So You’ve Hit Rock Bottom… What to Do And What Not To Do.

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Man hiking silhouette in Himalaya mountains. Male hiker with backpack on top of mountain looking at beautiful night Mount Ama Dablam in Himalayas, Nepal

Imagine doing something unforgivable. You think others may not forgive you or may be better off without you or knowing what you did, but most of all, you can’t forgive yourself. Maybe it’s an act, a moment, or a way of behaving you’ve adopted over time that’s unforgivable.

You can’t look at yourself in the mirror. You destroyed the idea of who you thought you were, and in doing so you let everyone around you down. You feel like an absolute piece of shit, but you’re still standing…

Being at the lowest is horrible, the true lowest, being disgusted with yourself, ashamed, embarrassed, all of it. It’s bad, but there is liberation in the fact that you can handle it. That fact is missed by far too many today.

Rock bottom, to too many men, is the end. Rock bottom should be the spot from which you rise from. When you’ve hit rock bottom, everything else is a bonus, it’s borrowed time, it’s a second chance, it’s a new beginning.

There’s no denying, however, that it’s painful.

I just watched the movie, A Star is Born, which I would never have actively sought out had I not stumbled upon it in the middle of a song that the lead actor, Bradly Cooper, was singing. I liked the song, so I started watching the movie from the beginning.

If you haven’t watched it, this article contains massive spoilers, so watch, then read this.

By the end of the movie I had a salty liquid streaming down my face, I think they’re called tears. I was alone, smoking a stogie, sipping on scotch, watching what could be called a romantic movie for about ¾’s of the film, getting choked up.

Cooper’s character is a man in pain. Maybe you’re a man in pain. I’ve been a man in pain and I’ll again be a man in pain. He meets a lady – played wonderfully by Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Cooper is a famous singer in the movie, a country/rock kind of singer, who has great songs in the film and they’re now on my playlist.

The famous singer meets the talented but undiscovered lady and helps her become even more famous than him, which he struggles with. As he declines she rises, and that seems to be a big part of the struggle with him in the film, but there’s more to it.

He sees who she is, the best that she can be, but also how she’s acting completely out of line with the woman he knows, which crushes him because he can’t say much about it without sounding jealous, a burden he carries. He knows who she is versus who she’s acting as, even though the rest of the world rewards and applauds her for her catchy tunes and outlandish shows.

As he’s ushered out of the limelight, she’s ushered in, and that he can’t handle, either.

Booze and drugs have been his go to crutch for years and he dives back into them, embarrassing her and – as others tell him – holding her back in the process. Though he knows she’s acting less than she can by creating crappy songs that sell but aren’t true to who she is, he sees himself as a weight dragging her down, holding her back, a weight that he eventually cuts loose through suicide.

Aided, of course, by the booze and the drugs, he hangs himself in his garage, multiplying his pain and putting it onto everyone else’s shoulders. He can’t handle the shame, so he makes others deal with it and more in confusing, hopeless, emptiness.

When I was 15 or 16 I was downstairs in my folks house talking with a cutie I was dating at the time when my mom walked into the room in tears, telling me abruptly that, ‘Johnny’s dead, he killed himself.’

Johnny was my cousin, the cousin I knew best, saw the most, a man who had a kind heart and a truly tortured soul. Suicide was too much, though. He hung himself in the basement of his home, his pregnant wife found him dangling from the ceiling, and his daughter was too young to really know him.

Watching that film brought back that pain, that feeling of confusion and hopelessness and senseless loss that didn’t need to happen.

My cousin didn’t need to kill himself. 

He could have talked about what he was going through, whatever shame or pain he had could have been forgiven. He could have raised his family with pride and honor and I could be smoking a cigar with him on my porch, now that I live in the same city as his wife and two daughters.

We, humans, men, we do some bad things. We do some shameful things. We fail. We don’t live up to our expectations or those of others. We can be very selfish. We can be mean. We can dive deep into pity, into selfishness, into despair, thinking that from an outside perspective we have no reason for being here, that our usefulness is gone, that everyone around us is better off without us.

We lie to ourselves, making suicide the practical and only solution to the problem, which is us.

Sometimes it’s aided – as it is in the movie – by a piece of shit who tells us that we need to be removed from the picture. 

It is never true that those around us are better off without us.

It is never factual that whatever pain we feel or shame we feel or despair we feel is enough for us to end our lives.

Everyone who knew my cousin felt pure pain when he died. They felt as though they could have done more. They felt responsible. Of course, he was the only one responsible, but that doesn’t change the daily pain and thoughts and questions we all have about him.

When you’ve done something so wrong that you can’t look at yourself in the mirror.

You’re stuck with despair, shame, and pain, and now what?

You’ve hit rock bottom, and you can always handle it. It’s never as bad as you think it is or will be.

You’re living on borrowed time, so do more, live more, help more, get out of your own head, get off the bottle, off the drugs, I’d guess that most suicides happen in drunk or drugged states. Don’t put that crap into your body.

Ask for help, for sure, but understand the freeing feeling of living on borrowed time. 

Understand the power of rock bottom, of having nowhere deeper or darker to go, and smile at the darkness, own it, be in it, don’t avoid it or dull it, become it. 

Build something from that darkness. Build a legacy that will eventually bring you to the light. 

If you don’t think you can make your life better, do everything you possibly can to become the man that will make everyone else’s life better.