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I remember the time I was raced to the university hospital in an ambulance for emergency surgery.
I was flickering on and off—conscious and unconscious—but I was aware enough of what was happening to know I had gotten myself into a life-and-death situation with my substance abuse issues.
At one point, during a short period of consciousness, I began to cry. I didn’t want to die. I had a nine-year-old daughter who saw the world in my eyes; although sometimes, I really wasn’t sure why.
There were times, however, when it did occur to me that I was alive for a reason and I needed help if I wished to stay alive.
As all of this was happening, I was bargaining with God to give me another chance. I didn’t notice at the time, but I was “hitting bottom.” There is no real gauge to tell a person when this is happening, because the only thing that distinguishes what “bottom” is, is the decision to finally start climbing back up. In other words, there is really no limit to the depths a person can sink as long as they are still alive.
It was entirely possible for me to have left that hospital after numerous medical personnel used everything at their disposal to save my life and continue in my downward spiral. There wouldn’t be anything unique about it at all. It happens every day. It is fortunate for me, however, that that wasn’t what happened.
There are four keys to putting your life back together once you hit bottom. It is a universal truth and it works every single time if you take the opportunity to put it in place. This can be after hitting bottom with substances, sex addictions, unhealthy romantic relationships, or food addictions. It’s completely universal.
1. Know your outcome. Seems obvious, right? All first steps usually do. In my personal case, I wanted to be free from the anchor of drug addiction. To be honest, when I got to the hospital, the idea of having to live without my drug of choice seemed impossible, but I tabled that feeling for a few moments.
I just allowed myself to sit for a moment with my desired outcome. It’s not an easy thing to do, mind you. There is an anxiety that comes part and parcel with addiction, and my mind kept wanting to focus on the physical impossibility of the goal. I just continued to push against that. This is the only way to do it.
2. Take action. I can only use my history as a guide, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to apply this to whatever your situation entails. In my case, an advocate came in the room shortly after my life had been saved and she gave me the rundown of rehabilitation services that were available.
Usually, the advocate is jaded from being ignored so often and the patient just acts as polite as possible until the annoying buzzing—also known as the voice of the advocate—stops. This time, though, I was asking questions and it didn’t take long for the advocate to see that she was in one of those rare situations where someone was actually going to get help. It was a poignant moment for both of us.
3. Notice if it is working—fairly simple. In my case, as long as I stayed abstinent from drug use, it was working. This is going to be different for everyone based on what they are struggling with. Obviously, those who need to diet will have to monitor their progress and those who want to escape a destructive relationship need to keep an eye on their new boundaries, but that’s all pretty self-explanatory.
4. Readjust if necessary. Once again, there’s nothing to it. Take the boundaries, for instance: if you are a person that needs to stay away from an abusive ex, and you continually go back to them, the readjustment might entail a change of geography or an order of protection. If you’re a sex addict that can’t stay off Tinder, think about getting yourself a flip phone. There is nothing wrong with taking decisive action and readjusting as necessary. It could be the only thing standing between you and your freedom.
When a plane leaves New York and heads for California, these four steps are exactly what the autopilot uses for the entire flight. It is often said that airplanes are off course 99 percent of the time; however, with the advantage of the onboard computer system knowing the outcome and making constant readjustments, they always land right where they are supposed to.
It’s a perfect analogy for what we need to do to reclaim our lives after we arrive at the ultimate crossroad: the dark night of the soul when we hit bottom.