Hitting Bottom

by Bill Brenner on May 2, 2010

The author didn’t hit rock bottom before he got help. He hit several bottoms.

Mood music for this post: “Coma White” by Marylin Manson:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQPJYnr48yU&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

You’ve heard a million variations of the story from people who have battled depression and addiction. At some point they hit bottom and have that moment of clarity when they realize they have two choices: Get help or die.

Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue’s moment of truth was in December 1987, when a dose of heroin left him clinically dead for minutes until an EMT plunged a needle into his chest and got the heart pumping again.

People ask me all the time about my big moment. The answer is that there wasn’t that one dramatic moment of hitting bottom.

It was more a series of bottoms. It was a multi-staged crash.

One crash was a couple months after my best friend took his life. I was binge eating with more zeal than ever, and I don’t think I cared at that point if my heart gave out. I was too crushed to care much about anything.

I had just been handed the job of editor for the Lynn Sunday Post, a paper that was already dying. I would be its pallbearer. The job included double duty as a writer for North Shore Sunday. I worked 16-hour days, six days a week.

Work was all I had at that point. Erin and I were engaged (realizing life is too short, I proposed a month after Sean died), but I was still trying to please my masters, so work came first. On Sundays, my only day off, I was sleeping through the entire day.

By the summer of 1997, I realized I had to push back or end up in an institution somewhere. Fortunately, my boss at the time saw that I was physically deteriorating and stepped in.

In December 1998, I was 285 pounds and collapsing under the weight. My father was too, and wound up getting quadruple bypass surgery. That was another slap in the face to warn me that I had to clean up. I lost 100 pounds, though I did it through unhealthy means that would explode in my face several years later.

In late 2001 I realized that I was never going to please the managing editor I worked for at The Eagle-Tribune. He was forcing me to be the type of manager I didn’t want to be — an asshole. So I told him I was going higher up the food chain to get reassigned. And that’s what I did. They put me back in the night editor’s chair, which helped for a short time.

By late 2004 I was out of The Eagle-Tribune and in a job I loved. But I was putting enormous pressure on myself and the physical toll was showing. All my personality ticks were in overdrive: the obsession with cleanliness. The paranoia over my kids’ safety. A growing sense of fear that kept me indoors a lot.

That was probably the deepest bottom to date, the one that made me realize I needed to get help from a therapist; help that led to my OCD diagnosis.

The next bottom was in late 2006, when I had developed many of the mental health tools I use today. But my brain chemistry was such a mess I couldn’t get past the fear and anxiety attacks. That’s when I decided to try medication, which has worked far better than I ever thought possible.

The last bottom was in the summer of 2008. I was finally finding some mental stability, but I surrendered to the binge eating during therapy and was back up to 260 pounds. And it was hurting my health in a big way. I kept waking up in the middle of the night, choking on stomach acid. I couldn’t find clothes that would fit me. I was getting depressed again.

And so I started checking out OA and by October was headlong into my 12-Step Program of Recovery.

I immediately dropped 65 pounds, and have maintained the same healthier weight of 198 pounds for more than a year.

All these events were bottoms.

I hit bottom for different things.

Hopefully, I’m done.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

nanjcsy May 2, 2010 at 2:06 am

yeah, there are many stages of hitting bottom, i agree. my big one was sitting on the couch with Mark, i was 90 lbs, always twitching and shaking, my skin had a nice blue tinge to it.
Mark turned to me and said,”Mom, i know the Hunt Center i go to when i am sick is only for kids. But i know the workers there really well. Maybe if i talk to them they can let you stay there for a little while. You are sick Mom and need to go into a place for help.” When your autistic, bipolar nine year old son thinks you need to go into a psychiatric unit,its time to reevaluate your life choices.

BabyLove64 May 3, 2010 at 4:51 am

this is great (:
Sometimes hitting rock bottom is the best thing that can happen to us though, sometimes we’re in such denial about whats going on around us that its the only way we open our eyes to whats REALLY happening.

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