With the New Year upon us, I’m expecting to see some fresh, unfamiliar faces in my meetings. Recovery is kind of like an athletic club that way—come January, you get a big surge in membership.
Frankly, I can’t wait. Nothing helps me more than to hear newbies fresh off their nightmares remind me of what I escaped.
But today I want to speak to the person who is still standing at the threshold. You know who you are. You know you have a problem, but you haven’t yet found the courage to ask for help.
People who haven’t been where you are right now can’t possibly understand how scary this place is. You feel out of control, miserable, desperate. Yet you feel trapped. Your brain is burning up with questions: Has my life come to this—really? What if people find out?
And worse: What if the help actually works, and I have to change?
And worse yet: What if it doesn’t work, and I can’t change?
No wonder most addicts stand at the door of surrender for such a long time, unwilling to consider recovery until we hit some new, terrible “bottom”—a low so low that we become willing to do whatever it takes to get free.
It makes sense that we have to get in a lot of pain before we’re ready to risk change. But there’s a problem with putting too much stock in some distant or elusive “bottom.” While we continue to spiral downward, waiting for things to get worse, terrible things can happen.
Duh, right? And yet, most addicts are genuinely shocked when we have a car accident, lose a career, or end up in jail. Had we really seen the catastrophe coming, we’d have gotten off the elevator a few floors up.
Hiding in this truth is good news about bottoms that’s easy to miss. Even if we’ve lost the power of choice over our addiction, we still have the power of choice over our decision to reach for help. In recovery we often remind each other, “You can exit the elevator at any time. Your ‘bottom’ is where you decide to get off.”
When I first came to meetings and heard all the horror stories, I remember thinking, What the heck? My bottom wasn’t that bad. I could have drunk for ten more years!
That was my addiction speaking, of course. It’s a twisted kind of logic that kills many good people every day. A more truthful revelation came to me later: I could have come into recovery years ago and spared myself and those I love so much heartache!
Unfortunately, many of us have to get sober in order to discover that we want to be sober. Crazy, huh? But until we experience the miracle of recovery, we can’t imagine how it could be anything less than miserable. We assume that we’ll be the exact same person—minus the comfort of our drug of choice.
And if all we do is stop, it’s a pretty accurate prediction.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, I promise. In recovery, we learn that we don’t just need to say no to our addiction, we get to say yes to God—and to a whole new way of life.
I know that sounds scary. Overwhelming, even. But on the other side of that threshold lies the opportunity for a new kind of happiness you can’t even imagine now.
The first step is simply to take the first step.
What are you waiting for?
Today is a beautiful day to hit bottom.