Depression is truly a terrible thing. It is rage and anger reflected inward. It is a sickening self-loathing. It’s a feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness. Losing my father at such a young age has left me battling this demon as an adult.
I have faced many challenges in societal systems in my career and in conflicts with other people. But nothing compares to staring into your own abyss and seeing the five-year-old version of yourself screaming and drowning in a swamp of their own tears.
But I continue to persevere and get stronger every time I stare him in the eye.
Somewhere along the line something in me snapped and I stopped feeling sorry for myself. The rage and anger stopped being depression and gradually turned into ambition. I walked into the abyss and came out the other side more alive than I have ever felt in my entire life.
In part one of this story I confessed many of the mistakes I’ve made growing up. Part of overcoming the legacy of my father means owning the mistakes I’ve made as a result of the pain I felt when he left me. Hurt people hurt people. And I’ve hurt a lot of people. I’m sorry for that.
I missed out on a lot of valuable lessons growing up without my father, such as respect. In particular, respecting women. I learned that one the hard way. Misogyny is ingrained in the shadows of modern men. So without a healthy father demonstrating what respect looks like, boys can easily grow up to be disrespectful and hurtful men. I’m grateful I realized it early on and put in very specific work to address it. Still, I apologize to all the women I’ve disrespected before I learned this essential lesson.
I also need to own the drinking and driving. At the time I didn’t know any better, but that’s still no excuse. I think a part of me was hoping I’d kill myself that way. But I could have killed someone else too. It was reckless and self-destructive and continues to impact my life in a negative way today. And the Province of British Columbia will be holding it over my head for years to come (having to blow into a Breathalyzer before you start your car is an awkward conversation starter by the way).
I also had to learn how to forgive my father. He abandoned me. He chose drugs over me. He didn’t deal with his shit and instead left it for me. But recently I’ve made peace with that. He tried. He really tried. He went to rehab for me. But in the end he couldn’t overcome what was eating him up inside.
I am the son of a drug addict. But I am also the son of a man who loved me. I am the son of a man who loved everyone around him. I am the son of a man who wanted people around him to be happy. But I am the son of a man who could never find that happiness within himself.
Now I carry on that same search. I used to want to be like my dad. I used to romanticize what he was like. I used to romanticize substance abuse, dysfunction and chaos. I found something horribly poetic about the idea of dying the same way he did. After all, my grandmother, his mother, died of a heroin overdose 6 months after he did. I thought it ran in the family. But now I know I have to break the cycle.
Now I know that I am my own man, but with my dad’s good qualities. I know that I have his laugh and his voice. I know I have his ability to make people around me laugh and feel good about themselves. And I know that sparkle in the eyes of my mom, aunts, uncles and grandfather means that a little part of my dad comes back to life every time I walk into the room. I know that he lives through me. And I know that his legacy is me living my life to the fullest.
Trevor Jang is a reporter for Roundhouse Radio in Vancouver.