One last word… A final post.


Throughout my adoption discovery, writing has been very therapeutic for me. Unfortunately, writing about my adoption on this website is no longer providing me with the peace or clarity it once brought. While I am happy to have reached so many other late discovery adoptees through this website, I am ready to move on to different projects relating to my adoption and adoptee-focused issues in general. I am also going to be working heavily on my personal healing from this trauma. Obviously this is not the end of our story, but this will be the final post on our website. We will keep this website online indefinitely, but I want to make some final comments and close out this chapter of the story on my own terms.

The purpose of this website has always been to share our story with other late discovery adoptees. I have never set out to make anyone from my life (past or present) look bad — that has never been the intention. However, if the facts of my adoption make anyone look bad, that is not my fault. (Read that again if you need to…)

In early 2018, I made the decision to walk away from my adoptive father because the pain was too intense and the depth of the manipulation was four decades too deep. I have never regretted that decision, or the manner in which I have handled this life-changing discovery.

Despite all that has transpired, I do not carry hatred in my heart towards the people I lived with growing up, or for any of the people I was once very close to who are no longer in my life — even if they continue to blindly misdirect their negativity towards me.

For four decades, my place in the world as a baby, a child, a teenager, a young woman, and eventually a mother, was artificially filled with lies and a fabricated backstory that tended only to the needs of the adults around me, and never considered my unique needs as an adopted individual. This obviously created a tremendous amount of inner confusion and conflict for me from my earliest years, and made it extremely difficult to develop into a healthy, whole human being. I acutely felt those discrepancies within myself even if I couldn’t articulate it or understand why I felt the way I did. I was trained to believe that these issues were strictly my own, and, as my adoptive mother put it, that there was just “something wrong [with me] from day one.” This is a sentiment my adoptive mother drilled into me from my earliest years and I felt it to my core. I believed I was bad, ugly, stupid, worthless, unlovable and a burden because she told me these things — with her words and with her actions. “I love you” was a phrase I have no memory of her ever saying to me — not even once — outside of the context of discipline (ex. being told “we’re only doing this because we love you” during the course of a physical punishment.) I will spend the rest of my life rebuilding the self-confidence and self-worth that she systematically destroyed in order to gain complete control over me as a child. Ultimately, my adoptive parents were more concerned about protecting their lies and fulfilling their own fantasies than my long-term well-being.

Michelle Riess as a baby (1977)

The impact of these internal conflicts regarding who I felt like I was trained to be — versus what I felt inside biologically — is still deeply felt. It’s been almost five years since my discovery and I continue to systematically deprogram myself from learned behaviors of the toxic environment I was raised in.

A good analogy to describe my life prior to my discovery is to compare it to the game Monopoly. My life was the Monopoly game board, but my adoptive parents gave me the instructions and game pieces from Candyland and expected me to turn out completely normal. I could go through the motions and play “Monopoly” the best I could with what I was given, but none of it made sense and I didn’t understand why. They set me up to fail. I don’t feel adopted; I feel stolen. (Related: Could You Secretly Be Adopted?)

To this day, some close to my adoptive parents see me as the offender in this situation because I had the temerity to walk away from the man who did this to me (along with his now deceased wife.)

For forty years, these same people, who were closest to my adoptive parents, failed to convince them of the obvious consequences of their actions regarding my adoption, and my inevitable discovery; it’s very difficult for me to understand how it went on for so long. It’s almost as if my adoptive parents had absolutely no foresight, or simply didn’t care enough to consider the problems it would so obviously create in the future.

