The Magic of Hitting Bottom

We humans have a strong tendency to wait to initiate dramatic change in our lives until we feel we can no longer go on as we’ve been going on. Often, we wait until we hit our own personal bottom, or what feels like a kind of bottom, for us. We wait until we feel very unhappy, miserable, about something. Or everything.  We wait to act until we feel the full force of that bottom hard beneath our feet, or ass. That’s when we wake up, decide to decide, make a decision, because the bottom is where we are most inspired to be decisive.

It’s normal.

If you’re feeling your own personal bottom right now, I know how uncomfortable that is.  You’re not alone. A couple decades ago, I not only hit what felt like my own personal bottom, I rode it like a bucking bronco. I road it until it threw me to the ground and stomped my guts out. I actually had to hit THAT hard, and then do it over and over again, before I finally woke up and did something about it.

Hitting bottom sucks, but here’s the good news: hitting bottom puts you in better shape than you think. Why? Because although it sucks, it’s where magic happens. It’s where we humans make our most powerful decisions. Decisions are powerful creators.

The bottom is different for everyone. It’s that place where you feel lost, confused, don’t know where to go from here. You might feel it after the loss of a job, or a home, a partner, or a loved one. You might feel it because of an accident, or ill health, or some other unwanted experience that makes you feel like you’re at the bottom of a deep well. It doesn’t have to be a specific experience, it can be feeling fed up with yourself, or a moment in time when you think you can no longer go on as you have been. You might say, “I can’t take it any more!” or, “This has got to stop! Now!” or, “I can’t go on like this!” or, “Why do I always do this?!” Or you may feel like you’re walking a winding road to nowhere, or descending into despair and depression. You may feel intolerable pain, grief, or powerlessness.

You want things to be better. You NEED things to be better. You need a change. You just don’t know how to make it happen. Maybe you’ve tried, a lot, but it’s done little or no good. You may be wondering if you will ever be happy, if you will ever feel in control of your life. If things can ever be different.

Do you want to be one of those people who wakes up every morning happy to be alive? Do you want to feel inspired, excited by and about life? Do you want to feel you hold your destiny in your own hands, not a slave to someone else’s agenda? You may be beating yourself up for not having figured yet how to get there.

If this sounds like you, I want you to know something. Something important. I want you to know that you’re in luck. That’s right. I say luck, and what I mean is, if you’re feeling you’re hitting bottom, then you’re in THE most powerful place you’ll ever be.

Truth (with a capital T): THE BOTTOM IS A MAGICAL PLACE WHERE YOU CAN PUSH OFF AND RISE QUICKER THAN IF YOU’D NEVER TOUCHED IT.

I’ve know a lot of people who started out depressed, in despair, and then turned their life around. There’s no better place from which to rocket to the top. And why is that? Because there is nothing that motivates change more than feeling you’ve hit bottom. Nothing focuses your attention so much. Look around. You see it all the time. Going from rags to riches is easier than going from meh to wherever. So take heart, and laser your focus, and watch what happens.

If you’re reading this, and it’s not you who feels the bottom rising fast towards you, but a loved one, then know this: You may feel a sense of responsibility watching a love one’s descent. Like a spotter for a deep sea diver, you watch with fear: fear the diver will touch bottom, fear you aren’t holding the tether tight enough. Ass the diver dives, you jerk on the tether, drawing the diver up just enough so the they don’t reach the bottom, where epiphanies happen. You expect the diver to climb back up the tether, but they rarely do. A diver may need to feel that bottom, needs something to push off of in order to rise. Don’t allow your fear to rob the diver of their epiphanies. Don’t hold the diver dangles in agony, inches from the bottom, flailing around in the darkness.

As loved ones, we can learn how to be good spotters for the diver, without robbing them of the experience of finding the treasure at the bottom. A good spotter keeps an eye on the tether as the diver descends, questions the descent, but if the diver is determined to go there, the spotter allows the diver to feel the force of the bottom on his feet, and then reaches out a hand to help the diver rise when they decide to push off for the surface. If they don’t push off, then the spotter can reel them in against their will, but to do so before the diver feels the bottom usually results in the diver going down again. To deny the diver the experience of touching the bottom out of fear is to deny the diver the opportunity to choose change, to choose life, to choose to rise to the surface and survive. To deny any diver that is hell-bent on reaching the bottom, the experience of feeling the bottom usually only causes the diver to struggle harder and harder to reach it. If this sounds cruel to you, to allow the diver to descend until they choose to come back up, think about all the success stories you’ve ever heard about people who turned their life around after hitting bottom. (Robert Downey Jr.; Walt Disney; Tim Allen, who famously said, “Sometimes you have to hit bottom to know where to go.” Just to name a few).

The bottom is where you find compassion and humility. The bottom causes one to really focus and take responsibility. The bottom is where one learns how to simplify, to let go of what’s not working. The bottom is where one’s greatest wisdom is born, and one’s greatest depth and courage.

So, if you are feeling your bottom right now, you can reach for relief in the simple act of focusing on gratitude. Make a list of what you are grateful for, right now, in this moment. Read the list. Read it again. Add to it. Keep adding to it. Now you are pushing off the bottom and moving upward.