Free as a Bird

Nearly 3 years have elapsed since I wrote the story of my life as an adoptee titled “My personal Holocaust”. Since that time so much has happened. Rereading the words that I wrote at that time in my life I remember the pain I felt as I described my adoption experience – for the first time in my life. I look at where I am today and see that great changes have occurred and that God has been with me all the time. It is only in recent months that I have realised and accepted that I have never been ‘alone’ in this life. I was abandoned to an orphanage by my mother – that is true – but God was always with me. This is important for me as I have discovered that my relationship with God directly affects how I feel about myself. I would now like to tell the story of my journey from victim and victim hood to survivor and then to integration and acceptance.

At the time I wrote the original story I had joined Alcoholics Anonymous and was working through the 12 step program with a sponsor. I wrote the story after completing the fourth step – the Moral Inventory. I decided to do this focused on my adoption experience.

In one of the first meetings of AA that I attended when I left the detox I met a man who had 17 years of sobriety and he was to profoundly change my life. He was different from other recovering alcoholics. He had inner peace and serenity. He talked of his love for God a lot – he didn’t talk of houses, cars, money – he lives a life of faith. The things of this world mean nothing to him. All that he values is contained in his relationship to his Creator. Now I can say, after having known him for 3 years, that I have never met his spiritual equal. Not amongst church men or woman or in any other place. Something inside me told me that I should ask him to be my sponsor and he agreed. He has since taught me many things – some that I was not able to understand at the time. He is not an educated man with degrees etc and yet he is the wisest person I’ve known. The reason I mention so much about him is that I would not be who I am today had I not met him. He became my inspiration, my guidepost and eventually a friend. There is a saying – when the pupil is ready the teacher appears.

Today I continue my membership of AA and participate in 4 or 5 meetings a week. My daughter asked me recently when I would be able to give AA away – I replied that when I die I would graduate and no longer have to attend. I always did like the dramatic!

Apart from my sponsor the most significant things to happen include my reading “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier. I have read quite a few books on adoption but this book is outstanding. When I read it I turned each page and as I read I said to myself – “that’s me”, “that’s me” etc. I identified so much with it. It tells my story and explains so much about the adoption experience. I know that it has touched many adoptees. I am currently reading Nancy’s follow-up book called “Coming home to self”. It is a worthy follow-up to the original book. It challenges the adoptee to drop the victim attitude and to move onto greater and better things – what Christians would call becoming an over comer.

In the original story I wrote that “I have never truly loved anyone in my life – I understand this now. I think that in my present state that I’m incapable of love and trust.” During my second year of sobriety someone mentioned the book, the Road less travelled” in an AA meeting. I obtained a copy and read that the author believed that real love was working for the spiritual growth of another person and commitment to this goal. I decided that this would be my definition of love and it has transformed my attitude to love. I recall that my second wife often spoke to me about love being about commitment but I just could not understand that at the time. I heard her say the words but I was not able to understand her. I now practice love in my life. I have committed myself to staying in my daughter’s life in a constructive way – I try to contact her regularly and see her as often as possible (well at least as often as a busy 15 year old has time for her dad!!!)

A couple of years ago I travelled to India with a group of people from my church fellowship. A number of profound events occurred whilst I was there. I witnessed a woman being delivered of a demonic spirit – I saw it unfold in front of my eyes. I also witnessed a motorbike rider being struck by a taxi – his body eventually stopping 3 feet from my left foot and he then convulsed and died.

The most moving thing that occurred in India occurred when I went to an orphanage. There were about 30 orphans aged from 1 year to 15 years of age. At first our group of people took photos with them, gave them lollies and sang some songs to them. They were all smiling but I could see the sadness in their eyes. The same sadness that has been in my eyes all my life. After a while I was overcome with emotion and I cried and cried.

The healing of my shame about my ethnicity began in India. Every time we arrived at new location all the Indian children would run up to the bus and want to shake hands with us. As I reached out to shake hands with them I could see that I was much lighter in colour than them. I felt quite pale in comparison. At time I felt as if I were no longer brown at all. A very strange sensation as I’ve always felt as if I were dark (which I am comparative to white Anglo Saxons).

