One man’s journey to learn his roots

By Sharyn Alden
Special to The Freeman

Author to discuss book in Oconomowoc

OCONOMOWOC — Imagine living for decades not knowing who you really were, constantly feeling like part of your identity was missing.

For David B. Bohl, author of the memoir “Parallel Universes,” it wasn’t until he
started uncovering secrets of his past that 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. Haunted by decades of unresolved issues relating to alcohol, addiction and adoption, his memoir offers hope to anyone struggling with obstacles that interfere with the enjoyment of life.

“Duality and addiction and later duality and recovery are challenging dancesteps for any of us,” he said.

“How much more challenging is an integrated sense of identity if you’re adopted, if much of your past is locked away from you in someone else’s filing cabinet?”

Bohl is the former director of Addiction Services at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Summit. Today, he 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 writes that alcohol once controlled his life; it was his sole coping skill. When he began digging deep inside himself, not knowing what he’d find, he discovered that the process helped him heal.

Oconomowoc roots

Bohl was born in an unwed mothers home in Oconomowoc. He was adopted by a prosperous Milwaukee family after being “relinquished” at birth by a mother he never knew.

“I was adopted at 7 days old, and raised in a loving home. But one day, when I was 6 years old, I could hardly wait to tell my friends that I was adopted,” Bohl said. “I was stunned when they didn’t see it that way — that adoption wasn’t something to be proud of. That negative reaction and mistrust catapulted me into a confusing, complex, gut-wrenching journey that involved addiction and self-loathing.”

As a young boy he felt he never quite fit in. But he put a game face on and became an overachiever in everything he did — sailing, academics and as a trader on the Chicago Exchange floor. Bohl said, “Early on, I realized that alcohol was a great medicine; it was a coping mechanism that kept me alive. It also kept me unwell.”

Finding his roots
Not until David married and had children of his own did he feel compelled to find his birth parents to discover if genetics played a role in the well-being of his offspring. Bohl, who is 57, learned the identify of his biological parents three years ago, but never met them.

“Baby Boy Bender,” as he was labeled in the adoption papers, was born to a redhaired co-ed who struggled with alcoholism. His mother died in a homeless shelter years ago, and his father, an athlete, died years before that of a brain tumor. He began writing his memoir after he learned the identities of his birth parents.

Not long ago, he learned he has a half-sister in south suburban Chicago and another living in Las Vegas. As soon as he learned the news he raced to go meet them. “It was an extraordinary experience seeing contemporaries who resembled me and experiencing those first ever connections to my biological beginnings,” he noted.

Today, he says his life is phenomenal in ways he never imagined. “My hope is that my story and my experiences can give others the courage to find their own way, and to go beyond the struggles that they may be carrying with them,” he said.