Friday, August 14, 2009

Hitting Bottom

I make no secret of the fact that I'm a recovering alcoholic. I don't thump my chest about it, nor am I ashamed of it. It is what it is, part of who and what I am today. So I went to an AA meeting tonight (People ask me, "You've been sober for a while and you still have to go to those meetings?" Makes me laugh, I go because I want to. You can't beat an AA meeting for pure entertainment value.) and the topic of the meeting tonight was hitting bottom.

This young fellow, a newcomer, attending the meetings in an attempt to build goodwill with the judge before his DUI trial, raised his hand and asked a question. "What is a bottom, really? I mean, I kinda know what you're talking about, but how do you know when you've hit bottom?"

This old tattooed biker dude named Jim, big guy with a silver ponytail and wire-frame glasses, raised his hand to reply. Jim's voice sounded like gravel churning in a deep well. He said, "You know you've hit bottom when the bad shit is coming at you faster than you can lower your standards."

I found that simple explanation to be very profound. A slice of wisdom based on experience that I can relate to. I hit many bottoms, but I always managed to lower my standards further.

I was what you call your "low-bottom drunk".

Thank God for friends and family, or I would not be here to share these insights with the hapless reader who stumbles upon this blog. By the grace of the Spirit I've been sober over 6 years now, and I have a great life. I'm not saying I'm a choir boy, but I haven't had an alcoholic beverage of any kind.

But that's not the point. I'm getting there, though. So, I was thinking about what Jim said, and how I always managed to lower my standards. No matter how bad it got, I could rationalize it into being not all that bad. I was kind of zoning on this and I noticed a guy in the meeting who looked like Harold Ramis, which made me think of the movie Stripes, which made me think of Bill Murray's "Big Toe" monologue, which made me think of my own big toes.

During a couple of very drunken episodes, I managed to break both of my big toes. Not at the same time; separate occasions, separate toes. One episode I remember - a Panama City trip. Need I say more? The other episode I was in a blackout. On both occasions, I didn't just break my toe, I mangled it. My right toe I broke and jammed at the same time, and split the tip of it wide open. Very nasty. The other one, it looked like I dropped an anvil on it, and none of the other toes were damaged in the slightest. No idea what happened, just woke up the next morning and cried like a little girl when I rolled out of bed and tried to stumble to the bathroom.

Thinking of the damage to my toes got me to thinking about all the other damage I did to myself and others when I was drinking. I abused myself pretty severely, and in the process, hurt the people around me. I've done my best to make amends to those I harmed, though not everyone has been crossed off the list. I'm working on it, though.

This time last summer, I was doing my best to make amends to my father. I'd made verbal amends long ago, and he'd forgiven me, as he always forgave my transgressions. But this was real. I was making a living amends to him, by taking care of him as his health failed, doing my best to be a good son. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to do this, and that I followed through and did my best for him. This probably isn't a big deal for most people, but it was a big deal for me. It was growth. I sit here today and think about what a blessing it was to have that time with him, and I'm grateful. I'm grateful to him for everything he did for me.

So, to get back to the point of hitting bottom. It doesn't matter how far down you go. Everyone stumbles in life, everyone falls. Some fall further than others. What matters, really, is how you bounce. You can use the bottom to launch. Find your Spirit and launch. It's inside everyone, this Spirit, and if you look inside and find it, amazing things can happen.

I'm proof. I'm a walking miracle. Bounce, man.

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