Adobe Flash Player is not installed. Please download and install it to listen to audio.
Diane Barnes adopted me a few days after I was born. She’s been a great mom. As a single mother she worked hard to give me and my brother a good education and raise us in a decent neighborhood in San Rafael, California. But things between my mom and me got really hard, and when I was 13, our relationship was at an all time low, as my mom remembers:
“It seemed as if conflict was always present there and it was always adversarial. It was always fighting, struggling, and a lot of disrespect coming my way.”
I had so much anger and frustration inside me, especially towards my mom. And I didn’t always act like it, but I was so unhappy then. My A’s and B’s had turned into C’s, D’s, and F’s. Everyday just kept getting worse. I hated my life. My mom knew it:
“And I was afraid you would dig yourself into a hole so deep you might not be able to get out of it.”
In high school I started getting into fights and I was cutting classes. I ran away from home. I even got in trouble with the law. My mom remembers a conversation that I can’t really remember. For her, it was a turning point:
“You said you think I’m out of control mom you think I’m out of control you haven’t seen out of control yet. And at that point I realized it was your choices. It was all about you where your head was and what you wanted to do, and I needed to give you a place to find your better self.”
So one night at 2 o-clock in the morning my mom did the craziest thing. She opened the door to my bedroom and sent in two bodyguard looking guys. They woke me up, and told me to put on clothes and get ready to leave my home. They wouldn’t let me pack or anything and didn’t even tell me where we were going.
My mom gave me a hug and told me she loved me, and I didn’t say anything back to her.
“And I thought oh my gosh I’m really doing this,” mom remembers, “And I came into my own room and cried. And within five minutes all of you were out the front door and I felt like the door to my life as I’d know it was closing I was now a mom with no child at home.”
I spent about six weeks at a Montana wilderness program, and I hated it. It felt like punishment. My mom was desperate to find another option for me. That’s when she found a boarding school, in Costa Rica. The whole thing could have gone really badly, but we got lucky and I became a different person there. I don’t even know exactly how.
Maybe it was being in a different culture and learning Spanish. Maybe it was the school therapists and teachers, working with me everyday. Being there felt like a reward, and eventually I realized that if anyone was being punished, it was my mom:
“It feels like I gave up the joy and the pleasure of living with you um and watching you grow and being your mom in order to give you a neutral safe space where you could grow up without the ability to run yourself into the ground. I feel like I was trying to give you back your life.”
And mom, that’s exactly what you did.