Originally from a farm near Victoria’s spectacular Otway Ranges, Doug Lang and his wife Cheryl spent years working their way through Queensland and the Northern Territory. “As long as you played footy you had a job the next day,” he says. But despite Doug’s steady employment, he recalls struggles with alcohol abuse and depression complicating their lives.
To reconnect with their wider family, Doug and Cheryl returned to their 50 acre property in Colac - a property that had been in Doug’s family since 1897. Inspired by one of his friends, he began an agroforestry project, planting a variety of native species to return the land to something like its original state.
For Doug, the experience provided him with what he came to call his ‘ecotherapy’.
Then an unexpected redundancy inspired Doug to start writing a book he’d been thinking about for years, and so ‘The Nature of Survival’ began to take shape. One part memoir, one part self-help book, it details Doug’s love for the land, his lifelong battle with depression, and ultimately, coping with the loss of their daughter Rebecca to a brain tumor. “That was hard on us all. Very tough … and always will be.”
Having doubts about whether he would cope with the grief, Doug put the book on hold. But it was Cheryl who encouraged him to start writing again.
“The book was great therapy. And as it turned out, we didn’t realise we’d have the success that we’ve had with it. Looking back, it’s helped with my mental health and it’s helped me through the grief of losing Rebecca.”
Dealing with the emotional fallout of losing a child got Doug and Cheryl thinking a lot about their future. With retirement approaching, they didn’t want to worry about their finances every day. So they met with Kevin, a financial adviser from AustralianSuper.
Now Doug shares his story at community events, eager to help others, particularly men from the bush, deal with mental health issues.
And with a trip to Europe on the cards, Doug and Cheryl are thoroughly enjoying their retirement. “It’s a lovely thing to be able to do together. We’re fit and healthy, we’ve got the finances to do it, and we’re making every day a winner. It’s what Rebecca would have wanted,” Doug says.
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