Wisconsin writer David B. Bohl pieced together a complicated true story – his own – over several years of research to find out the answer to, “Who am I?”
Bohl is the former Director of Addiction Services at Rogers Memorial Hospital, Oconomowoc and today is an independent consultant with Beacon Confidential, LLC in Milwaukee. He works with clients and families in Wisconsin and nationally who experience substance-use disorders and trauma.
He will be telling his story and signing copies of his book, “Parallel Universes: The Story of Rebirth”, at the DeForest Area Public Library on May 3.
Bohl, a graduate of the University of South Florida and Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, is a member of the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), American Adoption Congress (AAC), and Concerned United Birthparents (CUB).
Bohl’s story has touched people in all walks of life. Haunted by decades of unresolved issues relating to addiction and adoption, his memoir offers hope to anyone struggling with obstacles that interfere with the enjoyment of life.
The author who is 57, spent 14 years trying to find his birth parents. He learned their identity three years ago, but it was too late to meet them. Searching for birth parents can take years, often decades. Often, when those at the center of these dramatic searches find their roots, they may be in their 50s, 60s or 70s.
It is especially difficult to put all the pieces together in closed adoptions.
“It’s quite emotional to process the information you get about people you’ve never met,” Bohl said about his own closed adoption.
He calls his research “a delicate balance.”
“There were times when I felt like I was intruding into the lives of these people I didn’t know even though I was related to them,” Bohl said.
Writing his memoir
Bohl spent his childhood feeling like an outsider in my family.
“When I looked around, no one looked like me, and I needed to know, how do my genes explain who I am? Why was I put up for adoption? Who were the people who brought me into the world?” Bohl said.
When he started uncovering secrets of his past, he began to recover from trauma and addiction.
His story offers hope to those struggling with the reality of everyday life in today’s complicated world.
For those who are adopted he said, “Part of our past is locked away in someone else’s filing cabinet.”
Bohl was adopted at 7-days-old and raised in a loving home in Milwaukee, but one day, when he was 6-years-old, he could hardly wait to tell his friends the exciting news he had just learned.
“They didn’t see it like I did, that being adopted was something to be proud of,” he said. “That negative reaction and mistrust I felt propelled me on a confusing, complex, journey that involved addiction.”
Yet, over the years Bohl put a game face on and became an overachiever in everything he did such as sailing, academics and on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange.
Underneath it all, though, he was dealing with a life-long developmental trauma that manifested as shame.
“For decades I felt fragmented and incomplete, mortified and confused about my identity,” he said. “Alcohol and pills allowed me to quiet those feelings and kept me going. Until they stopped working, that is.”
Identity and purpose today
Bohl realized that he needed to investigate a new, healthier perspective in order to survive and flourish.
When he began digging deep inside himself, not knowing what he’d find, he discovered that the process helped him heal and reclaim his life.
Not long ago Bohl learned he has a half-sister in south suburban Chicago and another living in Las Vegas.
“It was an extraordinary experience seeing contemporaries who resemble me and having that first-ever connection to my biological beginnings,” he noted.
“I hope my story can give others the courage to find their own way, and to go beyond the struggles that they may be carrying with them,” he added. “I am not an athlete or actor or politician or a person with a bigger-than-life story, but the experiences and perceptions I’ve chronicled in the book can be useful to anyone courageous enough to dig deep down inside themselves not knowing what they’ll find.”
Bohl will be at the DeForest Area Public Library, 203 Library St., on Thursday, May 3. The event is set to begin at 6 p.m. in the Community Room.