Eric Myers says he first realized he was gay at age six, but it took running out on his wife and kids and faking his own death to finally allow him to admit it.
The former property manager lived a life of comfort and wealth in Phoenix suburb with his wife Anne, his two biological daughters, and his three adoptive sons.
But a business trip to San Diego in the summer of '91 changed all that, when Myers, then 34, decided on a whim to cross the border into Mexico and never look back.
Speaking out for the first time since he resurfaced with a husband back in 2007, Myers blames his religious upbringing for convincing him that homosexuality was wrong.
Despite being "fervently evangelical," Myers said he was unable to shake his desire to be with men. He thought marrying a woman and settling down would quell his urges, but when that didn't work he began to panic.
"I just wanted it all to end," Myers told ABC News. "I wanted everything to end."
After being robbed during his trip to a real estate conference in San Diego and being forced to spend the night in a sleazy motel, Myers decided it was time for him to leave it all behind.
And so he did: Traveling first to Cabo San Lucas and then, four months later, to Palm Springs, Myers simply started again with a new identity and without saying a word to anyone.
It was in Palm Springs that he met Canadian tourist Sean Lung, the man who eventually become his husband.
Meanwhile, back in Arizona, Myers family was struggling to move on.
"I remember screaming that I wanted him back," recalled Myers' daughter Kirsten Myers Ruggiano, adding that she cried herself to sleep for weeks.
She began drinking wine at age 11 — a habit which ultimately turned into an addiction.
The now-30-year-old later became determined to get sober after realizing how much her mother was also struggling.
In 1996, Myers' family got him declared legally dead, allowing them to access his $800,000 life insurance policy, which was placed in trusts for his daughters.
But Myers sudden resurfacing in 2007 had an effect almost as destructive as his disappearance.
Liberty Life Insurance sued the Myers for the insurance money and won.
"It almost hurt more to have him come back than it did for him to go in the first place," Ruggiano said.
Myers, for his part, acknowledges that what he did "is the most selfish thing in the world," but says he doesn't regret his decision to reemerge.
"To live in a disguise is a horrible prison," he said.
Ruggiano, a mother herself, has only seen her father once since he returned.
"I know how much I love my children," she said. "And if he loved me even half as much as I loved them, there would be no situation where he would ever think that it was okay to leave me."