Hitting Rock Bottom, 3 Lessons Learned from Below

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Hitting Rock Bottom

This is a guest post about hitting rock bottom by Chris Grimm. Let him know what you think in the comments!

Every person has a time in his or her life where everything seems to just go to shit. There may be a giant build up that ignites from one catalyst or they slowly sink into it as if they’re in quicksand. You eventually go to what is known as “Rock Bottom.” The good news is that you can come out on the other end a much better person if you are self-reflective.

My experience was a giant build up and with a huge explosion that was followed by what the worst period of my life to date. I had a friend who I considered my brother. He had introduced me to my first girlfriend, taught me everything I know about business, and we shared many amazing times.

I would have done anything for him and I’d rather have lost my left arm than part ways with him. What happened?

I was an obnoxious douchebag that took him for granted and we gradually grew apart. Tensions built up although I hardly noticed it. Eventually, he stopped returning my calls.

Now he had my attention. After weeks of this he finally picked his phone up one day. At the time I assumed it was his fault and launched my verbal blitzkrieg.

“Why aren’t you answering me? What’s going on? WHY are you being a douchebag?” I was about to get torn a new one. He responded, “Chris you can be so annoying at times that I just want to punch you.” Then he began to listen all the reasons why he wanted to assault my face. In short I was being a terrible friend and I was unaware of it.

At the time I assumed it was a fight and we’d go back to being the best of friends. We both agreed to meet to talk before he moved – I wanted to make amends and not have a good friend move while angry. Once again, I was wrong. He sat me down and basically said, “This friendship is over.”

The stages that followed were hard. Initially I had disbelief, followed by an extreme anger. Last was sadness, like I lost a family member. Now, it’s just a melancholy feeling that I could be so stupid as to mess this up.

Whilst all this was happening, life moved on. My good friends Xavier and Andre both moved. Andre deployed to Japan with the Navy and Xavier moved hundreds of miles away. In a few weeks I lost three of my best friends.

Welcome to Rock Bottom.

In the months that followed my life was a downward spiral of depression. I drank too much. I gained 30 pounds. I got cut from my college wrestling team. I neglected school and was put on academic suspension. My successful contracting company directory and my blog failed. This was me hitting rock bottom.

Eventually, I clawed my way out with the help of my friends in ROTC and a good friend named Steve. I went through Hell and came out on the other side with the following lessons learned from hitting Rock Bottom:

1. People are always trying to tell you something, make sure you pay attention

Looking back, I missed a whole lot of signals of the impending storm. If I had paid attention, maybe we’d still be friends to this day. Whether or not they say it with words, you can always tell what a person is thinking. Make sure you listen.

If you pay attention and start to see these signs you shouldn’t ignore them. Don’t proceed as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Sit down with this person and have a talk. Stay civil and don’t yell at them. Maybe you can still work this out.

Some signs may not be so obvious. Your friends may stop going out of their way to hang out with you when they used to do so all the time. That’s a sign (unless they’re genuinely busy.) Others may be more obvious such as their tone of voice or the words they decide to use.

2. You need to maintain self-awareness at all times

Number two ties directly into rule #1. Nobody is perfect; we all have something we can improve on. Always keep an eye on your actions and ask what could be consequences of them. Have the self-control to stop you from being an ass.

If this is too much, have a friend who can be an accountability buddy. Whenever you start to act up, have them call you on it. This takes a lot of trust, but it will work in building your self-awareness.

Immediately after the mess with my friend, I sat down with my friend Steve and talked to him. We talked about my main faults at the time, which seemed to be affecting all of my relationships. My almost narcissistic need for attention, a newfound quick wittedness that let me tease everyone around me to an unhealthy degree, and a predisposition to gross exaggeration.

Over the next few months I asked all of my friends to help keep me honest – they called me on my faults. If I became too validation seeking I’d receive a text on my cell phone, so they wouldn’t embarrass me in front of the group. They’d let me know if I was being a douche in my relentless teasing of whomever I was talking to at the time.

They’d call me on anything that seemed remotely exaggerated. I went so far as to seek professional help from my friends who run self-help companies as to advice on how to fix these flaws. Without all this help from my friends, I doubt I’d have fixed a majority of these problems.

