It takes one to know one, I’m told. From my own experience I’d say it’s true. In the beginning, I was born. It went pretty much downhill from there.
My dad was mentally ill. My mom wanted to be a Dental Assistant but she settled for being a prostitute. My parents were both heroin addicts. There was no way they could raise me and it wasn’t long before I wound up in an orphanage with 20 or 30 other kids.
No matter what, it’s hard to be separated from your birth mom. Even if you know that getting out is the only way to survive.
I was pretty. A blessing and a curse. I got adopted when I was six. That should have been the long-overdue good news. But actually, things went from bad to worse. I spend four years being abused by my adopted father. When social services found out they started grooming me for my court appearance to put him away. That’s when I started my endless foster home tour. I was never more alone. I really didn’t have anyone. I got along well with other kids. And then they’d be gone. I got afraid of relationships … they never lasted. I developed a big trust issue. I knew early on that my foster parents were being paid to look after me so I made them work for it. The faces and the places kept changing.
When I think back, I realize that I was always looking past the moment. Sometimes the moment was so bad that I had to. I was learning a lot and testing the situations I found myself in.
‘Stay calm and carry on.’
I finished school, got a job and wasted half of what I earned being bad. But I also saved half of what I made.. I went to court to hear my adopted parents turn all the blame for the abuse on me. I was alone again, but in the end I stood up to a challenge to my pride and was awarded a settlement by the court. I added it to my savings and put the down payment on a house.
Me … a house!
It could have been a month-long party with a bunch of pretend friends. I’d been learning what I wanted to be. And I had help. My mom, for one … not that she actually helped me in any way, but she showed me that sometimes a good heart just isn’t enough and you have to be strong. And Heather, one of my caseworkers was my first real inspiration. There were lots of times when she had more faith in me than I had in myself. Even when you think you’re out there on your own, you realize later on that there was someone who cared. And cared enough to let you work it yourself with a little nudge here and there. So that when you get to where you want to be, you own it.
I got married and had two kids and got divorced and my husband was one of those who helped me ‘own it.’
He was someone who didn’t just care quietly in the background. He wanted to care for me out loud and give me everything I could possibly want. It was a whole new world, but after a few years I knew it wasn’t mine. I was more people than Porsche! My marriage really helped me find my calling, though. And my boys have a wonderful father and two worlds to explore.
Anyway, here I am today.
On weekends, I work for WJS Canada at Youth Horizons in Victoria, BC. It’s a five-bed home for high-risk girls. I can see myself in them and I’m sure they see themselves in me. I think they respect that I’ve been where they are and done what they’ve done. And that there’s a way to move on.
I reunited with my birth mom and cared for her the best I could before her addiction took her away from me.
Tomorrow I’ll wake up in a house I own with five young people. My own two boys, three foster girls and the challenges we’re facing together.
A great day is when you find yourself a little closer to your dream. I live in mine. Being where I am in my life makes it impossible to have regrets. I have regrets for some of the people I’ve met along the way, but none of my own.
The person who asked me to tell my story for this website asked me what my idea of a great vacation is. Tough one. My answer is ‘someplace not far from my own house and some kids who can use someone who cares.’
It’s funny the things you remember. Even if you have to search a lot of wreckage for anything that survived, sooner or later you find it.