Many of us face the world each day from behind a mask of happiness.
Hidden behind this façade is the pain of our reality which we desperately struggle to hide from those around us.
Several months ago I met with a delightful lady who outwardly projects the confidence and poise of a person whose everyday life is unfolding precisely as planned and whose heart was being tightly squeezed by events over which she had absolutely no control.
“Belinda” is the mother of a 21 year old daughter whose life over the past four years has been consumed with drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and two near-fatal overdoses.
She lives in fear of a police officer appearing at her door with the worst possible news imaginable.
She told me she prays for the day when her daughter will hit rock bottom day for she believes that only then will “Amy” begin the long journey back to normalcy.
Sadly, she couldn’t possibly be more wrong.
And I wasn’t sure how to convey this to her so I dug out a blog I had written all the way back in July, 2011, printed it and asked her to read it.
I have posted 314 original blogs and have never entertained the thought of reproducing any of them. Today I will break with my own tradition as I feel the message in the blog I gave Belinda is as pertinent today as it was then because the economic reality of our times is causing many folks to experience levels of stress and anxiety completely unfamiliar to them.
Here it is.
Several years ago while attending a workshop, I heard a man say that there are times in our lives when we have to hit bottom before we can harbour any hope of positive change occurring in our lives. He went on to say that rock bottom is a place that many of us need to visit in order for the direction of our lives to change in our favor.
When an audience member asked how we would know when we have reached rock bottom the answer was this, “you know you have hit rock bottom when things cannot possibly get any worse.”
Not long ago I was coffeeing with a long-time client and he was telling me how difficult his life has become over the past few years.
His marriage had ended acrimoniously and the company where he had spent 17 years had closed down – a victim of the recession.
He told me that he was constantly facing new and increasingly difficult challenges and that no matter what he did nothing seemed to work in his favour.
He looked at me sadly and said “Each time I think I have hit bottom something unexpected shows up and knocks me down. I guess I haven’t truly hit bottom yet.
Naturally, I asked the same question of him as had been asked of the workshop facilitator some years previously. “How will you know when you have finally reached rock bottom?”
And just like that speaker from several years ago my friend answered the question with these words. “When the day comes that nothing could possibly be worse I will know that I have hit rock-bottom. And I have to tell you that that day cannot come soon enough for me.”
How unfortunate that a so-called professional motivator and a valued acquaintance could both believe the same things to be true and both be so terribly wrong?
The truth of the matter is this: rock bottom is not the place you land on when things couldn’t possibly get worse.
There is no such place as rock bottom.
You will not find it on any map because much like the unicorn it is mythical and does not exist.
And there is no such time in our lives as a time when things could not possibly get worse.
When we think that things cannot get worse it probably just means that we haven’t yet experienced this level of “worse” before and we delude ourselves into thinking that this is bad as it could possibly get.
There’s even a tired old joke that addresses this.
It goes something like this. “Cheer up, things could get worse.”
So you cheer and, sure enough, things get worse.
You will never hit bottom until you start reaching for the top.
Or, to put it another way, the moment you start the long journey of clawing your way to the top is the moment that you have struck rock-bottom.
Rock-bottom is the place you can only arrive at when you commit to, and commence this journey. There is no other way to get there.
Rock-bottom is not the moment when you decide you can’t take it anymore.
Rock bottom is not the moment when the pain is so intense you don’t think you will survive.
Rock-bottom is not the moment when you believe there are no more tears left to cry.
Rock bottom is not the moment when you yell out in despair that you don’t know what to do.
Rock bottom is not when even your wildest imagination cannot conceive of anything that could possibly be worse than your present situation.
Rock bottom is that wonderful, liberating moment when you make the choice to take back control and ownership of your life.
Rock-bottom is when you relinquish all blame, justification and rationalization for why you are where you are and pledge to yourself that henceforth you will dedicate your life to the actions that will drive you ever closer to where you want to be and never again undertake those actions that have brought you to where you are.
Rock-bottom is when you exchange whining for winning.
Rock-bottom occurs the instant we accept that where we are, no matter how painful and untenable, means nothing more than where we are – it is what it is – and commit to taking immediate action to change the direction of our lives.
And then repositioning our feet to take those first steps towards our new destination.
Rock-bottom is when we take those stomach churning, nerve destroying feelings we call stress, fear and panic and convert them into those energizing, inspiring feelings we call conviction, persistence and determination and take strong, precise and positive actions to change direction and move towards where we want to be, even if at the end of the day, by having done so, we have only moved one tiny millimetre closer to that place.
Rock bottom is when we change our expectations from expecting things to get worse to knowing things are getting better.
You see, we begin every day at rock-bottom. We begin every day with the opportunity to move our lives in the direction of joy and fulfillment or in the direction of pain and despair.
No matter how much pain and despair we may find ourselves to be in we have no idea how much further down we can still travel.
On the other hand, no matter how much joy and fulfillment is present in our lives, we will never know how much more there is to be had until we commit ourselves to pursuing it.
And that, my friends, is the rock bottom line.
I had not spoken with Belinda since our meeting a few months ago until she called earlier this week.
She had taken the copy of my blog and asked her daughter to read it.
Belinda said her daughter – insisting, as always, that she had “had everything under control” – reluctantly read the blog.
And then a strange and unexpected thing happened.
She burst into tears and, for the first time ever, wrapped her arms around her mom and begged for help.
That was Amy’s transformational moment of reaching for the top.
And when you start reaching for the top, good things begin to happen.
Amy spent 30 days in a residential rehab facility, moved back in with her mom, changed her cell phone number, unhooked herself from all her social-media accounts and is now helping Belinda in her business while waiting to go back to school next month.
She knows she has a long road ahead of her and that she is not out of the woods.
But for the first time in four years she can clearly see the trees.
Rock bottom truly is the place you can only hit once you start reaching for the top.
Till we read again.