I only know of one person in my adoptive father’s life who ever strongly encouraged him to tell me the truth (his brother), but even that wasn’t until I was in my 30s and after my adoptive mother had already died. While I am very grateful for that attempt, my adoptive father obviously declined to tell me the truth at that time — a full 7+ years before my accidental discovery. (however he did tell other people the truth during that time!) My adoptive parents literally had 14,898 opportunities to tell me the truth, but they made the decision 14,898 times to not to do the right thing. This was not a parenting “mistake;” it was a thought out, planned and conscious decision they repeatedly made over the course of four decades. It is inexcusable. In those 40 years, I wish someone in my adoptive parents’ lives had stood up for me — the baby, the child, the young girl — instead of being willing actors in their decades-long performance. I believe this is where some of their “hate” towards me in this situation comes from; their own guilty consciences.

The ongoing acceptance of their lies by the people closest to them empowered them to continue the façade and, I believe, has ultimately fueled my adoptive father’s unwillingness to accept full responsibility for what they did and all that has happened as a result. (Related: Why Adult Children Cut Ties with their Parents)

As a parent of three, it is impossible for me to imagine a scenario like this where I do something life-shattering to my children. What’s even more impossible for me to imagine is doing something like that to my children, and then just turning on them; abandoning any hopes of helping them heal, or at least trying to lessen their burden since I would be the one clearly at fault. I feel like this is what a caring and devoted parent does, but this never happened following my adoption discovery.

I’m not a perfect parent or person — I have absolutely made (and will continue to make) mistakes because I am human. However, the mistakes that I make will never cost my children their self-esteem, their dignity, their sense of identity, their self-worth, shatter their spirits, or negatively impact their health (physical and mental.) There is a big difference between “making mistakes” in life, and willingly subjecting a vulnerable child placed in your care to decades of carefully crafted lies for your own benefit. That is twisted and cruel.

Christina Gellura - Michelle Riess - Fraudulent Adoption - Illegal Adoption - Edward Kent
Michelle with her adoptive parents (1977)

At this point in my life, I have accepted that there will never be a genuine apology from my adoptive father, or a full acknowledgement of how wrong they were, or any affirmation of the massive impact all of this has made on my life, my children’s lives, and my biological family’s lives. (and I’m not even touching on the very serious co-existing issues within my adoptive household!) Any half-hearted attempts at apologies he made in those first few weeks always somehow looped me back into the story and attempted to hold me at least partially responsible for their own lies and failure to disclose; clearly not the actions of someone who knows they were wrong and wants to make positive changes. This has been one of the most difficult aspects of my entire discovery process. (though there are many very difficult aspects…) There is a complete lack of accountability and acknowledgement of the harm they have caused to me and my family, and it just reconfirms that I made the right decision leaving them behind.

This post (or any post made on this website or on our social media accounts) isn’t meant to be a debate about whether or not my adoptive parents were “good” people. They were not “bad” people per se, even if many of their behaviors and choices over the years were. I’ve also proven repeatedly that it wasn’t a matter of “just how things were back then” — there were clear laws and procedures in place regarding adoption in New Jersey in 1976, with serious consequences for those who did not follow them. Their attorney’s indictment regarding my adoption is just one of the many ways this is proven. The fact that my adoptive parents chose to spend a lot of money on me and provided me with ample material wealth during my upbringing also does not excuse their behaviors, nor does it entitle them to a continued relationship with me or my children, as many close to him believe. This is about four decades of lies, questionable behaviors, deep manipulation and brainwashing at MY expense — including 17 years of which I was a minor. That is indefensible. I’m not even getting into the other very serious issues that existed within my adoptive household because it’s not necessary to consider any of that in support of my decision to walk away. The bottom line is I was completely and unquestionably justified in walking away. If you do not agree with this, you are simply wrong.

Michelle, age 11, after her black hair was bleached & dyed to match the adoptive mother's hair (pictured)
Michelle as a child after her dark hair was bleached & dyed to match the adoptive mother’s hair

At some point in the future, I will revisit writing about my experiences with adoption, and to continue writing the book, but for now this is the end of our story on this website. I will continue working behind the scenes for adoptee rights, adoptee-focused organizations and using my experiences to help other adoptees and biological families. This website will remain active and I will make occasional posts on the Facebook page relating to adoption because I know it has been a useful tool to other late discovery adoptees — which has always been the purpose of sharing our story. Since 2018, this website has had over 50,000 visitors from all over the world! I have been contacted by many new late discovery adoptees who are just learning the truth about themselves, are feeling shattered, and looking for someone who deeply understands their pain. I will always be here to talk with these individuals as they navigate those confusing and often traumatic first few months.

