Growing up, I had a pretty decent life. I had reasonable parents who made a reasonable amount of money. I had an older brother, Kyle, who passed away when he was 16, I was 13. Drunk driver, go figure.

We grew up in San Francisco and lead a relatively normal life. Kyle and I were best friends and worst enemies at the same time. We always fought, but there was no one in the world I trusted more than him. I always imagined that we would grow up, have wives and kids, and argue about who had the best family. We were always trying to one-up each other.

After he was killed, I just couldn’t get it together. My parents thought therapy would help, but it seemed to only make things worse. I couldn’t stand being around anyone, especially my parents. I would sneak out of the house at night and wander the streets alone talking to the ghost of my brother.

I could see it was breaking my Mom’s heart, so eventually, I learned to wear a fake smile. I made a couple of fake friends and pretended to be interested in their lives. It was those friends who introduced me to weed an alcohol. I continued the habit because it helped me fake my happiness.

By the time I graduated high school, I was already a heavy drinker. I went to parties every weekend just to get a beer and whatever spirits I could get my hands on. I ended up becoming an extreme disappointment to my parents. I used to think that they wished I was the one that was killed and not Kyle. I hated that thought.

I didn’t want my parents to hate me, so I began to hide my alcoholism better. I got into a decent college and that is where I met my future wife Colleen. Colleen was a heavy drinker too, but I didn’t care. We had fun and we were actually in love.

During our sophomore year, we got married and moved in together. That following year, the recession hit, and neither of us could afford to continue our education. We both dropped out when we found out she was pregnant. We were wildly happy with our new family. Money was tight, but we made do.

We continued to drink regularly, but it never got out of hand. Three years after the birth of our first daughter, another angel was on the way. Three years. The exact age difference between me and Kyle. I realized this early on in the pregnancy, and it hit me hard.

What if I lose my first baby girl like my parents lost Kyle? Could I handle that? Could I survive that pain? I wanted to do everything I could to protect my girls. Maybe I was overprotective because it seemed only to push them away. The girls were much closer to Colleen than with me.

What was wrong with me? What couldn’t I provide for them? Seven years after our second girl, our third and final miracle was born. She was born premature and with autism but I didn’t care. She was my miracle baby, and I loved her dearly.

I didn’t realize, at the time, how difficult it was going to be raising three girls, one of whom was autistic.

The stresses of our lives caused a profound disconnect between Colleen and me. Going to work was my only escape from the stress. Maybe I was depressed. Maybe so was Colleen, but there was nothing I could do about it. Or so I felt.

I tried everything I could to stay away from home. After work, I would hit up several different bars. It became a routine. Wake up, flee, work, bar hop, come home plastered.

One night I came home hammered. I don’t remember much, but the story goes, I told Colleen to get me coffee. She explained that we were out. I shouted foul words at her and she began to shout back. Apparently, I couldn’t take much more of her yelling, because I grabbed her and threw her to the ground. I fell on top of her and punched her repeatedly.

The next morning I woke up in a jail cell, not remembering a thing. When I was told what happened, what I had done, I was devastated.

That’s how I lost my wife. She was in the hospital for two days, and by the time she was released, the divorce papers were already being filed.

So now, I am a broken man with no wife, no family and only the slightest shimmer of hope in getting it back.