There’s only one way left to go — UP!
Alcoholic’s Anonymous is noted for using the phrase “hitting your bottom” when referring to the place that someone struggling with alcohol gets to before they are able (or willing) to reach out for help. Many other therapeutic centers also use the phrase. It has become a part of the lingo when ministers, healers, and service providers talk about the experience of getting to your lowest point in order to reach out for help.
Hitting the bottom is a tough experience and so many of us resist the work that it is supposed to do. So, unless you’ve never experienced the “bottom” it’s hard to understand why it can be the best thing that ever happens to us.
Being the inquisitive kind I wanted to know where the phrase came from — who coined it? What I discovered is nothing less than enlightening. The term “rock bottom” has to do with bedrock, the layer of solid rock that exists way beneath the soil. “Rock bottom” started out as a simple synonym for “bedrock” in the mid-1800’s, mostly in the context of mining. Once a miner or prospector hit “rock bottom,” the quest for water, gold or whatever was stymied, at least until advanced power drilling techniques were invented. “Rock bottom,” like “bedrock” itself, soon became a metaphor for reliability and loyalty, as seen in an 1866 citation from the Oregon State Journal referring to a “rock-bottom Democrat.” The use of “rock bottom” to mean “lowest possible” followed soon after, as evidenced by a Dakota newspaper advertisement of 1884 offering “Boots, shoes and rubbers in great variety and at rock-bottom prices.” (source: http://www.word-detective.com/030698.html)
WOW! What a different perspective. Imagine that the entire process of getting us to our bottom is that it is a journey, a quest for that “water” or “gold” within us! Now that takes in an entirely new concept. There is indeed gold inside each of us and it is impeded by a multitude of forces blocking the flow of the water, the oil, the gold, the “whatever” that is our authentic true self. So, when we are on the way to hitting our “bottom” we are on the way to tapping in to the very essence of life within us. Many times that journey is painful and we feel as if we will never be able to move into a new place. But the reality is that this is the best journey any of us can take.
When we see someone struggling in life, we can offer them hope and encouragement knowing what the process is working to achieve. Think about this and let it sink in.
When you are flat on your back the only thing you can see is what is up above
Many years ago I lived with my grandmother for a short season. One day I went strolling through the pastures behind the lake and decided to lay down flat on my back to see what the world looked like from that perspective. It was an unbelievable experience. The sky was clear and a pallet of vivid blues and lavender. There were only a few small clouds floating slowly by. I would never have experienced that moment had I not been lying on my back. The moment was so peaceful I nearly fell asleep. Everything beneath that sky was hidden from view and my mind seemed to clear instantly.
Is America on it’s way to hitting “bottom”?
I love this quote by Mary Karr: If you live in the dark a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling. There’s an initial uprush of relief at first, then—for me, anyway—a profound dislocation. My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet my new ones aren’t yet operational. There’s been a death of sorts, but without a few days in hell, no resurrection is possible.
Like the example of the miners digging for gold or water, I believe that America is experiencing her journey to the bottom. It is very dark at the bottom. We are living in darkness in many areas of our society. Our systems are crumbling and when the systems crumble so do the people entrenched in them. The climate is becoming ripe for us to experience a real “rock bottom” as a nation. We can rejoice knowing what lay ahead, an awakening of sorts to the reality of who we really are as a national soul. The light is shining in the darkness to light the way for us to see how the world can work for the betterment of the whole.
The Bottom Experience Oftentimes Serves to Bring a Balance…a Type of Justice
In a previous post I talked about the restorative justice movement and how it began as an effort to rethink the needs and roles implicit in crimes. If we apply the tenets of restorative justice to our lives when we are in the cycle of being made whole it will help us to connect with our deepest and best selves and bring these dimensions of ourselves to some of the hardest challenges we face.
The goal of transforming lives must include in the plan a method of handling our bottom experiences that brings restoration to all involved in the initial journey to the bottom — our family lives, our workplace relationships, our practice of daily living. With this vision in mind we can see justice of a holistic change. It will transform the way we do restoration in our lives and the lives of those we love. If we heal one leg and the other one is still injured we do not walk properly. The goal is to walk properly so we can run and enjoy life.