#142 – Episode 142 – The Adopted Child In Sobriety with Tamara Kirby


Veronica speaks to Soberful Life coach Tamara Kirby about the links between adoption and addiction. As an adopted child, Tamara explains how her ‘original trauma’ laid the groundwork for her addiction.

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What This Episode Is About

Research shows that both adoption and being in foster care are correlated to a higher chance of substance use disorder or mental health problems.

For Soberful Life coach Tamara Kirby, it started with a difficult first placement in a foster home at one and a half years old. Later, the transition into her adoptive parents’ home was difficult.

At age three, she’d already taken on a parental role for her little brother and was so protective that she didn’t want to let her adoptive mother act as their parent.

She doesn’t remember a lot of her early childhood but her experiences left her with a feeling of always having to be vigilant that persisted throughout a lot of her life. To protect herself, Tamara put up massive walls and refused to let anyone through.

“My adopted mom said that when she met me, I had the darkest circles that she’d ever seen under someone’s eyes.” – Tamara Kirby

Kids who are adopted tend to be very resistant to authority and have problems developing identity – something Tamara experienced firsthand.

Tamara recalls being like a chameleon – her low self-confidence caused her to always shape her personality to fit in with whoever she was around and she desperately wanted to be exactly who her parents wanted her to be.

The trauma of being in the system and everything that came with foster homes and adoption, coupled with other childhood trauma she experienced left Tamara with PTSD as young as fourth grade.

Fainting, sleepwalking, panic attacks… It got so bad that her parents rushed her to the emergency room.

“If I hadn’t discovered alcohol, I probably would have ended things a long time ago.” – Tamara Kirby

At 10 years old, Tamara discovered alcohol and it was a problematic relationship from the start that only got worse.

So, how did Tamara begin to resolve the original trauma?

It started with getting sober and joining a 12 step program. Around step four, her sponsor recommended her to go to therapy.

There are a lot of distorted beliefs that come from being adopted. For Tamara, the story was that there must be something wrong with her. She credits her experience with various approaches and modalities of therapy to helping her to peel back those layers and start to challenge the warped beliefs she carried for so long.

Now, with over 12 years of sobriety, Tamara uses her experiences to help others who have been through similar situations. She’s found her place, helping people who are where she was.

“Parenting is all about healing your childhood wounds because nothing will trigger you more than your children.” – Veronica Valli

Tamara credits her early childhood experiences for allowing her to parent her daughter differently. For her, becoming a parent also helped her to understand her childhood and her mother better.

Through the process of her recovery, Tamara has become the woman she always wanted to be. She has a wonderful relationship with her daughter and her parents and can now say she genuinely loves herself and lives a life that she enjoys.

“I don’t feel left out or lost anymore and I think that’s the beauty of recovery.” – Tamara Kirby

Whatever you’ve been through, however bad it was, recovery is possible for you.

About Tamara Kirby

Tamara Kirby has helped hundreds of people recover from active addiction as a licensed addictions counselor and international certified drug and alcohol counselor. She uses her own recovery as well as her clinical skills and education to lead the path in stigma reduction, raise community awareness, and educate businesses. She has opened and maintained the development of two addiction treatment programs in the past five years. Currently, she is a treatment consultant with the Indiana Center for Recovery and Haven Behavioral Health as well as the community manager at Soberful Life.

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