Finally, I am so grateful to everyone who has reached out to us in support of our story, and to those who have shared with me deeply personal details of their own adoption discovery. I’m also so incredibly thankful for my biological family (I just refer to them as “my family” now) who have welcomed me and my children into their big, beautiful family without hesitation. More than anything, I am simply thankful to know the truth about myself and my origins. I am thankful to know my real name (Michelle Riess) and my actual family history. My life makes sense now knowing these important details and having a relationship with my biological family. I feel broken but at the same time more whole because of this experience.

The complete Riess family (2017)

“Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” –M. Hale


  1. I can surely relate. Gray and Black market adult adoptees need to come together. This is a healing story of such cases. Best wishes in your continued journey, and thanks for the share.

  2. Adoption is NOT what society thinks it is, and until they know better they won’t do better. Congrats on owning your autonomy- I’ve decided that I may not fit or belong, and that’s ok – I’ll stand out instead.
    Sad to see your voice muted, your writing is great and your message should be heard ❤️

  3. Just found your page, I have a lot to read up on. Thank you for keeping it open. I hope you just are taking a break from writing. My life have been like yours, been lied to for 47 years.. I am only 2 years into my discovery. I have made peace with my older a-siblings, but will never ever forgive my a-mom who was the one that took the decision to be dishonest. No way a person who does that have the right to ever speak to me. I hope you are just taking a break.. your words matters!

    1. Author

      Thank you, K! I completely understand that feeling. I don’t hold onto the anger, but I also don’t want anything to do with them. I feel more at peace now that I am a few years out.

  4. Michelle thanks for posting. I hope you write more esp in the adoptee forums. You always write with a kind of humor that rings with me. Your also very kind for those words considering this trauma they caused to you. If you were so bad isn’t that a reflection of the kind of parents they really were? HAAA Msg me on FB soon.

  5. You are a strong, smart, and amazingly creative force, and I am so glad that you finally have the honesty you’ve always deserved.

    1. Author

      Thank you Kate! You are one of the most creative people I know, so I appreciate your kind words!!! Love, Michelle xoxo

  6. Michelle-you are and always have been a beautiful person inside and out. The fact that you told your story publicly and made yourself vulnerable to nasty comments to help others going through the same speaks volume. I hope the next four decades bring you happiness, love, and peace, Karma will catch up with that lawyer. I am honored to call you a friend.

    1. Author

      Thank you Meg! You are so kind! And I am honored to call you a friend as well!!! xoxoxo

  7. Michelle,
    As a fellow Late discovery myself all I can say to you is thank you! Thank you for being a voice of so many silent adoptees! Your list of signs was certainly my life ! Your courage and strength is beyond what many can only imagine! I admire you and when I’m ready…. Will you write my book? ! Hang your head high and be proud! Look in that mirror and say… I am beautiful, confident and strong! You rock this life for all of us adoptee!

    1. Author

      Kelly, thank you so much for sharing. I am so thankful that what I’ve written has resonated with you–this has always been the purpose of this website–to reach other LDAs. –Michelle

  8. One of the most inspirational, devastatingly raw stories I’ve ever seen. I don’t say “story” as an insult. I’ve always viewed/read them as a tale… Filled with characters and plots you couldn’t have quite spelled out. You have navigated this tale amazingly. I wish you nothing but peace, love, and bacon (😉) for you and your future. ❤️

    1. Author

      Thank you Erin! I really appreciate this. Thank you for the kind words and wishes of bacon!!! (vegan, right?!) Love, Michelle xoxo

  9. Michelle, I’m happy to have met you many years ago and to be able to call you a friend and sister. You have shown such strength and grace (imagine that!) during this entire process. Your story has helped many, not just adoptees but those of us that have watched you navigate this situation. Even after the negativity and deceit you’ve never wished ill will or harm and that speaks to your character, something that is wholly yours. My hope is that you continue writing in some capacity, even if it’s not about your adoption story. It truly is one of your greatest gifts. I’m sending lots of love to you and your family.

