By 1987, I was divorced from my first husband. For the first time in my life I was totally on my own. I lived in a cute, little studio apartment in an old mill building in the city, I was working at a chic furniture store and I was training to become a Jazzercise instructor. That’s right, JAZZERCISE. Laugh if you will, but it was (and still is) a really awesome dance-fitness program. It’s also a franchise. Eventually, I had my own Jazzercise franchise and was teaching multiple times a week at several locations. I loved it. Mostly because I could do what I wanted for all of the hours I wasn’t teaching. I had a small group of close friends so we mostly went out after my class and drank ourselves silly. I could sleep in till 9am usually because I only taught at night. Ah, the good ol’ days.
Eventually, my best friend, my sister and I rented a house on a lake together and lived the life of single girls–drinking every night, parties on the weekends, no responsibilities to speak of. I was obsessed with a guy then, who had little to no interest in me after we had slept together. I could not for the life of me understand HOW he could not be as in love with me as I was with him. I couldn’t deal. Every waking hour was spent thinking about this douche-bag. I cringe when I think about it now. One time, at an Octoberfest in the city I got totally wasted–like black out-fall down-die from it drunk. He was there, with another girl. I made such an ass out of myself that my friend Jay picked me up, threw me over his shoulder and put me in the car and took me home. I was horrified for weeks. Hungover for days. A slug for a month. Toyed with slitting my wrists with a piece of glass window that had shattered in my car. Yup, I actually thought about suicide. Drinking problem? Huh? No.
Eventually, an injury led me to have to resign from teaching Jazzercise and go back into the furniture world. I moved two states away, which I hated at the time. I came back after a year because I simply couldn’t stand being away from my friends and family. It was right around then that my biological roots started to appear from the ground.
My mother got a call from a social worker at the state department of Human Services asking questions about me. Turned out, I had a biological sibling that was searching for me. I was adopted in 1961. Back then, the records were sealed. Tightly. If I even thought about searching for my biological mother, it would involve probate court, petitions and tons of time and money. Of which I had none. I spent my youth wondering where I came from, feeling like an alien, and hiding this horrible, dark secret from everyone I knew. It was like a little ugly monster I kept in the closet under the stairs. And now someone was peaking in.
My parents asked me to come over one night because they had something they wanted to tell me. I thought maybe they bought me a new TV or something. But no, they broke the news that I had six biological siblings that were looking for me. FOR ME. What?! I can’t even explain the feeling that I had at that moment. It was surreal. Out of body kind of thing. I was light headed and weak. I could not believe it.
The next day, I called this social worker who could not tell me anything beyond the fact that they were from northern NH, there were six of them, one in Maryland, and my bio mother had died in August of 1989. Yay. If I wanted more info I had to go to court. I did not want to go to court. When someone tells you you have these people who are BIOLOGICALLY RELATED TO YOU and you’ve lived your entire life feeling completely isolated from the rest of the world, you do not waste time following rules.
I went to the library and got a pile of all of the state newspapers from August of 1989, when my birth mother had passed away. After about an hour of searching these old, dusty papers in the basement of the library, I found her obituary. DOROTHY GERTRUDE KNAPP. Born Jan, 1917-Died Aug 1989. Six kids, one in Maryland. Colebrook, NH. I remember sitting there, with the whole page in my hand, not knowing what to do or feel. So I ripped it out and took it with me. The following day I called information and got the phone number and called. My bio sister answered. Once I explained who I was, the phone went silent for what felt like minutes. She was sobbing. Said she had been searching for me for years. I was blown away.
The conversation lasted over 2 hours. Eventually, I drove up to meet them all. I listened to the story of my birth mothers tortured life, her struggles with abuse from a husband (not my father), her alcoholism (although they didn’t say that, they just glossed over her daily whiskey and milk habit…ewwww), and her internal sadness that she carried with her to her grave–about me. It broke my heart to hear it. But these people were cool. Funny beyond words, which I was very relieved about. I finally could see where my sense of odd humor came from. It was an out of body experience. I felt exposed, vulnerable, raw…kind of like a little baby with no clothes on, just laying out in the open for everyone to see. It was the strangest experience of my life.
From that point on, I felt different. I wanted to tell my story but I didn’t know where to begin. I felt like this was a huge thing that set me apart from everyone else, so I still felt very weird and strange. I went back to college for Human Services, thinking I might want to work in the field of adoption. I was confused, spinning in an uncomfortable direction, I didn’t recognize anything anymore. It was scary and exciting at the same time. I just didn’t feel ready for any of it.
I’m now exhausted, just writing all of this down, reliving it in my mind. I still feel all the things I did then. Here I am, 56 years old. So much of my life gone already. I’ll continue tomorrow. It gets better, so stay with me. I promise to be honest.
Here’s to uncovering sobriety! Cheers!