NISKAYUNA – Kevin Barhydt’s life has taken more tumultuous turns than most, from being put up for adoption as a child to his struggles with addiction.
Yet there have been plenty of beautiful moments along the way, and the Niskayuna resident explores both the haunting and the heartwarming in his book “Dear Stephen Michael’s Mother: A Memoir.”
The book, released on Amazon last week, details Barhydt’s journey to find his biological family, as well as the trials and triumphs of his childhood and early adulthood.
“I completed the search for my biological family in 2007, and the search itself was so eventful that all of the people involved in [it] . . . said, ‘Kevin, you have to write this,’ ” Barhydt said.
But that was just a portion of his life’s story, one he wanted to fully tell.
“The book is written as two parallel stories, looking at the two-year search and looking at what happened after I was put up for adoption, and the 23 years through the addiction and the abuse and the struggles there,” Barhydt said.
He was adopted in 1962 by Virginia Barhydt and grew up in Schenectady. As he writes in the book, Barhydt had a typical childhood until the age of 9, when, he says, he was molested by the leader of a local youth group.
“That rewired me in some ways –neurologically, emotionally, mentally — and from there the unraveling happened. When I was 11, I took my first drink. When I was 12, I had my first overdose on pills, in middle school at Schalmont,” Barhydt said. “As the next years unraveled in my life and were more of a downward spiral, I was taken out of my adoptive home, put in a foster home, another foster home.”
It wasn’t until he was in his early 20s that he was able to begin the path toward recovery and healing via 12-step program. Barhydt began attending classes at SUNY Schenectady and then the University at Albany, eventually moving to New York City and pursuing a career in technology.
It was while he was working at the Fashion Institute of Technology that the journey to find his biological family started. About a week before he was set to move to the Capital Region, Barhydt’s boss pulled him aside.
“She said, ‘Kevin, we have to go out to lunch. We have something in common.’ She was a birth mother who had relinquished her twins and had found them, and was struggling with that reconciliation. She started that ball rolling. She opened the door a crack for me,” Barhydt said.
That’s where the book begins, and it details all the seemingly small moments that led Barhydt through his search.
“My job was at Empire State College in Saratoga and the very first day I went to work there, when I was leaving work I walked out the back door into the parking lot, and literally across the street from where I was parked was one of the beautiful Saratoga houses with a little shingle on it that said Catholic Charities,” Barhydt said. “I was adopted through Catholic Family Services, as they were known then, and that little shingle just called to me. It was like a neon sign blinking at me: Come knock on this door. That’s where it all started.”
It took about two years, and in that time he created a community of other adoptees and adoptive families.
“That community is what led me through the whole process, because it’s not just about the logistics of finding biological roots. That’s a huge part of it and that’s [the] objective. But it’s really about finding who I am, and that process became emotional, psychological and, for me, eventually spiritual,” Barhydt said.
Barhydt, who currently works at Union College, writes about the results of the search in his book, though he requested they be left out of this article so as not to spoil the story for readers. When asked if the search had changed him, Barhydt said, “I think it helped me to claim my identity.”
He hopes that “Dear Stephen Michael’s Mother” will help reduce the stigma and shame of addiction and other topics discussed in the book. He also hopes readers see that, “Healing is possible, through community and conversation, empathy [and] compassion. If there is hope, I think it lies in our underlying assumption that each of us can help each other, but we can’t do this alone.”