A reality check for when you’ve hit rock bottom in life
I could see her peeking around the corner looking at my daughter like she was watching a movie. This would be Ashley, my partner’s daughter who turned 5 today amidst all the glory that goes along with turning from a toddler to a kindergarten student seemingly overnight. She peeked, smiled but didn’t make a sound. I included her in the group hug because I could tell she wanted to belong. That invisible barrier that we put up questioning our decisions. I can imagine for a 5 year old as rambunctious as she is, it can be difficult to contain. In my soon to be blended family we are working on what it will eventually look like when two adults and 6 kids all decided to blend (more like collide) into a family unit — definitely not the Brady Bunch even if everyone thinks so. A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought this would be possible because I had hit rock bottom and I couldn’t see the end. It was traumatic but I overcame and the more I accepted my place and squarely put the blame on myself, it was easier to lift myself up out of it.
The Trauma of hitting rock bottom
Ashley has a parent, her mother, that is going through addiction issues, mental health issues and a slew of other life issues by which all of it created by mom herself. As I watched Ashley look longingly at what my daughter had it reminded me of the looks my own children gave for me when I went through my own persona life issues which brought me to this point — to love someone so courageously even after my own heartbreak and pain. Whether you have gone through a relationship breakup, a divorce, an illness or some kind of severe trauma — in my case I was separated for a short time from my children it is possible to get back up from rock bottom. When Humpty Dumpty had a great fall one must believe it is possible to put Humpty back together again. These rock bottom moments are what helped to change the course of my life and to breathe new life into my purpose again. I would not wish anyone to have to go through the rock bottom moments but if you do, you can overcome them. I thought this post would put some perspective on what it means to get up from “rock bottom.” I have been hearing people use that term a lot and I’d like to think it means more than just a bunch of fluff. When I think of the words rock — I also see strength. When you hit rock bottom it means that God is not going to let you fall anymore. God will give you the strength you need to stand up for yourself. It’s why the ground is not soft or sticky — it’s solid. You need solid footing to launch.
“I woke up one day and I realized I hit rock bottom”
These were the words that Ashley’s mother texted to my partner. Unfortunately my partner knowing his ex wife and me having dealt with her commotion, upsets and failures were reluctant to believe that should could overcome her rock bottom experience. That was 3 months ago and what has happened is that we have had to re-assess our lives and how we can manage our families while she figures out how to get up from rock bottom. As future step mom I was scared and at one point I wanted to run when I heard that she signed over custody and that my partner would now have sole custody of the kids. She has pretty much spent her entire adult life in one mess after another that somebody else gets to clean up. It used to be my partner when he was married to her, now it’s her parents and in some cases she wants her son to be therapist. My partner and I spend most of our time making sure this ship we are sailing on as a family isn’t going to wreck. We value the place she has in her kid’s lives — when she is fully there, and we step in as necessary to keep them safe and in a stable environment.
Sole Custody and how it forces you to compromise
I have sole custody of my daughter and it is not an easy task. It comes easy in that you don’t have to answer to anyone else but at the same time she misses out on the chance to see how grownups interact and react with each other. How do couples discuss life issues? It was a very loving thing to hear my partner say that he is open to adopting her when we get married. I have always had the resolve that it would be an important part of bringing our two families together and lots of questions in the process. After being separated from my children for a short time I was reunited again but it took hard work and effort. It took the necessary resolve and it is something that I want to share with those of you that have hit rock bottom.
What motivates you to be responsible?
This question is not so insane as you think. My partner asked this of me the other day. In a tone of desperation he really wanted to know “What did I do to do the things I needed to do in order to get up from rock bottom?” I can see why he would have that question. His ex hasn’t exactly followed the custody order and has zero responsibilities or for that matter zero f*cks to give when it comes to being a role model for the kids. She really doesn’t have to worry about what will happen to the kids because my partner will make sure they are safe. For most of his life my partner has been responsible and took care of business. When he was 15 he ran away from home and decided to live on his own. He had hit rock bottom being homeless and hungry. At some point he came back home, he swallowed his pride and admitted he made a mistake. He knew he wasn’t prepared to be on his own so he went ahead and did what he needed to do to be prepared for adulthood. You would never see this man ever do something foolish like that again.