3. You need to be hitting rock bottom to rise to the top

In the TV show “The Wire,” a character is seen at a support group for people addicted to heroin. He steps out of the crowd in front of everyone and publicly proclaims he wants to get clean. He speaks to the leader of the club, a former heroin addict himself.

This man states, “You need to see the bottom coming up at you fast before you can change yourself”.

This is entirely true. In order to stop a downward spiral, you need to hit the bottom or at least be aware of the fact that you’re headed down a bad path. Only then can you gather yourself together and rise back up.

You come back like a Phoenix. You will rise from the ashes as a better, stronger, and much wiser human being if you work towards becoming a better person.

Since this incident with my friend, I went from a hugely obnoxious asshole to a much more reserved and compassionate person. I’m by and large the same person, except for a few key changes.

That was my story of hitting rock bottom. Talk about yours below, and any lessons you learned from it!

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Chris Grimm

Chris Grimm is a freelance writer at Chris Grimm SEO Writer - a site dedicated to providing high quality content that readers and search engines love. Chris is a martial arts enthusiast, aspiring world traveler, and admitted terrible (but enthusiastic) dancer.

Latest posts by Chris Grimm (see all)

32 responses to Hitting Rock Bottom, 3 Lessons Learned from Below

  1. Here’s the thing about rock bottom. Sometimes you think you’ve hit it hard . . . only to find out later that you had merely landed on a happy little ledge high atop the cliff.

    So high up you couldn’t even see the bottom.

    I’m all for the idea of rising from the ashes like a Pheonix. Of redemption after hitting rock bottom. But we’d best remember that rock bottom isn’t some defined place. It’s ever changing. What’s rock bottom to you now might be considered good times a decade from now.

    I think it best to keep perspective and know that we can change at any time. We don’t need to wait for rock bottom. We probably wouldn’t even know we hit it. Now is always the best time to make changes.

    Cheers!

    • Hey Trevor,

      That does make loads of sense. Everyone has a different “Rock Bottom”, and some people may not change. You have to keep everything in perspective and not wait to hit the bottom before attempting change – although I think drastic life events can generally be what prompts a person to change.

      Cheers bro!

    • I don’t think it matters where someone’s actual rock bottom is but as long as they feel they’re there. In that moment of quiet desperation, they reflect and say, “Shit, I need to change.” That realization brings more and faster change than times where you just feel like getting better. I do agree that you may not have to hit that point before changing. It’s definitely possible at anytime.

      • Yes, I like that this scenario also says either you hit rock bottom or you find it in yourself to admit you have to change for the better before things get worse.

        • Both work well. It’s a matter of perspective. What seems or feels like rock bottom to one person may feel like a minor setback to another. Resilience is important but it still is subjective.

    • Hi,

      Whilst we always have a choice, hitting rock bottom is a conclusion to how they are currently seeing their position in the world and the very nature of their metaphorical statement suggests they are in pain (if you need added confirmation, land on a rocky piece of land from a height and see how you feel).

      The notion of seeing it from a different perspective and in 10 years time might be considered good times is a very mindful mindset and unlikely to be possible for them in that state. It is like asking a person who’s house has just burnt down how they’d like their front room to be decorated when they are rehoused. Useful at some point but not when the emotion is still raw.

      People when they hit rock bottom inevitably reach a cross roads where 2 possibilities can occur;

      – it can act as a threshold that propels them to do things they’ve never been able to do before (look at the various cases of obese people who suddenly are successful in weight loss).

      – They developed learned helplessness and set up shop there declaring themselves a victim and over time become alone.

      Mindset is a skill set and a lot easier to develop before ‘rock bottom’ occurs!

      Thanks

      Aaron Morton

      The Confidence Lounge in

  2. Welcome back to Self Stairway, Chris! Thanks for contributing again. :)

  3. Hitting rock-bottom may suck, but it is definitely important step in taking action. Someone’s absolute, “rock-bottom” may change from person-to-person, but it is the essential point at where someone can and will affect positive change. In that way, over the long-term, is a good thing, because it is impetus for becoming a better person. As you mentioned, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.

    SJ

    • I agree, SJ, that rock bottom is subjective. I like Chris’ quote that he pulled from The Wire because the character mentions seeing it coming at you fast. You can interpret that as you’re very near and pretty much there already or realizing that you’re falling which opens your eyes. It’s definitely possible to have that defining moment in both times.

