Rock bottom can be that place where it feels like life can’t get any lower: where there is nothing left that could break or get broken. It may also feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, with darkness in every direction, other than above you in an unscalable walls!
While most people might associate rock bottom with drugs, alcohol and addiction, there doesn’t have to be substance abuse for us to go through this experience. It can happen to us at any time of life and pretty much at any age. It may be triggered by a loss, whether that’s financial, a job, your home, a family member, your marriage or another hardship.
Some people describe reaching this place in life as “death without dying” because it truly is the dark night of the soul. Catastrophic life events can have the effect of stripping away all of the external trappings of life. We are truly left just with ourselves: no labels and nothing to hide behind.
Many of us might respond by trying to numb the pain, until we finally recognize that the only way for the pain to subside is to accept it and face it.
Do you need to hit rock bottom?
While rock bottom gives you a situation where there is no where left to go, is it essential to hit this point in order to accept change? I don’t believe so. Some people are able to face those things they’ve been avoiding with smaller life events.
Not everyone has to reach that place of being in the bottom of a well to bring about change in their lives. Some people don’t require a brush with death before they adopt transformative habits. Others, of course, have to have a heart attack before they will start to take their diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle seriously.
Hitting rock bottom does not necessarily mean falling off the cliff of despair and hitting the rocks at its base. Nor does it mean falling into a deep, dark well with unscalable walls. Any experience and moment in life can lead you to the moment “something has to change”.
There will probably be some pain and suffering: of letting go and release. Perhaps you let go of a dream of “could have been” or a relationship that you have idealized but that the reality is different from what you hoped.
Personally, I have always found rock bottom to be a firm and solid foundation: it won’t shift and move around on you as you try to build upon it. It’s a place where you strip away the frivolous and fake.
Rock bottom as the place to start
It’s easy to focus on the symptoms of a problem, rather than the cause. This is one reason why rock bottom can be so powerful for people: it strips away all illusions of what might be causing their issues and leaves the true cause bared for all to see. It might be ugly but you can finally deal with it.
When you see this as an opportunity, you can create new results. We are human beings, but we are also human becomings. We constantly adapt to changing circumstances and reinvent ourselves.
When you feel like you’ve lost it all: check in and see what did you lose that you really wanted and what did you lose that was just frivolous and fake?
Now that you feel you have nothing: what do you want? Focus on that – the big picture of the life you want to build. What changes in behaviors and habits do you want to adopt? What relationships are important enough to keep and which ones are you willing to release and allow to drift away?
Making a comeback
Before you work on making your comeback, make sure that you have clarity about how you ended up in this situation in the first place. Whether it’s a reflection of your relationships, your decision-making abilities, or even your failure to decide, learn from the experiences you have had.
Stop looking at all of the factors that were beyond your control and focus exclusively on what you could control.
- How might have you responded or reacted differently to the person or situation?
- Could you have been better prepared?
- What were the early signs that you ignored?
- Were you simply afraid to accept change until it was too late?
Also consider deeper questions: what are you missing out on in life by staying here at rock bottom? What will you gain by making the difficult changes that are requested of you at this time? And what small steps could you take to get started on your comeback?
Resources to rebuild
It’s never easy to make a comeback and will be impossible to do this alone. But there are ways that you can prepare yourself for a successful recovery from rock bottom.
Many of the ones that I will mention are personal ones, getting you body and mind in the right place, so that you can work on the rest.
It takes a village to raise a child and a community to help you recover from failure or disaster. As you look at what you need, consider how the following resources fit into your process and who you might look to for these different aspects of support:
- Friends – who will lend you an ear and emotional support through this time?
- Family – which members of you family are there for you, showing up unconditionally?
- Spiritual community – for some of us, this is an essential part of our life journey. Where do you find your best support?
- Accountability buddy or group – who is going to hold your feet to the fire of keeping your word and doing what you said you would do? Friends and family love us and often let us off the hook, accepting our excuses because they want us to accept their excuses! Find someone that will ignore your excuses and hold you accountable to your word.
- Mastermind group – if you’ve ever read “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill you know the power of a mastermind group. If you haven’t read it, might I suggest you pick up a second hand copy somewhere and read through it a couple of times. Read through once to get a glimpse of what he has to say. Read through a second time and start to put it into practice. And when you read through the third time, come and join our book club for a deep dive into the book and putting it into practice in your life, together with building your own mastermind group!
- Hire a Coach to help you discover your path and the way forward
- Find a mentor that is willing to guide you on your life journey.
The power of silence
Most of us experience that good decisions are made when we are grounded and holding a space of inner peace. For many, they reach this through meditation. Others through walking or running, hiking in nature, or spending time at the beach.
Where do you find that place of inner silence, where you can listen to your intuition rather than the inner critic and overthinking?
Make more room in your life for silence.
Exercise & movement
Another key ingredient in picking yourself up is to get moving. This is literal as well as figurative. Get out and look at the world around you. It might be as small as a walk around your block.
But stop locking yourself away from the world. Shake that body and put one foot in front of the other. Allow yourself to eat, sleep, move and rest.
Plans & dreams
When you have taken care of basics, make time to sit down and plan and dream. What now?
Life has offered you a blank canvas of rock bottom. What will you choose to build?
When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.Anon
Success stories: who do you know?
Many people have been at rock bottom and had to rebuild. You probably know some of these stories:
- Martha Stewart: went from billionaire to jailbird to comeback queen
- Walt Disney: fired as an editor and considered a business failure
- Oprah: pregnant at 14 and then her son died shortly after birth, sexually abused throughout her childhood and then considered “unfit for TV”
- J.K. Rowling: considered herself “the biggest failure I knew”
Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.George S. Patton
If you stopped worrying about what other people think, what steps would you take to turn your life around?
Failure and mistakes are not fatal. But it might take a lot of strength to pull yourself up and build the life that you desire.
At DiscoverYourPathU we believe that every life can teach and everyone can grow! You get to choose how you grow and what your life will teach.