One day whilst travelling in the bus we were made to stop by the Police and a convoy containing the world’s richest man then (Bill Gates) left HiTech City in Hyderabad and continued up the highway passing Indians living on the median strip and in tents made of broken bricks and rubbish by the side of the road. What a contrast that was. Meeting Indians made me feel immoral and corrupt by comparison with the simple uncluttered non materialistic lives they lead. I no longer accept the premise that western countries are the leading nations. Leading nations of depravity and greed? As Nancy Verrier states in her book, there are more neurosis in the USA than any country in the world. I’m sure that Australia is not far behind as another, so called, advanced country.

I became engaged to an old girlfriend at one stage. After we had been engaged for a month or two I realised that I was making a mistake and that it would not work. I called it off and even though I regretted hurting her I knew that I had made the right decision for the right reasons (a first for me!). I am open to the idea of a future relationship with a woman – my expectations have changed so much. For a relationship to work it would need to be someone who was spiritually aware and able to deal with occasional adoptee behaviour (eg pre-emptive strikes, living in an imaginary world, assuming the worst etc). I don’t say this to justify or condone my behaving badly. But I acknowledge that even though I have a much better idea what love is and how to love – I lack the practical experience. I would really like to grow spiritually with a woman. I would need to feel that I could ‘fail’ at times and not be rejected. I guess that may sound defensive but what I mean is that I need someone who understands the issues and can help me to challenge my own behaviour. I look back at my many previous relationships and see the destructive acting out behaviour on my part. I no longer accept that I have to act like this. I will no longer allow myself to act irresponsibly.

Once I was on the path of sobriety I began to chase emotional sobriety and I looked at my life and wanted to work through all the issues – I wanted to be whole. I was very enthusiastic about this because I saw that it was possible that I could be well – and that life could be wonderful and fulfilling. At first I went to a psychotherapist and 2 psychologists. I wanted to explore my adoption issues and the sexual abuse issues. Let me recommend not seeing so many practitioners concurrently – it’s very confusing! I contacted the Post Adoption Resource Centre at Bondi (in Sydney) and went there to meet with a counsellor. Meeting that counsellor was an extremely disappointing event at the time. On reflection I think that she was concerned about my enthusiasm to be well and tried to dampen me down a bit! Through her I was given the contact number of a woman that was to become a dear friend. This woman had founded the organisation ICASN (Inter Country Adoption Support Network) and she had organised a meeting of adoptees at a restaurant in the near future. I turned up at the restaurant and the journey of recovery from the wilderness of adoption and aloneness began in earnest. As I listened to her story and talked with and observed the other adoptees I could see that I was no longer alone. I was 39 years old and had never ever spoken with a group of adoptees about adoption. Suddenly I was surrounded by adoptees who were interested in my story! Through this woman I was able to begin a journey of healing that I thought not possible. I liked and wanted what she had so much (the emotional and spiritual growth and recovery from the adoption experience) that I decided that to be her friend I would have to forget that she was a woman so that I can hear and understand her without the filter of male female sexual politics which normally dominated my contacts with females. Much to my surprise it actually worked. Every time I had contact with her I cultivated respect in my head for her and concentrated on who she was rather than what she was. I believe that the way I have treated her is a prototype for better relationships with females for me. I acknowledge that I have legacy issues with relating to and trusting woman from my adoption. However I now know that I can learn another way of relating to them.

When I was first sober and for many months in early sobriety I was perplexed that I still became involved in various arguments with other staff at my work. I had always struggled with trying to always be right and win every argument. It was a life long obsession about justifying my existence. I felt that losing an argument or being bettered by another person was equivalent to extinction. I also behaved in one of 2 ways – either being overly nice (people pleasing) or overly aggressive and defensive. There was no middle ground. There was no normality in my relations with other people. However, over time I began to change and a friend at AA remarked that I was no longer as angry as I had been when I first came into the program at my 3rd sobriety birthday (we celebrate the anniversary of becoming sober in AA with a ‘birthday’). I have realised that my attitudes are no longer so rigid. I no longer find myself needing to be right. I can let other people have opinions that differ from mine (in fact I often ask myself if they are right if they hold a contrary view). Indeed I have also begun to use the expression “I don’t know”. Once I used to express contempt if someone mentioned something that I didn’t agree with or know about eg if someone said that they were involved in aromatherapy (this is only an example – I have nothing against aromatherapy!) I would immediately dismiss them as an idiot. I was a self confessed expert on everything before I realised that I was actually wrong about most things.

