Rock bottom. I had hit it. From my perspective at the time, it was very sudden. The last 10 years were a blur. Moving across state lines. Failed business. Kids. Wife's job changes. More kids. My job changes. Death. It all went by in about 10 seconds.
Somewhere along the line I lost touch with that young guy I used to like so much. The guy everyone else seemed to like, too. The guy who had so much enthusiasm and joy that he infected everyone. The good looking guy who loved the gym, loved playing guitar and loved basketball. The guy who read a lot. The guy who loved films. The guy who loved art.
Where the fuck did that guy go?! How did I forget all about him?! He was pretty cool. How did I let everything have such a negative effect on me?
So many questions. So many "what ifs". Such is life.
Now here I was this single dad with no real close friends, no real passions, and no oomph for life left. No more wife. Three young mouths to feed. Three little ones looking to me to be their model for "normal". Mom was not recognizable in her new life. She was, by all accounts, fucking crazy.
My daughter is 9 when everything goes down and takes it very hard. She cried herself to sleep most nights. We had long talks.. always being careful not to bad-mouth mom in any way. There was a tense but unspoken understanding of our new reality... but we didn't ever acknowledge it. Mom ain't coming back.
My son who was once goofy and extroverted was very passive and shy. The littlest one is in his most formative years, so time will tell how he is affected.
This really fucking sucks.
I went to a therapist. It helped a little. She put me in touch with a few other guys who went through the same thing. That was the biggest takeaway from my sessions. Wow, our stories were so similar. Like... almost identical. One of the guys suggested I check out some forum online. More stories. All the same. Just a bunch of "I swear... I used to be awesome" stories. Pussified pushover dads whining about their crazy slut-wagon of an ex-wife.
What is going on here?
I read. I read more. I read even more. This whole idea of figuring out this phenomenon, while also going down the path of self improvement... this was my new passion. It took a giant smack upside the head to get me there... but there I was. SOMETHING to get me going in the right direction. A fire under my ass.
One thing I read again and again is about testosterone. Seems to be an epidemic of "low T" going on... if I believe the commercials. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies are just trying to push product. I read all I can on it. Very interesting stuff. There is something to it. Can't hurt to get tested.
Yep... my testosterone levels are lower than what they should be... by a long shot. That explains some things. Is it the stress? Just being out of shape? Age? I know I used to have high testosterone years ago when I had a blood test done.
I hit the gym. I don't feel the energy like I did in my 20's, but I do feel better. The anxiety-induced weight loss has stripped pounds of fat from my body. That's one positive aspect all this craziness. I need all new clothes. Now I want to fill in my frame with muscle. I was determined to step-by-step bring back that guy I used to like so much.
I go to a clinic in my area, get checked out and start a regimen of testosterone. They are a decent group and they help monitor all my vitals on a regular basis. Over the years, my blood pressure has never gone up, my PSA numbers are steady and my blood lipids have improved. About a month into the program I start to feel it. HUGE difference. This was the missing ingredient I needed. The only negatives are that my balls are smaller (somewhat remedied by injecting HCG) and I get acne on my back and shoulders like a teen again. No biggy.
I started dating almost right away. Online dating accounts were created. So stupid. I was nowhere near ready, but I was horny and wanted some company. Some people I knew also put me in touch with women they think I will like. Every single woman in their own way was another step towards taking away the last remnants of the fog I was living in. Nearly every one was a divorcee with a history of infidelity. Seriously. They also all had horribly terrible abusive ex-husbands with small penises. Weird how that works. *massive eye roll*
My dating experience alone is enough for a 20 part essay. Let's just say... wow. Yeah. Crazy.
I start to take up guitar again. Not to obsessive levels like before, but I fiddle every now and then, and it's fun.
I go to the gym now about 4 - 5 days a week. No matter what, I go. It's my medicine. I play basketball regularly with my boys. I'm in pretty good shape. Compared to other dudes my age, I am in fantastic shape. My weight creeps up on my easily if I don't watch it. I gain 10 lbs just by looking at a piece of cake. Damn you, old age.
My job situation has improved. About a year after the divorce I realized I needed more money and I needed more time at home with the kids. I met with my boss and came up with the idea of working for more than one company (as an employee). They each get a chunk of my time and I get a nice combined salary. I work from home. The hours can sometimes be weird (sitting on the couch at 1:00 AM on my laptop), but it's my life now. It affords me the time I need to maintain my self, maintain my house and keep some semblance of being the dad my kids need. I get regular paychecks, so that's a plus. I make more than I ever have. I don't have to worry about paying bills or getting kids the things they need.
