Suffice it to say, we have problems.

 

It’s said in the rooms that there’s a God-shaped hole that we as alcoholics try and fill with booze – and drugs, sex, shopping, eating, gambling, etc. For me, as an adoptee, that hole has always been shaped by that initial separation from my birth mother. You could say that the God-shaped hole inside me was also a mom-shaped hole.

 

Adopted or not – many alcoholics say we feel like we never fit in. For adoptees, we often felt like that from the beginning, from the families that raised us. We looked different – height, weight, hair color, skin tone – and often grew up alongside biological children of our parents. We feel like we had to be grateful for this new home we were given – and that at any moment we might be relinquished back if we didn’t behave.

Yes, adoption gave me a home with two loving parents who did their best. They did enough wrong that I need therapy but not enough for a best-selling memoir. And today as a sober man I will tell you they’re my mom and my dad and I love them very much for who they are and how they raised me.

 

But adoptive parents – no matter how great – can’t heal that initial break from our birthmothers. I’ve probably read as much adoption literature as I have recovery literature. I strongly identify with both. There’s a book called The Primal Wound about that break in which I recognize more of myself than in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

The Primal Wound – AA, Trauma and Adoption

 

I don’t think the 12 steps are particularly great at treating trauma on their own. They absolutely give you the chance to stop all of the addictive behavior you’ve piled on top of the trauma and to establish a connection with a higher power. I don’t think there’s any hope of getting better without getting sober. It gives you a chance to heal. But then there’s still more work to be done.

 

And being separated at birth from your mother is certainly a trauma. For many adoptees, we were then shuttled off to an orphanage while waiting weeks and months for our adoptive families to get us. While there, we weren’t held as often as is necessary for the health of an infant. There have even been studies that show a baby will die if it is not touched or held. (Which is an insane study if you stop to think about it.)

 

So how do I heal that hole in my heart? How do I start feeling lovable and worthwhile?

 

For me, it started as I was detoxing from alcohol at a psych ward. I don’t know why I did it but I tried to connect with each individual in that facility as a human being experiencing pain and to show them compassion and care. Like Bill W. relating to Dr. Bob, one sufferer relating to another. I saw each fellow patient as a real human, as someone worth loving, as someone who had something good in them. I wasn’t going to throw them away or relinquish them, even if they’d ended up in this psych ward.

 

It’s what I desperately wanted for myself but never did or could never take in. It’s when the healing for me began.

 

As I entered the rooms and began sharing my story, I found that whenever I spoke at a meeting, invariably there would be at least one adoptee that would come up to speak with me afterward. And as I began collecting their numbers and seeing them around campus, it became clear that we could really help each other.

 

I’ve found healing through compassion and projection and from telling my story as an adoptee and an alcoholic. When my friend Darrylynn – an adoptive mom of an alcoholic – heard me speak, she understood that not everything her daughter was suffering through was her fault as a mom.

And when I’ve heard from AA birthmothers who gave away a child, I got to hear about how they never forgot a birthday, never went a day without thinking of that son or daughter and how much love and heartache they felt for that relinquished child.

 

Out of that, and some sober experience working through some of my issues, we started AA&A at the beginning of this year. We meet on the first Sunday of every month (on the weekend, so anyone in LA can get to the meeting without fighting traffic.)

 

As I’ve been going to different groups and announcing the AA&A meeting, on more than one occasion, an adoptee would come up to me after the meeting and say, “I’ll take your flyer, but I’m not coming to your meeting.”

 

Which I get. We adoptees don’t like joining things – because we fear that group will eventually reject and abandon us. It’s also a very emotionally fraught subject to deal with – like opening up a page of your 5th step that you’ll deal with but never truly eliminate.

 

So it’s a big deal to go to a meeting like ours.

