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Hitting Bottom Is Beautiful

One of the coolest things about blogging is that it connects me to amazing people locally and around the world. I connected with film maker and story teller Anthony Haden Salerno recently to learn about his film, LAPSE. In short, it’s a painfully beautiful depiction of the spiral of addiction and the inevitable crash of hitting bottom. Best 30 minutes you’ll spend today and a great visual of what addiction looks like for many.

Salerno shows us an upper middle class cocaine addict/alcoholic whose life is overshadowed by the pain of the past and the uncertainties of the future. The viewer experiences heart wrenching flashbacks to an abusive childhood and catches glimpses of dreams being sought. Sadly, we see that becoming what we hate is far more attainable than achieving our aspirations once addiction sets in.

Every child makes themselves promises about what it will be like when they’re an adult. No kid has ever said, “When I grow up I want to be a drunk like my dad.” LAPSE shows the manifestation of a child’s worst fears – in the midst of abusing substances, we emulate the behavior of those who abused us. Some of us bear the shame of having been hateful to others. Many of us were cruel only to ourselves. Either way, what we came to see in the mirror was a shameful and terrifying reminder of everything we swore we’d never be.

Trauma and abuse leave scars that seem impossible to heal. Ignoring, forgetting, distracting, and avoiding failed us all. We sought ways to hide from pain. Drugs & alcohol are incredibly effective toward these ends, but only for the briefest of hours and always at a very high price. When one hurts like hell, relief at any price seems acceptable.

The promise of alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other “downers” is relief from the pressure of anxiety and the ache of past pain. The seduction is simple. We see a bottle or a pill and we hear a beautifully sympathetic voice purring, “Poor baby. Let me make it all better for you.”

The promise of cocaine, meth, ADHD medication, and other “uppers” is the opportunity to be ten feet tall and bullet proof. Nobody can hurt us anymore. We feel powerful and prepared to take on the world. We hear an impossibly optimistic voice declaring, “With me you can take on the f@cking world!”

Ultimately these are empty promises of a force that seeks mastery over us.

The Disease of Addiction is far more powerful than any individual human being. It is insidious, calculating, and destructive. We came to deny our needs and discard our dreams as we became increasingly obsessive and driven. Addiction inevitably leads to the betrayal of self and the denial of love.

The crash of hitting bottom is unlike any other pain. We’re overwhelmed with undeniable evidence that we have completely lost control of our own lives. We are terrified, alone, and desperate. Incredible as it may seem, this is opportunity. This is where everything is about to get a whole lot better or a whole lot worse.

There are no exceptions to the rule of threes: If we continue to use there are only three possible outcomes: jail, institution, or death. Choosing life means choosing Recovery. Ultimately, we move away from being our own worst enemies and toward something far healthier.

Through the process of Recovery, we come to separate who we are from who our disease would have us be. This teaches us who we are not. We are then left with the daunting proposition of discovering who we are and who we wish to be.

“Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

I have spoken with many who refer to themselves as “grateful alcoholics.” This gratitude seems counterintuitive but it is acknowledgement that if not for having suffered addiction, we’d have never become the person we are today. Most folks live their lives without a great deal of self actualization that gets put into action. The transformation of the Recovering addict/alcoholic is real, powerful, and a uniquely beautiful thing to behold. It is the manifestation of a phoenix and it provides a life like none other.

To our brothers and sisters who continue to be adrift in the sea of addiction: We are here in safe places waiting for you to suffer sufficiently, to hit bottom, and to extend a hand toward us.

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