I hear from a guy on the internet who is going through the same thing. And another. It's always the same story. And about 100,000 more out there just like it with a little Googling. I become the "You can do it, too!" guy to many of them. A little ray of sunshine to some men that are in a very dark place. I start this website and eventually the podcast. I enjoy the writing a great deal. It's a form of therapy like any other outlet.
My kids are doing better. My daughter is now a teenager. She had issues with depression and self-harm. She's riddled with anxiety. But... she seems to be on the upswing. We talk more as she gets older and more mature. We still don't mention how or why her mom left. My oldest boy is back to normal and is a great student and very sweet and good-hearted kid. My youngest has started grade school and has his moments. He's very hard-headed. Makes you want to drive him out to the woods and leave him there for a few days. But.. he's my boy. I laugh just thinking about him. He's the spitting image of me when I was his age.
As the years have gone by I have the normal ups and downs. Nothing nearly as drastic as that of the previous 10 years, but I can say with confidence that my trajectory is going upward. Now that the fog has completely lifted I am left with a great deal of regret. I keep telling myself that those 10 years were filled with great life lessons. I wouldn't be ME without them.
Why on Earth did I let that young guy so easily slip away? I think it was the perfect storm of reasons. My ex-wife just wasn't the right person to go on my life journey with. She folded entirely too easily. She pounced on the first sign of weakness and didn't let up. She didn't have the respect for me to say "You can do it. We're in this together." Instead, for the last 10 years of the relationship, she was left with an ongoing feeling of "I think I made a mistake with this guy." I made a mistake with her too (obviously), but I was too caught up in the minutiae of LIFE to see it.
To use the terminology you'll see so often on this site: I was a good mix of Lover and Provider (more Lover) that later morphed into 100% Provider... but I unfortunately failed at providing. That left me with.. nothing. Effort doesn't count. Results count. There's no participation trophy in life.
I was stripped of all that was ME and was left with some pitiful shell of a guy.
My current love life? I've talked about it before in other posts, and I feel weird mentioning it in the context of this post. I don't want to taint what IS now with what WAS then. I'm a completely different human being compared to who I was 5 years ago and I'd like to keep it that way.
I have married again. She's an absolutely wonderful human being in every way. I don't know what lottery ticket I won somewhere along the line to find her, but I did. We are a very good match. The romance and sexual side I lacked in my first marriage has been found in spades in this relationship. The love and support I never felt before is there as well. I'm not a hindrance or failure to her. I'm her man. I'm her man that was put in a shitty predicament and came out smelling pretty good. She likes that. She also likes that I am opinionated about our roles in this relationship and I'm not afraid to say when I don't like something or if I want to go in a different direction. I have a vision for our future and she agrees.
She's a wonderful step-mother to my children. They love her to pieces. If I had just found her 20 years ago... Sigh.
Some dudes will read "married again" and roll their eyes, groan and shut their browser window. Marriage is a losing proposition in many men's eyes. I get it. Really, I do. You can get divorce raped. Your masculinity stripped from you. Any spare time you have is taken away. The nagging wife. The kids. Freedom gone. Your friends all gone (they too have a wife, kids and no life). Hobbies gone. You get fat. She gets fat. Ugh... it's not fun.
But whose fault is that? Women can knock you down and mold you into something you may not want to be. I hear that a lot. Yep, that is true. They will poke and test you until you show your true self. So does life in general... If you let it. Stop making women your excuse and stop hanging any semblance of individuality and happiness on their shoulders. They'll resent you for it, and rightfully so.
Don't lose your edge. It's tough to hold on to... but if you don't, the consequences are brutal. This world has ZERO patience for a dude who doesn't measure up. Life will stomp on your neck and walk right over you. You have a choice in the matter. Say "NO" from time to time. Frame your existence as a husband and father in a manner that serves you well. Be there for your wife and kids but be there for YOURSELF, too.
Get up early, make your bed, hit the gym, clean the house, go for walks, hang out with friends, romance the shit out of your wife, read, stand up to your woman, bang her like tomorrow is your last day, make money, keep learning, make more money, be a good model for your kids,... you know the drill.
Deal with the bad times. They will come. They always do.
Learn from me, amigos. This could be you. Ten years goes by quick. Hell, 20 years can go by fast. I was 25 yesterday.
Now I am again.