 

The spiritual, maternal hole

 

Adoption didn’t give me the physical allergy to alcohol. (Though indirectly, it did through biology– my birth dad is likely on the streets and an addict if he’s still alive.) And I probably would have been an alcoholic even if my birth mom had raised me.
But it definitely helped with that mental defect. Emotionally, I tried to fill that mom-shaped hole inside of me with whatever I could. The grief of never knowing her felt like it would never end and was a raw open wound that would never heal. For example, any time I watched a movie where a mother would protect her son from danger, I’d end up sobbing – why didn’t my mother have the courage to raise me, to protect me from the dangers of the world with her love?

And feeling worthless and unlovable, believing that anyone who would see the real me would see that defection and then bounce, that contributed to a giant case of the fuckits.

 

To me, one of the greatest things about AA is that it’s a program that’s based on the concept of one sufferer relating to another fellow sufferer. Bill and Dr. Bob shared their common problems related to alcohol in that way. There’s a common bond in that, and it’s my belief that there’s a spiritual connectedness that happens when we share our vulnerabilities, our strengths, and our weaknesses and our shame that allows for something divine to move in us.

 

With AA&A, we can do that on 2 levels. As alcoholics, and as adoptees.

 

The AA&A Meeting

 

When we have our meetings, we do a short ‘moment to remember why we’re there’, and then we dive right into sharing. In some ways, it’s more like a support group than a typical AA meeting. Questions are welcome, and we definitely cross-talk in the sense of acknowledging when we relate to how someone feels or clarifying some family history. We have so many similarities – struggles forming and keeping relationships, feelings of not belonging that have stayed with us into our adulthood. Oh, and the abandonment issues. All the abandonment issues.

Some of us have met our birth families. It rarely meets the fantasy we had of that family as kids, and it doesn’t make everything suddenly better. Sometimes it’s complicated, and sometimes it’s worse than that.

 

We’ve had families of our own, and had the chance to see another living relative for the first time. We have our regular alcoholic problems of wanting to drink or numb out or isolate, too.

 

As Dave R. said, “I have about 100 issues around adoption, and I’ve dealt with about 40 of them.”

 

But every month, we leave feeling better and feeling understood. We’ve found a place where we are a part of, not apart from. For someone who was taken away from the first family they were supposed to know, that’s immensely powerful to feel a sense of belonging.

 

The Future of AA&A

 

“No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.”

 

I want our meeting to be there when someone comes into Alcoholics Anonymous when that primal wound from adoption is no longer being numbed from alcohol and drugs, but bleeding and aching and raw and horrible, I want to be there for them. Because life does get better. The feelings around adoption can be cunning, baffling and powerful. They may never fully go away, but I want to show that you can be sober, full of life, and still have that peculiar pain and struggle that we adoptees face. But you can manage them and find peace.

 

It’s my hope that we can grow our meeting and that word gets out enough that when a newcomer says that they are dealing with feelings around their adoption that enough people in the rooms of AA can send them our way.

 

If that sounds like you or someone you know, please have them contact us. We’d be thrilled to carry the message to another alcoholic adoptee.
Celia Center Support Group for Adoptees on 4th Saturday of every month at 2pm at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Studio City MORE INFO HERE

Adopt Salon Constellation West Los Angeles Support Group

Pre/Post Foster Care & Adoption Constellation Support Group

Sign Up for our Monthly Newsletter:

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Adopt Salon was developed and is supported by the CELIA CENTER, a non-profit Adoption, and Foster Care Support organization.

An open support group for all members of the Adoption Constellation:
First-Birth Mothers/Fathers, Adoptees, Former Foster Youth, Foster Parents, Kinship Caregivers, Siblings, Significant Others, Legal Guardians, & Adoptive Parents. $20 Suggested Donation 

A place for the Adoption & Foster Care community to come together to share stories, thoughts, feelings, ideas, receive psycho-education, process grief/loss, learn about search and reunion, and build strong bonds/connections.

This group will be facilitated by Adoption Psychotherapist, Adult Adoptee Jeanette Yoffe, MFT. and Anne Bonura, Adult Adoptee, and First Mother

Participants:  Members of the Foster and/or Adoption Constellation are allowed ONLY.

First mothers, First fathers, (pre & post-adoption)

Adoptees and/or Foster-Adoptees/Former Foster Youth

Adoptive Parents, (pre & post-adoption)

Foster Parents, Legal Guardians, Mentors to Foster Youth
(For adults only; No childcare)

RSVP SIGN UP BELOW

When: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3rd, 2020

Where: VISTA DEL MAR AGENCY 3200 Motor Blvd, Los Angeles, California.

Time: 7:00 – 9:00pm

$20 Suggested Donation. No one will be turned away for lack of funds!

Adoptee Voices Event in Los Angeles November 2019

Adoptee Voices Event in Los Angeles November 2019

ADOPTEE VOICES EVENT in LOS ANGELES

CALLING ALL ADOPTEES AGES 9 – 99

GET TICKETS HERE

LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE IT”S…
NATIONAL ADOPTION AWARENESS MONTH IN NOVEMBER

1-4pm Come, meet and greet other adoptees, young, teens, and adult adoptees to see you are not alone. We will individually and collectively create something together to share with the world!

GET TICKETS
All Attendees Must RSVP to this event!

#AdopteeVoices SPEAK UP

Adoptee Event Celia Center Los Angeles National Adoption Awareness Month

 

Open Adopt-ED Salon Forum – Open to the Public – Educating 1 person at a time! November

Open Adopt-ED Salon Forum – Open to the Public – Educating 1 person at a time! November

OPEN
Adopt-ED Salon Group Forum
for ANYONE interested in learning from the experience of
an Adopted Person, a Former Foster Youth, a Birth Mother or Father and
Foster or Adoptive Parent.

A small group format, which allows for participants to learn more about adoption or foster care firsthand, (via question cards) with answers given by an Adopted Person, Former Foster Youth, a Birth Mother or Father, and/or a  Foster or Adoptive Parent.

RSVP HERE

PLEASE RSVP FOR THIS EVENT

Sign Up for our Monthly Newsletter:

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE

Open Adopt Salon was developed and is supported by the CELIA CENTER,
a non-profit Adoption and Foster Care Support organization and supported by

A place for the Adoption & Foster Care community to come together to share stories, thoughts, feelings, ideas, receive psycho-education, process grief/loss, learn about search and reunion, and build strong bonds/connections.

 Participants:  Anyone interested in learning about Foster Care and Adoption FIRSTHAND experiences!

When: WEDNESDAY, October 2nd, 2019.

Where: Vista Del Mar 3200 Motor Ave. Los Angeles CA 90034

Time: 7:30 – 9:00pm

Fee: $20 entry

$10 Additional for 2 Hours of Continuing Education Credit.

Celia Center provides CEU's in Los Angeles

Celia Center Founder Jeanette Yoffe Los Angeles provides Adoption and Foster Care Education and Support

 Celia Center Inc is approved by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, CAMFT Provider #121492. The target audience is the following: educators, teachers, health providers, licensed professionals in the community: LMFT’s, LCSW’s, LPCCs, and/or LEP’s.

This event facilitated by Jeanette Yoffe, M.F.T., Adult Adoptee and Former Foster Youth and Founder of Celia Center.

What people are saying about Celia Center!

“I just wanted to give a big THANK YOU for allowing me to observe your group.  It was absolutely amazing, empowering and nothing that I have ever heard before.  Something of this magnitude would be so beneficial for ALL to witness, and listen to.  I can see this becoming huge.  Your influence, compassion, and empathy illuminate in every member of the group.”

-Leticia V. M.S.W., ASW, Children’s Social Worker

When Your Son Has 6 Grandparents By Nicole Rademacher, Adoptee

When Your Son Has 6 Grandparents By Nicole Rademacher, Adoptee

Celia Center Blog

Why do you have two mommies and two daddies? Can I have two mommies and two daddies?
No, but you have 6 grandparents.
I have an idea. If you and daddy weren’t together, then got together with another mommy and another daddy, I could have two daddies and two mommies.
Yes, that’s true, but …

 

Naturally, after the above conversation, my son carefully mulled over what I had said and the implications it has on him and what that means for his family. It’s difficult to explain the complexities of having an adoptive family and a biological family to an adult, let alone to my 5-year-old. Sometimes he’ll ask if Abuelo and Grandma are my “real” parents or if Oma and Opa are my “real” parents. Using that word “real” is arduous for me. It is a word that I have flirted with my whole life, a word that asks for an answer when all I have is a weak notion of what it could possibly mean.

His confusion reminds me of my own, which I thought I had cleared up 15 years ago when I “found” my biological family. The reunion was all very enchanting, almost a fairytale: my biological parents married 2 years after I was born. I had two fully biological younger brothers. In fact, I had a whole family that I was not a part of. The irony.

Abuelo and Grandma were young and in love in 1977. But, I’m told, the relationship was a bit “rocky.” I imagine if I were that young and pregnant, I would myself be a bit “rocky” in addition to the relationship. Due to the relationship I now have with my biological parents, I know that the scenario was nuanced with shame and obligations. Because I have trekked through and tried on notions of identity and sense of belonging so thoroughly since I first reunited with my natural parents, I recognize the agony and guilt with which the decisions were made. I was born to the Cerón-Janquart family in February of 1978 and was adopted into the Rademacher family in May of that same year. My body felt the loss, but as I grew, it disappeared from my consciousness. My brain kept the secrets of lost connections and cached it. As I matured, the unfilled feelings grew with me.

Once I turned 18, I chose to do something that I had always dreamt about: finding my birth parents. Alas, when I called the organization through which I was adopted, they informed me that the law had changed. An adopted person was required to be 21 before they could access identifying information about their biological parents. Devastated, I weathered the emotional upheaval. I moved on, agonizing and struggling. Finally in January of 2004, at the urging of a friend, I contacted the adoption organization again. This time at 26, there was no obstruction. I filed the paperwork, and I waited. I imagined it would be years, as such I put it out of my mind as much as I could. But lo and behold, 2 months later, the morning before I was meant to install my thesis art exhibition, I received a call from a social worker. My world collapsed.

It was through a haze and stupor that I completed my undergraduate tenure; real, emotional life took over. I had no more notions of things I wasn’t because for the first time in my whole life, I had a piece of paper–chicken scratch from my phone conversation with the social worker–with decisive information of who exactly I was, who I am. Trembling, I would finger what I had so nervously written on an extra piece of paper from the printer. I walked outside, and paced, as one does in the movies. I walked back inside and sat at a desk in the hallway at school. I was at my student work-study job at the school computer lab. I looked out at all of my classmates desperately trying to finish a design or a paper or a video, engulfed at the end of the semester. While I, less concerned about my final exhibition, I began to undertake the sincere journey of my identity.

When my 5-year-old asks about my mommies and my daddies, I tell him with such ease who they are to me, for him to discover who they are to him. I don’t imagine that the questions around my double parents will stop until he is much older and can more fully grasp the concepts involved in an adopted person’s life and in the life of their offspring. And maybe those questions won’t ever stop, but instead, they will turn into conversations and dialogues about identity and belonging, about secrets and revealing, about truths and frailties.

Complex trauma is, well, complex and also trans-generational. I felt agony while I was pregnant with my son, simply imagining my first mother being pregnant with me, her knowing full well that she would relinquish me to another family. I cannot fathom the anguish and pain. Knowing that I too felt that burden while growing in my mother’s womb and understanding the missed attachments that I experienced over and over before I was placed…strangely it gives me peace: I have a better understanding of why I am who I am. I have come to terms with the complexities that inform my self and my identity.