The term rock bottom is almost always used as an idiom to describe addiction. Rehab centers, motivational speakers and famous celebrities like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Dave Ramsey have referenced rock bottom pertaining to both addiction and mental low points in books and interviews. While at first these stories of rock bottom endeavors wallow in despair, many involve a juxtaposition between the worst place one can find themselves and the opportunity to use that place as a jumping off point.
It’s important to say that while I have never encountered rock bottom in the sense of addiction, I have recently found myself at my own personal rock bottom. Nearly every facet of my life came crashing down all at the same time, leaving me numb and more than a little hopeless. Ironically, it was being at that low place that provided me with the clarity I needed to endure that period of time. Throughout my experience, I have realized, as uncomfortable and painful as rock bottom can be, sometimes it really is the sturdiest place a person can find themselves.
My brief stay at the metaphorical Rock Bottom Motel began the weekend after Thanksgiving. After I attended a funeral and was confronted with complications pertaining to my mother’s health and my absent father’s current whereabouts, I felt unstable and incredibly vulnerable. Once I got back to school, and away from my familial strife, I thought all would be well. As long as I distanced myself from my issues at home I would be able to handle the complicated emotions associated with them. I was sure of this, right up until my grades, finances, love life and eventually even my close friendships suffered in such a way that I originally compared it to the dropping and shattering of spinning plates that lost the momentum to stay spinning.
Now, after winter break, I would describe my experience as a feeling akin to the sensation of balancing books on a head supported by bad posture. For a while the books stay put, giving a sense of stability. However, eventually, your posture catches up with you and the books come tumbling down all at the same time.
The lucky thing is, books don’t break. When they fall off your head, you have a choice to either put them away and continue with poor posture, or you can correct the issue and try once more to balance the books.
For me, I decided on the latter option. I took a hiatus from hanging out with friends, stopped smoking cigarettes and started taking time to do things in solitude to allow myself to process the state of my life and the series of events and choices I made that led to the uncomfortable place I had found myself. None of this growth would have happened had I not assumed the perspective of gazing up at life from rock bottom.
While obviously these are my own personal experiences, I think the same concept of rock bottom sturdiness can be true for many. J.K. Rowling quotes rock bottom as the “solid foundation that she built her life on” before the success of the Harry Potter books. Nikki Sixx, the bassist and songwriter for Motley Crue, has repeatedly written and spoken about how he was able to change his life once he hit rock bottom.
I’m not saying that a person should purposefully ruin their life in order to gain clarity and stability through resurrection. However, if you find yourself in that place, perhaps after a tragedy or a break up, know that it does not have to be the end of the world.
If you find yourself in a vulnerable or hopeless place, it may be advantageous to take a moment to rethink the series of events that led to an all-time-low and see what changes can be made to improve your life.
In seventh grade science class I learned that forests grow back more dense after a fire. The heat and pressure forces seeds to spread further than they would without the fire, and the elimination of the old and dead foliage gives new growth the opportunity to flourish. As cliche as it sounds, I believe life can be that way as well. Tragedy and challenges are difficult and uncomfortable to endure, and I know it is easier said than done, but sometimes the destruction of the old can really make way for the prosperity of the new.