From Jason: I had an anonymous Dad submit a story to The Book of Open and I wanted to share it. It really resonated with me. Especially the part about him suffering on his own time and not hers. That was me and it really brought me back to some of the tougher periods of my life.
I suspect part of this father’s story will resonate with many of us.
I’m not sober, but I’m not an addict. I’m not lost, but I don’t exactly know where I’m going either. The currents that compose my life are difficult to tread sometimes, but I’m also not drowning in self pity anymore.
My story is only beginning – staring down the inevitability of turning thirty and wondering just how I got to where I am. It’s interesting how quickly time moves when you don’t want it to… And how slowly it moves when you do. If you had of asked me five years ago if I could have imagined myself being a single, full-time parent and recovering from the fallout of a complete and utter failure of a marriage, I would have probably asked you what you were on, and if you wanted to share.
To spare the lengthy details – infidelity killed me as a person. The consequences of being on the receiving end of the wrath of an unfaithful spouse crippled any ambition I had and send me into a spiral of too many drinks, too many emotional outbursts and too many mistakes. I will be transparent when I write that I most certainly didn’t think that I would ever survive this chapter of my life – and it was most certainly the one time I wished that I could speed up the process of getting past all of it.
It’s been two years. Rewinding a bit, just over six years ago I was in love. I was wrapped up in somebody who I found myself constantly pining validation from – the foundation of an absolutely toxic relationship, of course. Hindsight is 20/20 after all. I forgave too easily, even though I could never forget – and I found myself haunted by this person’s constant trespasses. Infidelity, abuse, alcoholism and manipulation were all justified in some way – I was an addict. Just not to a substance, but to a person… The wrong person.
Just over three years ago my daughter was born – and the first year of her life was a magical one. It felt as though as a trio we had turned a page and become what I’d always hoped for… The portrait of a young, successful family and something I truly felt proud of. Unfortunately it didn’t last long – and old habits that apparently die hard returned with a vengeance that I could never have comprehended. This behaviour quickly evolved into an extra-marital relationship that I eventually caught wind of. It explained the absences, the disassociation, everything – but it was different this time. We had a child. I tried everything I could to repair the breach, even though I was not directly responsible for creating it. But eventually, she just stopped coming home completely.
I found myself heartbroken, but (and I hate to say it this way) burdened with the task of going to work and taking care of a toddler on my own. Being the sole bread winner of the family at the time, meant that I had missed out on some pretty crucial information about raising a child… Like a typical working parent, I was just around for the fun stuff and let me tell you – this learning curve was as steep as they come. I juggled my responsibility as a parent, depression and my responsibility at work until I literally just couldn’t do it anymore. I had no time to work on myself, be social or really do anything to get myself out of my head and every day wound up being the same thing…
Get up, get the kid to daycare, go to a job I couldn’t care less about, pick the kid up, feed her, put her to bed and then deal with my sorrow (re: drown it). I did my absolute best to hide it from her at all times – I suffered on my time, not hers. On the outside she saw a happy, strong, able man who would do anything for her. I provided the safety, support and stability that would wind up being paramount to her current outlook. It took a very long time for me to recognize the pattern and that I was doing more harm to my soul by just trying to create an emotional barrier between myself and what had happened. Eventually something had to give – my performance at work suffered to a point where I was let go… Because well, I couldn’t just “let go”. Immediately I was faced with a fear of providing for this small child who had become so much more a part of my world. Instead of wondering how I was going to be able to afford a few beers, I started stressing on whether diapers were going to be on sale this week. It was at that exact moment that I experienced my epiphany and realized that my circumstances were so much larger than I had initially thought they were.
I found my beacon of hope. The light at the end of this emotionally destructive tunnel. It was there all along – I was merely too busy wallowing in self pity to notice that it came in the form of a toddler.
From that exact moment I made the conscious decision to make everything I did about my daughter. I took the next couple months off to really get to know her, strengthen our bond so that when I had to return to the real world I knew that it would always hold true. It was the smartest decision I’d ever made because it has yielded something amazing between the two of us. Suddenly I was in love with the world, I found new meaning in all the things around me. Life seemed worth living again because I had a purpose that was bigger than me, bigger than a cheating spouse, bigger than a shitty job, bigger than anything I’ve ever really emotionally invested myself in.
My daughter saved my life. Little did I know, that every day I dragged my tired, hungover ass out of bed to get her dressed, fed and ready for daycare, those moments were distancing me from all that pain in the most beautiful way possible. That void was being filled with unconditional love – and that validation I was seeking was more than satisfied every single time my alarm clock went off or every time I walked into that daycare at the end of the day. I forgave those trespasses because I had to… My spouse chose her social life – I chose my daughter.
I have evolved as a person. I refuse to be or feel like a statistic… Another failed relationship or a parent who had kids too young. No. I am a beacon of hope to the most important thing in my world. A beacon of hope that shows her that strength, determination and a will to change your surroundings will always eventually yield a more favourable outcome. I’ve taught her to be strong and she’s taught me how to be a man.
I look at the past as more than a learning experience. It was a complete success. I lost something toxic and gained something incredible that empowers me every single day to go out into the world and make a splash. I might be a small fish in a big pond, but she makes me feel like I am at the top of the food chain. This story has been paraphrased to say the least, but I felt compelled to share it in case somebody out there feels just like I did.
I hope that somebody will read it and understand that investing in the unconditional love of your children is always the answer – to any problem. It saved my life – literally, because without it I never would have found that beacon of hope. I really do owe her everything for what I’ve become.