    1. Author

      Thank you Robin! You are so kind! I hope to write again in the future, but maybe about something other than adoption. I don’t know… I’ll see how it feel again in a few years and go from there. Love, Michelle xoxo

      1. Michelle- I am just begining to read your story. It is stunning to me that adoptive families brainwash themselves in the process. Any criticism is ingratitude. I am glad you are claiming autonomy of your story and writing the chapters in your own voice Instead of the one prescribed by our culture. I hope writing eventually becomes comforting for you again. Best wishes -B

  10. The fact that after everything you were put through- sure it wasn’t a terrible childhood but that doesn’t negate the lie- your instinct is still to use your words to help others…. You’re very strong to share your truth.

  11. Sending you lots of love and you can be proud of surviving where you came from and also be proud that you found the truth and ended up in a better place. XO – Ron

  12. I have been trying to cut back on writing about it too.. It brings the past back to me which makes me sad, angry and depressed. I try to get “over it” as so many think I should do but it’s a part of who I am and who I have become and It will never be over or forgotten. I am lucky, Happy, Blessed, excited (so many more adjectives that I could add) ❤️ that the past 4 years (almost 5!) now, and the future has you in our Lives. I’m sorry this has caused you any distress. I know you started this to help other Adoptees. You are amazing and have had enough pain in your Life. wasn’t there to comfort you in the past..I’m here now whenever you need me..Love you forever my amazing daughter..Love, Mom ❤️

    1. Author

      Awww! Thank you so much Mom! You are such a great mom (and dad is too!) and it brings me so much happiness to see what wonderful people you are and how amazing my sisters are. They are truly a testament to how awesome you guys are as parents! I see so much of myself in all of you–it’s so helpful to finally be able to see myself in others. Knowing all of you has helped me get a better grasp of who I ‘REALLY’ am inside. Thank you for being so supportive always and for welcoming me (and the kids) into your lives. I am so grateful. Love, Michelle xoxoxo

  13. As a late discovery adoptee myself, there’s so much you have written in this last post alone that deeply resonates with me. Nobody understands us better than another LDA. Reading about other LDA’s journey and thoughts and being able to relate to it makes things just a little bit easier for me. So thank you so much for sharing yours.

    1. Author

      Thank you Kris! I agree. I had a difficult time finding sites like this when I first made my discovery in 2017, which is the main reason I created it. I will keep this website active so others can always read it. -Michelle

  14. Michelle, you are an amazing and courageous woman! Thank you for so eloquently sharing your story with everyone. I wish I had the courage and words to publically share my story, feelings of not “belonging”, feeling misplaced and the anxiety and PTSD that resulted from all the lies. I will never understand how people felt ok with lying to us How did they sleep at night? I guess that is where the alcoholism came from! 6 years into my discovery and search for myself I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I will never know my truth. Many have passed. Some still living won’t say a word staying sworn to secrecy and others continuing on with the lies. I’m so happy you found your truth and have had such a wonderful reunion like many of us dream of! I hope the anxiety fades as you heal. I’ll always keep you in my prayers! XOXO

    1. Author

      Thank you Erin! I feel like I could have written this message! I genuinely appreciate your kind words and support. –Michelle

  15. I’m so sorry you have been made to feel like sharing your journey is wrong and others have made it their place to ridicule…

    Sending you gentle hugs and positive light..Wishing you a lifetime of peace and happiness ahead.

