Knowing When You’ve Hit Bottom

The concept of “hitting bottom” is not limited to only those diagnosed with substance abuse, and in fact may not even apply to some, but it is commonly discussed among those in recovery.  It generally refers to the specific incident or period of time that the disease had you at your lowest level of physical and/or mental feeling.  In the wake of coming to this realization, some (not all) will proactively seek treatment or A.A.

Different individuals will have different bottoms.  Going through rehabilitation and being in the rooms of A.A. has shown me just how far down the well we can go.  It’s one thing to hear it on a news special or recall what you were taught in health class, but it’s a whole other to be in a room full of people and listen to them share their darkest hours, right from their mouths.  It becomes much more real.


The topic was brought up in a meeting today, and I pondered on how I would define mine.  I don’t think I could pick a precise moment, but I can definitely see the slippery slope that lead me there.  Alcoholism is a progressive disease, so technically from the moment I took my first ever drink, I was destined for the bottom.  But I would say that somewhere between my freshman and sophomore year of college was when “abusive” drinking began turning into “dependent” drinking.

“All the way down to the bottom /
All the way down to the fire /
All the way down to the devil /
Beelzebub (to the bottom of the pit, now)”

I was probably somewhere in the front row here, on the right side.

It’s as though the trigger was pulled all those years ago; it just took this long for the bullet to hit.  Over my college career my condition worsened, and in my senior year I began to spiral into depression.  I understood neither this nor my alcoholism, so they would compound upon each other, often appearing as Hulk-like rages at their worst.  My friends were concerned for (scared of?) me; I had little regard for my own well being.


As I look back on my abusive history, that’s one of the things that scares me most – just how little I cared about myself.  I always seemed to be willing to push the edge, as if the disease was taunting my own resolve and conviction.  When I finished school and moved out on my own, the thin veil of social binge drinking that was acceptable pretty much dissipated.  Not that I had ever hidden behind it very well, anyway; I sometimes wonder how obvious it was to those around me.


The gritty day-to-day of living in a tough city did nothing to help my already-vulnerable psyche.  It was really at this point, a little over a year ago, that the disease took another big turn for the worse.  The ensuing 10 months would see me battle relentlessly with it, working my way through a DUI and various slip-ups at work.  Over the summer business at work steadily declined; by autumn, the pressure to capture the college nightlife demographic to keep our heads above water was almost entirely on me (as a promoter I expected this to be a non-issue, but it was 2012 – nothing made much sense last year).

I say that not as any kind of justification, but rather noting its place as a contributing factor to how low I began to feel.  Each day was a struggle.  Drinking helped.  Or so I thought, anyway.  At this point I had little regard for not only myself, but also anything or anyone around me.  The tipping point came one weekend in October, when the severity of the depression literally crippled me.  I holed myself up in my darkened bedroom and slept twelve hours a day, waking up in a catatonic daze to wander around in search of something to put into my body, be it meager rations of food or a few hard slugs of vodka.


That was very possibly the worst I have ever felt in my life.  I find the phrase “in my life” to be a bit hyperbolic, but I would not wish that pain on my mortal enemy.  To think that this hellish personal experience might not even register on the radar of another user, a user much farther gone…the depth of this disease knows no true bottom, I think.

So the important thing is to remember.  To remember where we came from, what it was like then.  I never, ever want to feel that way again – and I don’t have to.  That’s the miracle of putting your all into working a genuine program.  Salvation starts where the last drink ends.

The sounds of salvation: crisp, French funk.

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