We all hit bottom in our own separate ways.
For me, it came the morning I found a note that I’d written to myself the night before. I had a vague memory of writing it:
When you read thisyou have to carethat the personwho is writing thisis not the person you want to be.
The previous day had been a re-run of so many others just like it over a period of several months. They all started the same way — with a pit of anxiety in my gut so severe that I had to control my breathing to avoid a puke — and progressed the same way — going through the motions, pretending to be interested in my kids and food and work and getting dressed — and ended the same way, drunk as all hell.
Repeat. And repeat again. And each day I told myself that the next day would be different, that tomorrow would be the day I’d “snap out” of this; ok, no tomorrow was going to be the day I’d feel joy again; no, well then surely tomorrow would be the day I’d remember what it felt like to have a clear head.
All those tomorrows came, and I didn’t.
It’s funny, those lies we tell ourselves. Like the shot of pleasure that comes at the moment of deciding to procrastinate, I found myself feeding off of them each day. That temporary jolt of relief, and the equally temporary buzz of pride that comes from thinking you’re going to keep that promise to yourself — that’s powerful stuff.
Why worry about something now when you can wake up at 4 am the next morning and get it done, right?
Why care what the lady at the liquor store thinks when you’ve made it this far and you’re obviously just fine, right?
Why sweat it when you said today was going to be the day you’d stop, and you couldn’t, but that’s ok, because you made it through yesterday, right? … I’m not sure where I found the strength to write that note, or what part of me came alive enough to do it, knowing it would matter.
It didn’t make sense at first, which honestly didn’t surprise me given the state I was in when I wrote it, but then it hit: you have to care.
The person who scrawled those lines knew there was a strong possibility that the person reading them might not care — that there was a strong chance I’d wake up, find it, and keep up destructive business as usual — and nothing would change.
I needed to tell myself to care — about myself.
I’d found the bottom. It was up to me to figure out what was next. … That day was sticky with storms, not unlike most summer days in Pittsburgh. I’d made it; shaking, but I’d made it. Near dusk the power went out, and my young daughter asked to go out for a walk in the drizzle. We suited up in boots and jackets to splash through the yard. We captured fireflies and found two frogs.
She won’t forget that day, and neither will I.
It was the day I bounced.