  16. Thank you, as a late discovery adoptee, the isolation and disconnect between what I feel and the total lack of understanding is maddening. Like a nightmare when you’re the only sane person in the room, screaming, except it’s real. Stories like ours deserve to be heard.

    1. Author

      Thanks April! I completely agree. I hope to write again sometime in the future, but it won’t be anytime soon. I will keep this website open so new LDAs can access it. -Michelle

  17. I have gone no contact because there is no scenario possible which doesn’t keep me in constant CPTSD trigger mode. And forgiveness doesn’t change them or make them less angry. I still can’t talk about the truth to anyone even remotely associated with my “mother-stole-me-from-father-1/2 family” as I get shut-down with clichés of “life’s too short”. Seriously!!!!!!??? Thanks for sharing.

    1. Author

      Thanks Indigo! It’s a difficult journey we’re on, but we will keep pushing through! -Michelle

  18. I found out at 24 yo, after a psychic told me to ask my parents about my birth, that I was given to my aparents at the hospital in Japan. I was taken to he embassy where they told them I was theirs. I could finally understand why I felt like the black sheep of their families and why my amom said things like, “you should be grateful someone changed your diapers” as a young child in elementary school.

    Three years ago at 54yo, I found my bfather’s family. And when I told my adad, he was happy and said that he was praying that I would. He died two weeks later. I’m sad that your aparents are not happy for you. Unfortunately, those who have not experience this deep seeded pain of LDA cannot ever understand what we go through. Many blessings on your healing.

  19. Fellow LDA…… I am just shy of the 10th anniversary of Discovery Day. At least, for me, adopted family is all deceased. That doesn’t mean that they are forgiven. I was 51 when I found my adoption papers by accident. I was LIVID, especially since I was their 24/7 caregiver to three at the same time all to their dying breaths in the family home.

    Here I am now, at 61, TRYING to work past the 50 plus years of several types of trauma and abuse from the adoptive family…..because of their lies.

    I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS, though they sure tried to make me feel guilty about being livid over the lies.


    I am only responsible for my own now. I have wiped my hands clean of that family and making a new start when I should be getting ready to retire.

    Their needs were all that mattered. Doing ANYTHING for myself was considered selfish and stealing from the family.

    Keep using your voice as you move on to the next stage of your recovery process. We fellow LDAs are here right by your side!.

    1. Author

      Thanks Lisa! I was also a caregiver (not by choice) to my adoptive mother’s mother starting when I was 15 years old until she died in 1999. I always felt it was strange that my adoptive mother didn’t do anything (literally) to help care for her own mother–especially since I was only 15 when most of her care began and she was absolutely physically able to do the things I was doing. It was literally my JOB to come home from school every day and be her caregiver. I would administer her medications, help organize all of her pills, check her blood sugar, transfer her in and out of bed, take her to the toilet, transfer her to the toilet (she was not able to walk or even really stand on her own) wipe her after she used the toilet and even change her diapers. : (

  20. Fellow LDA here, congratulating you on your work and on your decision. I am nearly 7 years from discovery and I say with conviction that the worst part is navigating the casual negativity toward and dismissal of my experience in favor of The Narrative, not only by those who know me but also by complete strangers. I hope your freedom from that emotional labor propels you in much more satisfying directions. Best wishes from Alyssa.

  21. I am so glad you have made so much progress in reclaiming yourself. I am a late discovery adoptee on that same continuing journey. When I think of the people who have not supported your difficult journey, I’m reminded of author Ann LaMot’s quote, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” After a break, maybe you’ll publish a memoir book. Blessings to you now and in the future.

  22. As another late discovery adoptee, so much of this rang true. I still see and talk to my adoptive family regularly, but how I feel about them has changed. As a mother myself, I cannot fathom lying to my child for decades like my adoptive mother did. It’s a level of hurt and betrayal that I will never get over, even if I’ve chosen to “move on.” I loved what you wrote about the conflict between your biological self and your environmental self. It’s so true. When I talk to my biological mom, I see so much of my true self in her, and it’s so incredibly hard. Thank you for being brave and writing about all of this. It means a lot to me.