Along the journey of recovery in AA I undertook the 9th step which is to make direct amends to such people (People we have harmed) wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others. I know that God was on my side and helping me complete the steps because I bumped into both my ex wives in supermarkets whilst doing this step. One of them I hadn’t spoken to for more than 16 years and there she was in front of me in the supermarket. The other I hadn’t seen for a couple for years and I also met her in a supermarket – one that I’d never been to before.

So what do I want from life now that I have discovered it (so to speak). I want to be at peace in my heart. To accept and love myself that I might be capable of loving others. This is to repay the love that I have received from God. I want to “pass it on” as Bill W (founder of AA) would say.

Being a transracial adoptee has made the adoption experience a complex one (all adoptions are complex!). I have spent the years from age 8, when I first experienced racism at an Australian School, until the last year feeling shame at being ½ Pakistani. However on a recent trip to the UK I went to an AA meeting in the midlands and was sitting in the meeting when 2 Indians\Pakistanis walked in. The most amazing thing happened – I felt like I was no longer the only one! As I walked in parts of Birmingham and Wolverhampton I walked in areas where Indians and Pakistanis predominated. I felt like I was no longer the ‘odd man out’. I felt like I was just one of many. Another very interesting thing happened – I began to see how beautiful Indian Pakistani women are. I had never had a relationship with a brown skinned woman. I had never considered them attractive. Suddenly I was in lust!! These feelings continue to this day. My eye always catches women of Indian Pakistani appearance. I have even taken steps to actively date women of Indian Pakistani appearance. I undertook to eat Indian\Pakistani food when I have a chance. I wear my Korta Pyjamas when I eat at these restaurants.

I guess it will seem an enigma but I also felt shame that I was 1/2 Scottish. I would particularly feel this when asked to explain my origins. I would say that I was born in Scotland and watch the look of disbelief appear on the face of the person I was speaking with. One of my natural uncles helped me to feel proud of my Scottish ancestry. I went on a tour of the highlands including the home of my Scottish clan on the Isle of Skye. I found out that my ancestors, on the Scottish side, were from Viking stock. My daughter was quite happy to be a Viking as was I! Does that explain and excuse my aberrant behaviour? (of course – no).

I have taken various actions along the way to further my recovery. These include embracing my origins by wearing a bracelet that has my Pakistani birth name, my Scottish Clan name, the name the nurses used in the orphanage for me and my adoptive name. I have recently completed a photo shoot of myself dressed in different ways. The different dress styles represent the various facets of the composite Ron. I had my picture taken dressed in Indian Pakistani korta pyjamas; Scottish Trews; casual clothes, leather clothes and also one of me without a shirt. These represent my racial origins, my Australianness, my expressive, exploratory nature and my natural state. These 5 pictures will be framed in one picture frame and I will include the words integration\acceptance at the bottom. It marks acceptance of who I am. I am not just one aspect of my self but an integration of all these things. I am at peace with Ron. I am considering how I might integrate my original name L S.

There is a part of me that is giving a voice to the real Ron – what Nancy Verrier calls the authentic self.

I have experimented doing things that please me including growing my hair long, exercising, dressing in radical clothes such as leather pants and jacket etc. I even painted my fingernails black and went to a birthday party (Boy was I self conscious that night! but I was pleased with myself that I did it). I have considered using eyeliner. Interestingly I have just discovered that men from certain parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan wear eyeliner (is it genetics??!). I must try quite a few things to find what it is that I really want to do for myself. I know that some of my friends are probably thinking that I’m on some sort of mid life crisis trip but rather I’m embracing reality rather than running away from it (well apart from the fact that I now dye my hair!!). Others think that I have become gay because of the way I dress. Homophobia lives on! The truth is that I take a lot more pride in how I dress and I dress to please myself. Before I stopped drinking I couldn’t even stand to look in the mirror at all.

