Bouncing Back From Rock Bottom: Advice From Someone Who's Been There And Survived

by Tony Michaels

You feel powerless to what is happening in your life, and it feels like you'll never be back on top again. You're just along for the ride; things are happening to you, not for you. A victim is all you see yourself as, and you just want out of this endless cycle. How do you hit the reset button?

'Rock bottom' has a different meaning for everyone. For some, it could be surprise termination from a seemingly steady job that gives their lives stability and purpose. For others, rock bottom could mean the end of a meaningful, deep relationship. Jail, debt, injury, loss...the list goes on and on. Part of life and establishing a sense of self is facing adversity and prevailing. But how do you prevail? When you're trapped in that dark tunnel and there's no light on the horizon, what do you do to get off your hands and knees? I'm no expert, but here's the story of my own rock bottom, and what worked for me.

After a couple years of school in Southern California, I stopped attending to focus my attention on pursuing a career in golf hospitality and customer service. I loved the golf environment and figured this was a solid route to success and happiness, so I dedicated several years to establishing a positive reputation in the golf community. Landing my job at the home course of professional golfer Phil Mickelson was a dream, and all was going well.

As a young adult, the temptations of partying and living recklessly in Southern Cali were always present. I was a little more influenced by these temptations than others. Hangovers plagued my daily life, and my attendance at work was slowly but surely diminishing. The beach and drinking became more important than my goals. Finally, one night after failing to take a cab when I knew I should have, I got pulled over on my way home from a party.

The night in jail, the thousands and thousands of dollars being flushed away to courts and attorneys, and a last-straw absence from my dream job resulting in my getting fired all culminated to send me straight to my very own rock bottom.

With no job, no income, no money, no license, no car, and no motivation, I had become what I loved to refer to myself as a victim. Things were happening to me, and "I had no control over this run of extremely bad fortune." This takes me to the first step on how to bounce back.

Take Responsibility For Your Actions

You hear it all the time, and there's a reason for it. Stop pinning your mistakes on other people and step up to the plate. You'll not only respect yourself more, but you'll also start to see a faint hint of light at the end of the tunnel. The most important step in regaining your footing after rock bottom is telling yourself (and others) that it's your fault, and you screwed up; blaming circumstances or other people is extremely destructive.

Assess The Situation And Make A Plan

Is it as bad as it seems? What help might you need? Find a close friend or family member to talk about your situation with; it will help give you an alternate view on something that may just seem like the end of the world. What's important at this stage is that you have a calendar and a firm plan on how you're going to get yourself out of whatever hole you're in. Make concrete steps in the right direction, and start to string together small victories. This is key in re-establishing your self-esteem.

Do NOT Borrow Money (Unless You Absolutely Need To)

Being in debt to family or friends is only going to perpetuate your rock bottom dwelling. Unless you can't eat, or you're living on the street, find ways to survive without borrowing. You don't want strain on the relationships that are giving you life at a time when you need them most. During my experiences, I borrowed from friends all the time. Luckily I have good ones that cut me some slack on repayment deadlines here and there, but I still learned that the strain and stress of being in debt to loved ones is something we should avoid at all costs.

Extradite Yourself From Bad Company

The people we associate ourselves with are arguably the most powerful direct influences on our lives. When I hit rock bottom, I was hanging out with some pretty dumb people, making even dumber decisions. It becomes easy to make irrational choices when everyone around you is acting like an idiot, and that's a fact. Leave these people in the dust, and move on. If you want to be a winner, hang out with winners. Something I've gotten extremely good at over the last few years is hanging out with people who are smarter than me. Seek out good influences, and take out the trash.

Find Something Positive To Fuel Your Life

Whether it's working out, writing, a relationship...this is a crucial step to getting out of the deep end. You need something to hold onto, a buoy to keep your head above water. In a time of uncertainty and instability, a hobby or habit that gives you positive reinforcement is of great importance. This can also be something deeper. I told myself I would be accomplished and successful someday when I was at my rock bottom, and those words still live with me today. Find this fuel, this guidance, and never let go.

The rock bottom I hit was several years back. I left Southern California (not forever; I will be back) to have a fresh start when I hit my reset button, something I found very useful. An environment change is a great way to spark change within the self, something that's necessary if you really want to turn things around. Many years later, I have supportive friends on the right path, I have my license, I bought a car, I have a great job, I'm finishing school, and I'm training for my first marathon. Believing you can get away from rock bottom is awesome, but actually doing it is something special. Having been where I was, a dark place of despair and apathy, I now know what I'm capable of, and you will, too.

When you can't get any lower, the only way to go is up. So stop sulking, and make proactive choices as opposed to reactive choices. Don't let things happen to you, but make them happen for you. Control your environment. I'll close with the timeless words of Gordon Gecko from the movie “Wall Street”: "What's wrong, you guys don't believe in comebacks?"

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