M(3), 4/18/16: How to Decide if You’ve Hit Rock Bottom
And finally it feels like spring in my part of the world. Hope the weather is as enjoyable in your part!
Today’s meeting was the kind that fools me. I assumed at the start that it was going to be one where I would have to exert myself, since the crowd seemed small and I knew in advance we would be reading about Step 9 (the one about making amends). Then two things happened:
- A bunch of people strolled in late
- One of them was a newcomer
We have a policy in my meeting that if a newcomer is present on a week we are reading about the steps, then we start over at step one in deference to said newcomer. In my opinion, an absolutely delightful turn of events; I don’t think I’ve made much of a secret of my… let’s call it reluctance… to speak endlessly on step 9.
Someday I’ll get there, but until then, I’ll take the disruption to the schedule and be happy.
For those not familiar, Step One:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
I shared, as I always do, the depth with which I struggled with this step in early sobriety. Powerlessness over some liquid in a glass? Utter nonsense. I needed a mental assist to get me over the hump, not unlike those yoga blocks you use when you need help getting into the various positions. The specific tweak I used escapes me at this point, but it had something to do with being powerless over the consequences once I started consuming alcohol. Or something like that.
Either way, once I accepted the notion and moved along the steps, life improved dramatically and the obsession to ingest mind-altering substances was lifted.
Which was awesome, of course. But the clincher for me is when I realized how transferable these steps were to my everyday life. I wasn’t just powerless over alcohol, I was powerless over a multitude of things that took up space in my brain. When my brain is overtaken by an obsession over things I am powerless, guess what becomes unmanageable?
So step one is always a great read for me. In fact, I could have used it about 10 different times this weekend, time spent worrying about kids, sports, home projects, career opportunities. Every single instance was time wasted, worrying about things that I cannot control.
Moving on from my share, things became more intense. The newcomer spoke of a sister that passed away from the disease of alcoholism. Hearing her speak of the devastating consequences of excessive drinking was, pardon the pun, a sobering experience. Her sister ferociously denied being an alcoholic until she was on her actual deathbed. The day before she died, lying in the hospital suffering from end-stage cirrhosis, was when she was able to admit she was an alcoholic. Sadly, too late for her to do anything about it, but the newcomer is hopeful that she uses her sister’s experience to propel her along the path of recovery.
Another friend at the meeting shared a personal experience that she uses as a metaphor for the concept of powerlessness. At the age of 18 she nearly drowned in the waters of the Hawaiian North Shore. A strong swimmer and a healthy fit young woman, she did not consider for a moment that she would have an issue with the waves. But she tried for nearly 30 minutes of the strongest swimming she could to get back to the shore, with no success. It was finally a daring rescue attempt by her sister that she was saved. For her, the disease of alcoholism is much like that ocean. It may look alluring, and she may think that she is powerful enough, strong enough, willful enough, to take it on, but the bottom line is she is not. And there’s no shame in that! Just like there’s no shame in her story of needing help with surviving her swimming scare, so too is there no shame in admitting she needs helps with recovery.
After these two powerful shares, the discussion turned to the notion of what comprises a “low bottom” or a “high bottom,” and how does one know if they’ve hit their bottom? For those unfamiliar with the term, an alcoholic bottom refers to the place a person must reach before they recognize they have a problem that they are willing to try to solve. Several attendees cited concerns that their bottoms weren’t low enough to be worth of a seat in a 12-step meeting. No DUI’s, no jobs lost, no families separated, so how do they know if they’ve actually hit bottom?
One long-timer shared that his physical bottom was quite high… he got sober at a really young age with absolutely no external consequences. However, he describes his mental bottom as quite low… his outlook was so bleak, his hope for a better life so dim, suicide was a viable option. He was steered towards a 12-step meeting, and saw it as a lifeline. Thirty eight years later, he still sees it as a gift.
Another gentleman said the answer to “how do you know when you hit bottom?” is simple… when you stop digging! Your bottom can be wherever you choose it to be.
Another meeting regular compared his two different attempts at recovery. In the first, his bottom was so high that he felt superior to those around him. That confidence led to complacency, which led to an extended relapse. The second time around his bottom was, in his opinion, quite low: detox, rehab, loss of license, physical health on the decline. His approach to his recovery was much more sincere and focused, and this time he intends to hold on to his sobriety.
The consensus reached this morning was this: every personal bottom is unique, and pointless to compare. Relapse is never a requirement… keep the basics of sobriety close at hand, and you will never have to crawl your way back!
The reminder that I have a tool to deal with powerlessness in life is a miracle every time I use it!