My attempts to bring to the light and empower the real Ron are not confined to navel gazing – I am reaching out to help others. I have joined a committee that assists adoptees and adoptive parents, I participate in service work and 12th step work for AA (visiting and talking with those still suffering from active alcoholism) and I also take opportunities to share my adoption story within AA. Of course, there are many adoptees in AA and I have always shared very frankly when I’ve had a chance. At a recent AA conference 3 adoptees approached me about my story after I’d shared it. One of the adoptees had pitched their tent next to me – out of 130 campers this was no coincidence – God works like this. We adoptees are mostly anonymously carrying the huge burden of the ‘primal wound’ with no relief and if I can help in any way I do. The AA program has been instrumental in helping me be less self obsessed. What an ironic situation – I’ve had to be more honest with myself and think alot about who I am and who I want to be yet have had to reject self obsession. A friend in AA says that true humility is not to think less of yourself but to think about yourself less.

AA encourages rigorous honesty. I embrace rigorous honesty but one thing that I know and accept these days is that we humans are all running blind to some extent. We all have areas in our lives that are pockets of darkness – areas of self delusion\denial – the shadow that Yung spoke of. There is much work to be done in my life.

So how do I feel and think about religion? Religion is my great enemy! I see now that there is a religious spirit – a critical judging spirit that corrupts those it possesses. It certainly possessed me and continues to attempt to make me feel guilt and condemned. I therefore chose to believe in a loving God and no longer in the shadow god that I created throughout my life. This god had rules that I could not possibly live up to. This god loved me when I was good and rejected me when I wasn’t good. Of course I was projecting my own failures and judgements onto a blank canvas I labelled god. When I realised this my journey through life became a much nicer place to be. The God I believe in is the God I see in the story of the woman caught in adultery in the Gospels. A God of forgiveness and mercy. This was the first story I thought of as I considered this point – obvious links to my life. I accept that I am fallible. I am not all good nor all bad. I am a composite being. God’s in on this little secret of mine. Somehow it appears that He always knew that I wasn’t perfect and yet He still loves me.

Last year I returned to Scotland and England to search for my birth father, to stay with my birth mother and to meet some of my maternal relations for the first time. When I arrived at my mother’s place we began a process of getting to know each other. I can’t say that it was easy – it was strained at times and confronting to discuss issues. My birth mother is from the old school and in many respects I was overwhelming her with my eagerness and recovery. I was trying to take her along my path of recovery. I tried this with my adoptive mother and I failed in both cases. I have let go trying to force my recovery on others. On one occasion, with my adoptive mother, I spent 45 minutes on a mobile phone trying to convince her that I had brown skin and that I didn’t want her to ever call me ‘special’ again. At the end of the call she said to me that I was special to her and that I looked just like her two natural sons (fair skin, blue eyes). I nearly threw the phone against a wall. I have come to realise that that is her way of loving me. She is in denial and that’s ok. My birth mother and I spent 6 days together without much of a break and then on the 7th day she turned and accused me of various ‘crimes’ including leaving hair in the bath, not putting my plate away quick enough after a meal, being a racist and various other things. The stay with her came to an abrupt halt! At the time I felt a very intense feeling of pain – the thought that I was experiencing a second rejection flashed through my mind – the tears were welling in my eyes. I said a prayer to God asking for His help and I knew that He was there with me (I’ve never been alone remember). I sussed the situation and realised that it was best to ‘cop it sweet’ so I said nothing to defend myself. I let her vent and then quietly left her house. I journeyed to her brother’s place, my uncle. As I reflect on the experience I see that she warned me when I first arrived that she had certain problems. She told me that she had a sickness with cleaning. I had ! no idea what she meant. I look back now and remember that she used to pull the washing machine out and clean behind it 3 times a week, that she would get up hours before me and clean the house from top to bottom every day – that she ironed my socks and underpants every day….

