Introduction from Alison
I was adopted at six weeks old and raised in England and Africa by British parents. Growing up being adopted wasn’t something we talked about and I didn’t think much about it – not consciously anyway. I just assumed that looking and feeling different from the people I lived with was a part of being human.
Then, when I was in my twenties, I found the birth parents I had known nothing about, moved to America and became a stand-up comic. When you have an accent as British as mine and find your birth mother living in Tennessee, what else do you do?
I didn’t know anyone in New York, except the audiences in the comedy clubs, so I talked to them. “I think everyone should be adopted,” I said. “That way you can meet your birth parents when you’re old enough to cope with them.” And “The key to dealing with a fear of abandonment is to date people you don’t like, so if they do leave you, it doesn’t matter. And “I’ve always thought of infidelity as wrong, because it means betrayal of the most hurtful kind possible. But if my birth father had not cheated on his wife, I would not exist. So if there are any couples here this evening having an extra marital affair, I encourage you to breed.”
They were jokes that made it into my one woman show and later into my novel, The English American. They were coming from a place of truth.
I look back on that time and am genuinely amazed that I managed to get through it without any kind of help from a trained professional in the field of adoption and reunion. The retrieval of my birth parents and my genetic history certainly answered a great many questions for me, and certainly helped me work out who I really am — and who I am not. But without professional help from a counselor or support group familiar with the territory, the experience was more traumatic than it needed to be.
I did try to get help at the beginning of my reunion, from a New York psychotherapist who found my case fascinating but later admitted that she had no training in the area. With the desire to help, but absolutely no grasp of the issues involved, she smiled empathetically at me and urged me to go home and have a chat with my inner child. Which didn’t help at all.
The first time I met or talked to anyone else who had been through a similar experience was six years after I met my birth mother. I attended a talk in Los Angeles which had been organized by a social worker. The room was filled with other adopted people. The talk was extraordinary. Feelings I’d had for years but had been unable to articulate or identify were being voiced and shared by all these other people. And they weren’t crazy either.
Since then I have been fortunate enough to come across a number of superb counselors and organizations currently helping adopted people in reunion — and also those who choose not to search, but find themselves dealing with recurring difficulties that may be adoption related.
I’m not an expert in the field, I’m a novelist, speaker, actress, comedian and audiobook narrator. But listed below are a few of the professional organizations currently helping adopted people understand themselves better — and come to terms with some of the internal challenges they may be dealing with.
If you have come across an organization or individual counselor that has been helpful to you, please send me an email with their details and we will do our best to include them on our list.
Good luck to all of you in your search for your self.
P.S. If you were adopted, you’re in interesting company. Other adopted people include: Eleanor Roosevelt, Edgar Alan Poe, James Michener, Ted Danson, Debbi Harry, Rennee Zeilweger, Steve Jobs, Walt Whitman, Edward Albee, Marilyn Monroe, Alexander the Great, Nat King Cole, Newt Gingrich, Nancy Reagan, Art Linkletter, President Gerald Ford, Greg Louganis (diver) Pat Somerall (sports caster) Dave Thomas, Stuart Little, Superman, Harry Potter and of course Moses.