While reading through a meeting the other day, someone’s share about hitting rock bottom piqued my interest. They had accepted it and they were grateful for it, happy to have finally ceased making the problem worse.
For the longest time, I’ve considered my “rock bottom” to be a sort of monument to failure. Something that was, somehow, visible to others as if they could sense the depths of my addiction and the toll it had on me psychologically just by the way I looked, or by some kind of vibe I expressed.
The fact that I’d allowed my addictions to control my life for so long and to such poor results made me consider that rock bottom to be something like a black hole; there is an event horizon, a line that was almost crossed, and if I’d gone any further, I would have been sucked in, ripped away from our space and time, torn apart into my constituent atoms. I’d never have been able to climb out.
For all the whinging I tend to do about how low my rock bottom was, and I do desperately wish that I’d stopped digging sooner, I should count myself lucky that I found a rock bottom at all. True, it was a remarkably low bottom, but it could have been just a bit lower.
A lot of people don’t get a chance to stop digging. No siren goes off, no warning sounds, you’re just plunging that shovel into the dirt of addiction one minute, and the next, poof, as if you’d hit a land mine, you’re gone.
I may have been close to crossing that terrible line several times, I’m sure I was, but I’m among the lucky in that I pulled back at the last moment. Rock bottom, for many, is death. I was close, but I was given a second chance, and I cannot waste it.
Rock bottom was, ultimately, a gift from my higher power. It led me to a better understanding of the world and my place in it, which in turn led me toward recovery and away from all the chemicals I’d been pouring into my brain to maintain what I thought was some sense of normalcy in the world.
Before recovery, my reality was so skewed, by mental illness and by an underlying sense of unease — a feeling that I didn’t quite belong somehow — that I thought I needed to consume drugs and alcohol to feel something close to comfortable in my own skin when I was around other people. I could do it, sure, but I didn’t enjoy it.
I was convinced that I simply wasn’t built for this world: I generally disliked, until conditioned otherwise, being around other people. The way you feel apprehensive when you abruptly meet a large dog, or when you’re walking into a public restroom and a clown’s walking out. I felt like, somehow, I wasn’t the same species as most of the people I’d met. I was fundamentally different.
Even as a child, I spoke of being born on a far-away planet, or in another dimension. I felt as if I were inherently different than almost all the people in my orbit. I guess you could say, since we’re indulging in spiritual principles as a matter of course here, that I could “sense” the underlying difference between myself and, I use this term sparingly because I sort of loathe it, the “normies” of the world.
This line of thinking used to concern me. I didn’t have trouble empathizing with the human beings around me, I’d had plenty of relationships, some of them more erratic than others. Money wasn’t a problem, I had a successful career and was doing well, even if it was unfulfilling. I was relatively gregarious when under the influence, but I never felt truly connected to others. We just weren’t the same.
I still have trouble connecting to other people now, but I’m in a much better position today than I was even just five years ago for one reason: I’ve found my people. Two tribes, if you will, that accepted me with open arms. They didn’t just understand how I felt academically as so many psychologists and psychiatrists claimed to do, but through lived experience.
The NA basic text states, “the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel.” This couldn’t be more true. In grade school there was a common retort: “it takes one to know one.” Out of the mouths of babes, eh?
It does, indeed, take an addict to truly know another. It stands to reason, then, that if we’re in the business of ceasing our addictions, another addict who has done so successfully is best suited to assist.
Returning to the point, that “rock bottom” we all hit eventually, our lowest point, doesn’t have to alienate us from the rest of the world. There are people out there who understand it. They know, really know, why it is you dug that hole in the first place.
They also know how to get out.
Not every alcoholic or addict understands every single other, but we’re less unique than we think. So be active in the fellowship. Reach out, even if you’ve been burned by reaching out to others before. Embrace the possibility that you’ve finally, after all this time, found a community of people that get you.
Don’t hesitate to “share your truth” with others in the fellowship. Their quiet nods and sort of sad, tight-lipped smiles as they listen are evidence that they do, at some level, know what you’re talking about. They’ve seen and done and felt it before.
Accept your recovery. Accept that you’ve found others who finally, truly understand you.
Your rock bottom doesn’t have to be deep, but if it is, share about it anyway. Don’t limit yourself because of shame and guilt. This place, these meetings, and these fellowships exist for people like you and I to reach out and support one another.
You can get out of that hole. You can stop digging. these fellowships will show you how.