For me it was different. I had to admit that I acted on my own selfish needs. I put myself first before my kids. Along with a lot of soul searching, therapy and classes I got to an even better place than I could have imagined. I reflect and wonder what the motivation was and it was very simple — I stayed busy, maintained my goals and didn’t stray from my destination. I was driven to do what I needed to do in order to be a better parent. These days one of my exes and I have a much more cordial relationship than the storm we had before. We compromised and it has been uneventful since then. It took hard work but it also took a stubborn commitment to accomplish what I needed.
Steps to getting up from rock bottom
- Assess the present reality — We are all dealing with a myriad of experiences, activities, relationships and realities. Take stock of the resources you have at your disposal and the goals you need to achieve. If you are required to do anything, make a plan to get those things done. Don’t try to deny or be ashamed of the reality of your life. Be honest with yourself.
- Be coherent — Be of sound mind and body to be able to handle what needs to get done in order to pull yourself from your rock bottom situation. Moderation is key but don’t get addicted to alcohol or drugs to manage depression. Seek professional help if you need it so that you can be mentally sharp to tackle any situations that can impact your progress
- Obtain cash flow — this is so important. Get a job, do freelance work/contract work and find a way to bring money or resources in. This is very important. A job can come with benefits but it also comes with a paycheck so you can learn to be independent. Without resources or cash flow you severely limit yourself. If you qualify obtain grants or social services to help you
- Do not idealize your end goals or your support system — Get away from the habit of starting tomorrow, starting when the stars are aligned correctly or waiting for something to happen before you get started. Start now. Be thankful if family is helping you out and don’t bite the hand that feeds you. They may not be perfect but they are helping you so swallow your pride and manage what you need to accomplish.
- Celebrate and communicate — celebrate small milestones and communicate them to your support network. Don’t expect them to be forgiving. Let them know and then quickly move on to the next. You dont’ want to get discouraged too soon.
- Become a role model — think of what it would be like if your kids made the same mistake as you. How would you manage that? Your actions should be defined by the example you want to set with your children (if you are a parent) or with anyone you interact with. If you want easy communication then you have to be easy to communicate with.
- Obtain more education — You don’t need a big degree but you can obtain a certification, take a class or apprentice. The more you learn the more you open your mind to other ideas and philosophies. Your chances on getting a better job are enhanced when you enhance your mind. If you dont’ have the money you can get grants for this.
- Focus — keep your energy and focus on your life and your tasks. This is no time to be worried about what your ex is doing, or what someone else is doing. The more you accomplish the more you will feel like a success and gain confidence. You get absolutely zero accomplished when you are so focused on what others are doing. Stay in your lane.
- Network and use it— this is very hard to do but avoid the gossip but network, network, network. Meet as many people as you can. Make it a point to chat with someone and to learn about them to see what you can accomplish together. You need to be able to bring something to the table. See the previous bullets. If there is a skill that others need put an ad out for it, don’t wait for jobs to come to you, go to them. Solve people’s problems for them.
- Chronicle your journeys — — this might be a written journal or a mental note. Create a living history of how far you’ve come. I still cant’ believe it has been three years and the time went by so fast. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish since then.
I was reluctant to take on the female role model for Ashley. I soon realized that her mother wasn’t go to fully take the reins so if I loved my partner I would have to step up. I questioned myself repeatedly and I wondered if I was stepping on boundaries. I just couldn’t leave this little girl’s future to pass. So here I am, stronger for my own kids and on a path of forging two families together. I sometimes feel that the experience I had made me stronger now. That is clearly the result of getting back up after hitting rock bottom.
If there was one book that I would recommend it would be Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link between suffering and Success. It was this book that really reminded me that I could survive anything based upon the tools I was already using to manage the reality of my life at that present moment and to make it out the better for it.