Talk about a slow learner – I just didn’t understand at the time. My mother also chose to ring her brother and tell him of my crimes. He insisted that I come up to Scotland to stay with him. My mother travelled to Australia a few weeks after my return to stay with a friend of hers. She had originally intended to stay with me too. She visited my work and left a note for me that says in part “Yes we got here this is your cheap t shirt you will need it more than me. You cost me 97 for your bracelet 70 for boots. Also 112 for my car repair 49 insurance plus your trip to the Rangers. Some trick you pulled don’t ever come near us again in your life. Also you stick to R M because your name is not L S”. Since she left me this letter she has emailed me 3 times. The emails were reasonably innocuous. So what do I make of all this? I see, in her behaviour, the pain of her own response to the primal wound. I also see the reactive behaviour of someone who grew up in a violent alcoholic home and was a practicing alcoholic for most of her life. She and I are so similar. I have used the same instincts in defending myself in an alien world. I choose to continue the relationship – I’ll respond to the emails if she sends anymore. I accept that she is not capable of change. I saw that she wanted to when we both went to a post adoption service in the UK to start the search for my father and she was told by the counsellor that she could have counselling if she wished. She became very emotional and said that no one had ever given her a chance to talk over the events of the past. She was amazed. She told the counsellor that she would definitely take up the opportunity. I hope that she does. She is my birth mother, there is no other than can replace her. She has had a very hard life and perhaps it was mostly the relinquishment that caused most of the pain. Who knows? She hasn’t spoken to my half brother, her oldest son, for 14 years. She has not been in contact with her daughter or other son for a lon! g time. Her inability to connect successfully with them or with me is beyond her current capability. It was not my fault. It was no flaw with me. Once I walked in darkness and I just didn’t know. She is there – in that same place – how can I judge her for this? She just doesn’t know.

My uncle was very kind to me and explained that my mother had had issues her whole life. There is a great deal of unresolved rage within her. The very same rage that plagued me – (for the same reason?). I was able to connect with this uncle on a very deep level. We had a great deal in common. In fact it was spooky at times – our political views were similar, we shared a love of Israel, we had been on similar journeys through life. We were both convinced that it was the grace of God alone that had brought us through life. He was like a wonderful tonic for me. I identified with him strongly.

My relationship with my adoptive mother has improved since my return from that trip. I no longer need to drag her along on my recovery – I can live and let live. I wouldn’t say that we are the best of friends yet – I have it on my agenda to try the love thing on her (i.e. commitment to stay in touch more often).

One thing that I battle today is my addictive nature. I am always on the look out for feel-goods. These can be breakfast cereals, over exercise, women, television etc. I have learned so many techniques to avoid sitting with myself! I am aware that my addictive nature plays itself out in my life. I try to do all things with moderation. As long as the feel-goods are not dangerous (alcohol, drugs etc) I can go with the flow and live with them.

One significant event that changed me occurred after an AA meeting. There was a guy in the meeting who I admired and I got the idea in my head that he didn’t like me. I sat with that feeling for at least 12 months. One day, in an AA meeting, I said to myself that maybe that thought, that he didn’t like me, was wrong. After the meeting I said to him “This might seem strange but I have a feeling that you don’t like me and I was wondering why?” Now this was a tremendously important event because I challenged my own belief system and, of course, I found out that this guy thought that I was ok and we’ve become good friends since that day. I’d proved that my perceptions could be wrong. I am so happy that I had enough courage to do that because it’s meant that I can do it all the time about every feeling and thought that I get – if I choose.

So I’m perfect now right? Far from it. I am much happier than when I wrote the original instalment. I have placed a Che Guevara poster in my house – not to suggest that I have now become a commy bastard – (I’m just a bastard! –apologies to communists – I am able to respect other’s beliefs these days). I am a revolutionary. I am embracing change – I reject the lies of the past. I am not afraid to be wrong. I am not afraid to say I don’t know. I am no longer afraid of my own shadow.

There is a chance that I might abandon spiritual growth and then backslide. There is a chance that I might resort to active alcoholism. By God’s grace this will never happen. By the way I received a letter from the West Midland Post Adoption Service a couple of days ago. Apparently they may have found my father… But then that’s a story for inclusion for the next instalment. Onwards to life! I embrace all it has to offer.

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