Hitting bottom is the moment of truth for an addict, whether the shackles are made of heroin, booze or food. I’ve been there. You have a choice: Clean up your act or die a painful death that can be either quick or slow.
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.
The whole back story is here.
One thing I do to remind myself of why I never want to go back there is listen to songs about hitting bottom, coming clean and getting punched in the face by the truth. Here are four favorites:
“Cold Turkey” by Cheap Trick (covering John Lennon):
“Girl With Golden Eyes” by Sixx A.M.:
“Under The Bridge” By Red Hot Chili Peppers:
“Coma” by Guns N Roses: