It was just like one of those scripted, TV show abandonments. We were in the kitchen together. We’d moved to Sydney to try to rebuild our life. I’d sold the business and was back at Uni to spend more time with the family. But on this day, Judy took the kids to bed, and sort of never came back. She was only thirty-two, and I guess she couldn’t handle the pressure of being in a relationship with a person she didn’t trust anymore. And, there was another man filling up her love life. He was hidden from view at this time but he was my friend. I didn’t see it. My kids were left in a very tough spot, because not long afterward my problems began. I moved out but kept access to the kids. I started waking at night bolt upright. On lonely nights I drank too much and made phone calls I should never have made. One day my mate took me to his doctor. I was drunk. I told the doctor how I felt and he rang the police and I got an AVO. I couldn’t go within 2 km of my home. None of the Uni doctors could figure out why I was so traumatised. Most of them guessed nervous breakdown or psychological stress, but the counselling treatments didn’t seem to help. That’s around the time my ex, sold the house and our business, took the kids and moved back to Melbourne. I flew back and forth from Sydney to Melbourne to see the kids. It was at this time that I met Deborah. Deb was a stunning elegant woman working in high end marketing. She introduced me to her friend who owned a fast car and was really, seriously wealthy. Deborah moved in to my new Sydney apartment and life felt ok. Deb went away on weekends on business trips. So I went to Melbourne on weekends and studied for my MBA during the week. Even my friends said I’d met my perfect match. I was going to marry her. But one night when she was out late at work, I learnt something the hard way. I glimpsed into her bag she left open beside our bed and there were 50 condoms, hundreds of those yellow credit card receipts we used to have back then. There were handcuffs, and … well allot of stuff you don’t need for marketing. She was a high end prostitute. And I was in love, or so I thought. She was an escort. Her wealthy friend was a drug dealer of the highest order, maybe her pimp too? I was a student. I was thirty-five years old, but I felt like I was fourteen. I told Deborah I’d still be with her if she admitted it all. She walked out that night and never even came back for her clothes (or condoms). A few weeks later, I just bundled her clothes into their green plastic bags and took them to Deb’s wealthy friend’s phone shop. I walked in with the bags under my arms and the whole shop broke out in laughter. Someone shouted “Another Deb victim” and I knew the whole thing from Deb was a ruse she’d pulled on many blokes like me. When Deb’s very wealthy friend came out and took the bags he invited me to his home for a party the following weekend. It was in Point Piper and the house was perched over the Harbour. In the kitchen I met a group of guys who had all been ripped by Deb. I was the only one she didn’t steal thousands of dollars from their bank. At the party, I walked into the main bedroom to go to the bathroom and there was a pile of $100 and $50 notes like Mount Everest on the bed and cocaine in a huge bowl. I left straight away without goodbye. This was a warning party to remind me not to get too caught up chasing Deb. Unhappiness is a lifestyle. It’s like a cool friend. Unhappiness and I started spending more and more time together. Unhappiness had all sorts of games like the original Nintendo that he let me play. We spent our days and nights together, Christmas together, and I remember he gave me any excuse, to get high on anything that even looked like or promised happiness. Like Deb, most things were just fantasies and made unhappiness a stronger companion. As things got more serious with my Uni results, my new friend, unhappiness, really took charge of my health. He helped justify spending a fortune for holidays, and dinner and flights and music concerts. He validated buying our new Porsche and blamed anything other than me for the trips to hospitals when kidney stones or lung infections took over. Unhappiness and I flew together to look after my children in Melbourne, and twice around the world looking for happy times. Finally we found meditation and that gave me a correct justification to be unhappy and not do anything about it. I became a Zen Unhappy person. My friend, Mr Unhappy loved meditation. I could sit for hours, not change anything and feel good about it. One day my friend took me to a cliff and said jump. That was the end of that friendship. Once I went to that place I had nothing to gain from that friendship anymore and much to gain from being different. Then I was able to get the support I needed. Not long afterwards my ex, kids and her new partner got married and sailed overseas. They had my three children on the yacht, I was ‘irrelevant’ in the whole thing. I found my way within the next months. My new friend, true happiness, never made me feel irrelevant. True happiness treated me like a son. When I was in high school, I had that old friend, unhappiness, and I did whatever it asked me to. I stole cars, I broke into shops and homes, I even accidentally stabbed someone in a fight. My youngest brother was happy. He played music. I tried, even played in a band and learnt piano. The school threatened to expel me for being a bad influence. Around this time, my Dad traded a block of land for a car and then we had to spend every Sunday up there in Monbulk chopping and sawing wood. Suddenly, unhappiness left, happiness arrived, I won the athletics, football captaincy and school head prefect over the next three years. I don’t think my Dad ever really knew how bad things were before Monbulk. But I suspect he knew I was hanging out with an unhealthy friend in my head. He probably recognised him, maybe even passed him on, from his own life. Recently after my back broke and I couldn’t travel anymore, I started coaching people individually instead of as an audience from the speaking circuit. It’s become much more of realisation that this unhealthy friend isn’t always in our head. It can be a friendship, a job, a partnership, a relationship. Unhappiness can become our default. But happiness will always be the father figure and mother that I almost didn’t have. Fifty years ago nature stepped into a mess. Poor, alcoholic step mother. Delinquent dyslexic kid. I could have run the other direction but I didn’t. Nature decided to get in there, get her hands dirty, and become a friend in my heart. And that’s the reason I became the man I am today. And why I do what I do.