The age old question: what came first, the chicken or the egg? In my case, the question is what came first: the depression, the addiction, or the divorce? Or was it the divorce, then addiction, then depression? Or did the addiction blaze the trail, leading the depression to follow, with the divorce pulling up the rear. Who knows? At times it seems they have been the rabbits pacing ahead of me, each taking turns sprinting ahead, pulling me further forward- or make that downward- to darker places.
Depression. Addiction. Divorce. Dear old DAD. Guilty, questioning, paralyzed, regretful, lost dad.
I’ve wrestled with depression for, perhaps, as early as I can remember, so maybe the depression came first. Before my first boozy binge, before my ex- even entered my life, I sat with my good friend the blues on the bedroom floor in my childhood room. Alone, I remember contemplating morose thoughts and embracing disturbing images. But I distanced myself at some point- I know it! I was happy… really! For days, weeks, maybe even years. I left my foe, depression, behind and moved on to a happy life, departing the dark places and forging forward into sunny days. Along came love and eventually marriage; a career that went according to plans. My very first home (even if it was mostly owned by the bank) and eventually fatherhood.
Then, at some point, like some sort of threesome from hell, addiction, depression and whispers of divorce became my partners again. Sure, for years, I was a binge drinker- but who isn’t in college? And the rare joint was soon replaced by weekend wake-and-bake sessions which eventually morphed into firsthand understanding of why its called The Chronic. Based on all outward appearances and external milestones, I was happy- wasn’t I?- as my feet were firmly planted on the right path. But something was amiss. Maybe it was the growing frequency of my desire to get high to get by, coupled with the increasingly frequent failing State of the Relationship overviews with the ex-, and growing identification with Richard Cory (I am Richard Cory, is one of those things you just don’t want o tell yourself!), but something was most definitely rotting in the state of Denmark, in the center of me. Depression and addiction were back in full force, and divorce lurked in the shadows.
Soon, refusing to play second fiddle, divorce exploded into the forefront, pulling me further down a dark path, with addiction and depression pushing me along as well. In the void created by my disintegrated marriage and splintering family, addiction and depression thrived. At times I could push them away, trying to create a little space for myself, but they would always return, never leaving me alone. Left alone by the woman I had pledged my life, forced to endure part-time status as a father, depression and addiction became my full-time companions.
But somewhere along the line I figured something out: I am not the only depressed, addicted, divorced dad; I am not the only father who struggled- and struggles- with leaving behind the life he planned, the life he was willing to sacrifice all for, only to be discarded when deemed superfluous. There are scholarly studies I’ve stumbled upon during sleepless nights discussing the prevalence of depression in divorced fathers, especially those who didn’t initiate the divorce. Countless books written about the relationship between neglect, depression, addiction, and divorce. I am not the only one, and although depression, addiction and divorce have defined me they will not define me- and if you can get that then you get me.
Today I went for a run- 6 miles in sweltering summer heat. When I run, at times I think I am still running from my past, trying to leave behind depression, addiction and divorce, pushing on to the future, each stride moving me a step away from where I’ve been and a step closer toward who I will be. But today, I was fully present, fully alive with each step. Perhaps I will never get away from running with my jolly triumvirate, my constant companions, but they will lead me no more.
I am divorced and have struggled with addiction and depression. Dear old DAD. Forgiving, understanding, overcoming, enduring, and searching dad. That’s who I am. And you know what? That’s okay.