  4. Chris, I am so glad to hear how you turned things around. It is very hard to have someone else call you on your faults, and I commend you for doing that! I have a husband who, though he is very sweet and kind, was willing to do the same for me (in a very gentle way as he tells me I’m like a Tasmanian devil when provoked…hee hee!).

    I don’t recommend waiting for rock bottom. I was more headed for a life of mediocrity, and it took a health scare to wake me up. I feel that living a life of status quo – just going through the motions – is very similar to rock bottom. You don’t need to be jobless, friendless, and in rehab to be living a horribly unsatisfying life.

    But we all have the power to change, take action, and make those tough decisions like you did. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

    • Hey Tammy,

      I totally agree. Its not prudent to wait til you hit the bottom, but sometimes thats the only wake up call that some will listen too (I used to be included in this statement). Now its normally just the notice that I am slipping that will send me into a frenzy to fix the issues at hand.

  5. Chris! What an entertaining post and thank you for your honesty about you and your former friend. I don’t know what rock bottom is for me and I am certain I have never hit it. And I do not plan on it.

    I think I can live a happy and fulfilling life without having to go all the way down just for a comparison. When I feel something slipping, I correct course right away. No use in letting it slide any further. I’ve been low enough to know to stay out of the cellar.

    Keep up the fine, fine writing Chris!!!

  6. There is a lot of wisdom in #1…whether we choose to listen or not, we are always being given feedback in one way or another. Paying attention is incredibly uncommon, and it can set you apart.

    • Hey Tom,

      Paying attention is for sure a hard thing to do. Most people focus on themselves that they miss all the cues that come their way.

    • Something fun to learn is reading body language. Learn the basics, dabble in the advanced, and you can learn a lot about how you present yourself by reading how people react to you on the subconscious level.

  7. Great insight, Chris. I like the quote at the end about the phoenix. That’s good. I’m going to be basing a whole blog series off this concept of things that have been to rock bottom rising back up. But I’m adding the power of writing. I believe writing is an excellent self-reflection tool.

    • Hey Dan, thanks for your comment! I totally agree that writing is a powerful self-reflection tool. Just writing this felt like I was getting something off my chest that I’d been keeping on there.

    • It really is, Dan. If you told me that a year ago I wouldn’t have believed you. What got me into writing much more often is by spending more money than usual on a nice notebook. I got a Moleskine for ~$12 and I’ll admit part of why I use it so often is because it’s nice and I spent a good amount on it. So when I first got it I felt like I HAD to use it. Now I just enjoy using it.

  8. Hi there, Chris!

    Thx for sharing your experience!

    When I hit rock bottom I thought that I did not need anyone close to me, to help me. I was so proud of myself that I thought that I could do everything without anyone’s help, very selfish person.

    I needed to learn how to be humble to ask for help. I needed to get rid of my proud, and to do that was really hard. I needed to get back to the basics.Really.

    I started to rethink about all of my situation and the reasons of that and how to never do that same mistakes again. Learning from the past very consciously.

    Now, I’m listening better to the people around me, really trying to understand what they are saying to me and the reasons, internalize, think about it and then act. I was never taking into consideration even what my mum was trying to say to me. See how selfish I was.

    I’m not perfect now, but, maybe a better version of me now!

    Despite of that horrible experience, now, I feel grateful for that!

    Lola

    • Hey Lola, thanks for your comment! Its good to hear that you finally pulled yourself out of Rock Bottom. Thanks for sharing!

    • I know the feeling, Lola. My rock bottom was a few years ago but I do remember slowly pushing everyone away. I think a part of it eventually settled in and I became more distant overall. It’s when you realize how much you poison yourself with your own mental pacts that it scares you into something better.

  9. When we’ve arrived at our place where we realize there is no other way, we can do one of two things. We can either accept it, and become poor pitiful me; or, we can pioneer our way into something new. Self-reflection (ah, yes, Vincent) is a must if we’re going to make the changes that will move us in the right direction. Having an accountability partner was very wise: we all need one to keep ourself on track. Openly admitting our flaws is very difficult. #1-People are always trying to tell you something is often overlooked. I’m going to focus on this one.