    1. Author

      Thanks Melissa! I think being a mother has also made me realize how screwed up it truly is. I’ve tried imagining trying to lie to my children about something like this, and I always came to the same conclusion–I would never do this to my children. Never. And even in that imaginary scenario where I do something like this to my children, I certainly do not handle it the way that my adoptive family did once I discovered the truth. Thank you for your support!

  23. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Upon my own discovery, reading the ups and downs of your discovery allowed me to get through many dark days. As sad as many of us are to not see these updates, we certainly understand the need to step away. I wish you nothing but the best and again thank you for sharing one of if not the most vulnerable aspects of your life.

    1. Author

      Thanks Marilyn! I’ve found that nobody understands our journey and our pain except our community. We all rely on each other and support each other on our darker days. I’ll still be in the LDA forums, but not posting publicly anymore.

  24. As a friend of yours since the 6th grade I have always admired your grace, sensitivity, depth of character and ratio of seriousness to wittiness. You deserve all of the love and happiness that life can provide. I pray that you will get that from all of the people in your life.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much Courtney! You have always been such a wonderful friend and I cherish you! Thank you for your support of me all of these years. xoxoxo

  25. It’s been a joy reading your blog and I’m sad you aren’t writing anymore. What about the book?

    1. Author

      Thanks Adam! I was in the process of writing a book, but I found putting all of my experiences into printed words was causing me a lot of distress. I will pick it up again in the future, but for right now I’m on a break. Thanks for all of your support! -M

  26. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It sounds like you have had to go through an awful lot, and are making the best decisions you can for your own well- being. Too often we are told as adopted people to remain silent, and to put others needs before our own. We are often not given permission to feel the entirely normal feelings that arise from being systematically deceived for so long. Several years ago, after decades of attempting to be heard and respected by my adoptive family, I made the decision to sever contact. This has been seen as selfish by many of the people I was raised with; they seem incapable of acknowledging how painful their attitudes have been, and how their continuing behaviors contribute to that pain. While this whole process has made me very sad, I am also experiencing huge relief as I move towards understanding how adoption has affected me. Reading stories like your own has been a part of helping me recognize that I matter, and my voice matters. So, thank you. You matter. Your voice matters. 💚

    1. Author

      Ande, everything you’ve said here is so relatable. Thank you for sharing and thank you for your support!

      1. Oh the sweet taste of autonomy!!!

  27. Michelle, you have handled all of this with such grace and compassion. You have to take care of yourself now. Thanks for sharing your story with us these past years. Hope to see you two soon.

  28. Thank you for sharing your story and for keeping this up. I just heard about this so I have lots of catching up to do. I am an LDA and can relate to some of what I’ve read so far.

  29. I’m also a late discovery adoptee and I share many of the same feelings. It’s so much to take in. I found out that my life was a lie at 49. It hurts both ways for me. My bio mother and full bio siblings want nothing to do with me. I have a relationship with my bio father but it hurts not being wanted again from my bio mother. Hugs to you, crib mate

  30. Michelle you’re very loved by our family. Your story is inspiring and moving. Keep sharing and being true to yourself. Jimmy

  31. Hello, I’m in the process of discovery right now. A few years ago I overheard my mother in the phone with a friend of hers and she said four words to her friend that I will never forget, she said “We are living adoptive parents”, now recently I asked her if she had any photos of herself when she was pregnant with me, she said no because she did not want people to see how big she was. I believe that is exactly the same lie that you Michelle heard from your adoptive mother. I’m going to be 47 in October, 47 years of lies.

    1. Author

      Douglas, I am so sorry that you have been lied to for so long. Nobody deserves this. It’s been four years for me and it’s still very difficult, but I am doing well. You will get there too, but please allow yourself to feel whatever you need to–anger, sadness, betrayal, confusion. Please let me know if you want to talk. -Michelle

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