52 Things I Learned at Rock Bottom

  • Embrace your strengths. They are the only real assets you have.
  • If you give up, you will lose. Never give up.
  • You can still win even though you feel broken.

As I hastily awaken in the warm southern heat, I am jarred. I have no sense of peace. I’m not sure why. I always have a sense of peace. What’s worse is I don’t even know where I am. As I lay there, trying to orient myself, I recall my situation like a freight train. I look around the room. It is not my room, yet it is where I live. It is not my home but it is where my meager belongings lie. I am in paradise yet it is the last place I want to be. “Fuck”, I exclaim.

Deal with your own toxicity now. Or you will continue to invite toxicity into your life.

I look around the room and see the walls inches away from the bed. This is not my home. This is not me. This is a nightmare. The walls are on top of me. It is not a nightmare. I am awake. I am in a small apartment and I have just lost the woman of my dreams, the love of my life, or so I thought, after years and years of fighting for her. I am by myself. I am 750 miles from my real home. Nobody here cares if I live or die. I have given up everything for the noblest of reasons—love—and have received nothing in return. “Fuck”, I say to myself again. This can’t be real. Yet it is all too real. This is now my world. This is my reality. I have to get home again. I have to find myself again.

I lay there letting the reality of my situation sink in. This is day 10. I have spent the last nine days in denial. And I will spend the next three months in denial. I reach deep within my coping mechanisms unbeknownst to me and get in the shower. I’ve got a job to do and I will not be derailed. I am strong and I will overcome. I will make a better life for myself. I am in shock. I just don’t know it. I have been in shock for 10 days. Yet I have managed to function on pure instincts. I have broken up, found a temporary shelter, carried on with work, brushed my teeth, called my loved ones, and finally found an apartment. I can do this.

Day 10 turns into day 90. What I have done for the past three months, I’m not quite sure. I have survived as I see myself sitting on the beach. I try to understand how I got here. I’m just a nice kid from Kentucky who always dreamed of something bigger. And here I am, living on the beach in a strange and exotic place. Yet, I realize I am dying. I am dying of loneliness. I am dying of regret. I am dying of a broken heart. This is the beginning of the end. It is day 90 and I have just realized the totality of what has happened. I am awake now. The denial ceases to exist. I am aware. The doors of hell have been opened.

The above happened years ago. It was the beginning of a rapid descent to Rock Bottom. The next year would be the toughest of my life. I would have a mental, emotional and physical breakdown. I didn’t only hit Rock Bottom, I was being drug across the bottom. Looking back on it now, I am so grateful it happened. Rock Bottom is not a fun place at all. It’s a hellish on earth kind of thing. You are tested. Tested on so many levels. I passed some tests and, others…not so much. But overall, that is one of the things I am grateful for…for the tests. In my “previous life”, I had some amazingly fun and easy years for the longest stretch. Life was just fun and good. I was as happy as I ever was. Then at the end of a steady decline came Rock Bottom…my new friend.

It was nobody’s fault…except maybe my own. Yet, here I was. Pain became my constant companion. I’ve had other rock bottoms before, but this was different. This situation took my very spirit. There was no beating the pain. Every time I thought I had beaten the pain, he would ever so casually and callously show up strolling in my direction. I would look him in the eye, scream at him and fight him. But, in the end, he wouldn’t let me go. It was just he and I, alone, at Rock Bottom. It was a brutal fight. Most days, he won. But in the end, I outlasted him. I wish I could say I knocked him out. But in reality, I only weathered his wrath. But during the fight, I learned some things, which I might not have appreciated at the time, but I do now. Things I learned at Rock Bottom:

-Who really cares about you. And they REALLY care. And they will show up.

-You can lean on these people when you can’t stand on your own.

-Who really doesn’t care about you.

-You can let these people go.

-Your own strengths.

-To embrace your strengths. They are the only real assets you have.

-Your own limitations.

-To embrace these limitations. Be aware of how to avoid situations in which you will struggle.

-What your Achilles Heel is.

-What created your Achilles Heel.

-You are not as weak as your perpetrators are.

-You can develop more empathy for others.

-Letting people in to your “soul” should be done with great caution.

-Be true to yourself.

-Never let anyone control you and your decisions about what makes your spirit full.

-Protect yourself. Nobody else will to the extent you can.

Forgive but never forget.

-Forgive or you will be forever held captive.

-Forgive but never forget.

-You can bounce back.

-You can beat the demons that visit late at night and in the wee hours of the morning.

-If you give up, you will lose. Never give up.

-If you can’t win the day, just outlast the day.

-No matter how many days you can’t win, one day victory will come, and it will be over.

-You can’t unpack everything at once, but you have to unpack everything over time.

-Don’t take on someone else’s issues. Those are ultimately theirs.

-You’ll be stronger once you get through.

-Use your creativity as an outlet for your pain.

-Through your creativity, you can make people smile and maybe ease their burdens.

-The world doesn’t stop because of your pain and you shouldn’t expect it to.

-Nobody else can rescue you—nor is it their responsibility.

-You ultimately have to rescue yourself.

-New and exciting doors will open.

-Embrace those new opportunities and challenges.

-Be kinder to others. You can always be kinder than what you were.

-Self respect is far greater than someone else’s respect.

-You can help somebody who is going through a similar situation.

-You appreciate kindness, goodness, loyalty and compassion on another level.

-It’s OK to be unapologetically passionate about some things. Those are yours to own.

-Never love anyone more than you love yourself.

-So do the work and love yourself.

-No matter how much you love yourself, you can always love yourself more.

-You have to be able to forgive yourself.

-Be authentic as much as you can in life and in your relationships.

-Humility is essential to being human.

-Stay away from people trying to run from themselves.

-Deal with your own toxicity now. Or you will continue to invite toxicity into your life.

-Be strong and aware enough to cut off any toxicity at first sight.

-There will always be struggles if life. It will ultimately be you vs. the struggles.

-Take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically first and foremost.

-Everyone has their own time table for healing. Never go by someone else’s time table.

-It’s OK to decide to not walk beside someone else.

-You can still win even though you feel broken.

In hindsight, it was my ultimate choice to allow myself to hit Rock Bottom. It was nobody’s fault except my own. But that is in hindsight. That is the biggest lesson I learned at Rock Bottom—was I chose to be there. And it is ultimately up to me to choose not to go there again. There will be bigger tests for me, and for everyone ahead. Knowing me, I probably won’t necessarily pass those tests the way I would like to. But I do know I will handle them better than I would have. But until then, I will lead my life as a deeper and wiser person for the lessons I learned at Rock Bottom.

Greg Hood

Greg Hood is a freelance writer, a social work professional and a proud father currently residing in Charlotte, NC.

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