    Thank you for a great post, Chris.

    • I used to think admitting my flaws was difficult too but I realized that when you find the right group of friends, admitting your flaws becomes easy. It’s all about surrounding yourself with the right people.

  10. Hi, great post! It’s always hard to write about our own problems, especially airing them out in public but it’s great therapy!

    In the occasions where I have hit rock bottom, I always had a weird sense of perverse enjoyment out of it. A sense of amusement because when you’re that low, you can’t do anything else but mock it. At least that’s how I dealt with things. There is also a comfort in knowing that the only way to go is up.

    In theory..

    • Actually, that’s a great idea to humanize the experience by mocking it. It makes you aware of the emotions and it’s an internal call-to-action. It makes you feel pathetic to yourself and you can use that as a drive to change. Although… Some people could feel discouraged then just sit down there for a while. That’s never good.

  11. Wow. We have almost the exact same story. I too had a best friend who I would do anything for before he even asked. I became the overprotective best friend who was always questioning, and being obnoxious. That friendship ended very badly. In the days, and months that followed it was hard for me to pull myself together, and then when I tried to put on a happy face for the public, it always ended with me leaving school. I went through a serious mental breakdown, wound up in a hospital, and then decided one night to stop. I pushed everything inside of me without even thinking about dealing with emotions. Bad idea. Slowly as the year continued, I surrounded myself with new friends, weeding out old ones, building a bigger, and better, support system. With this discovery of new friends, it seemed like I had stopped living my life to make me happy, and just followed what all of my friends were saying. This has ended me up at the wrong college, and completely undecided of my major. Now fast forward exactly one year to the day my ex-best friend and I stopped being friends. I still have yet to talk to him. So, now I am sitting and reading your article, which has completely brought on a new perspective to my whole situation that I have emotionally and physically avoided for so long. Thank-you so much for sharing this story.

  12. I wish that I had read this long before I approached rock bottom. But, then again, I probably wouldn’t have understood it. The same sort of situation happened to me; A long downward spiral that lead to an explosion. I quite literally lost everything that mattered to me almost overnight and knew that I was about to hit the ground with such force that I may never have been able to recover. I told myself ‘THIS is the rock-bottom of my life. I refuse to ever be at a lower point and I refuse to come to let myself hit the ground or I’ll never get back up.’ I quite literally saved myself by changing and I am infinitely grateful that I saw what was coming(I actually strongly dislike tattoos but have had the intention of getting a phoenix for a while to always remind myself of the change). When you hit rock bottom in life… you know. You know because you decide that it is going to be the lowest you will ever be and you make the conscious decision to climb.

    Ever since then there have been two quotes that have given me the drive to succeed any time I feel myself slipping. They go something like ‘Sink or swim’ (which gives me conviction) and ‘Success isn’t how high you reach but how high you bounce when you hit the bottom’ (which gives me desire). I refuse to drown or stop bouncing and I hope that the wisdom of this article helps more people.

  13. I lost every single person I loved before I hit rock bottom. It has taken private health cover and being totally open to who I was before I could climb out of my learned helplessness and dramatic lifestyle to see why I kept losing people. Now I just want to be healthier and work on changing myself every day. I know who I am now and am slowiy learning to forgive myself and change the things about me that have been around since childhood. As painful as my journey has been hitting rock bottom was the only way I was ever going to change. My friends did both me and themselves a favour. Fight when you hit bottom, Get all the help you need. There is a bright future that awaits you.

    • profoundfruit April 2, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Everything I have read in this post I can identify with so thanks Chris.

      I also lost my loved ones, my business and a lot of friendships. My ego was so out of control there was a superiority complex going on of some sort, caused by bad influence and judgment.

      I was humiliated but still lucky to have my parents to emotionally support me in the traumatic times of the crash.

      I spent years dwelling in self pitty and drinking to take away the pain but that actually did make me a shadow of who i was.

      After years of depression I decided to try college. When I first started I was not the confident person I once was. The superiority complex was switched to an inferiority complex.

      Self reflecting is one of the best tools I have used. Good friends are essential. I am now 3rd year at college and starting a new business venture this summer with a good inspiration for success.

      I eventually learned to forgive myself after all those years. I was 21 when I hit rock bottom, I am now 27.

      Never give up x

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