What to Do When You Hit Rock Bottom

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Making a list of failures is never an easy task. I mean, who wants to look at what went wrong? Who wants to recall the low points? Who wants to revisit the times you tumbled down the cliff and landed at the bottom, broken and bleeding?

I do.

Not because I’m a psychopathic sadist, but because I want to help. Both myself and others.

I believe that those of us who have hit rock bottom provide a valuable viewpoint. I believe failure grants a vision as meaningful as success. In fact, I contend that it is failure — and how we deal with it — that best defines us.

I’ve got a lotta failure to offer. In fact, when I make a list, its length overwhelmed me. It doesn’t look pretty. (And it’s waaaaay longer than the one I merely started above.)

The problem is: I’m not just a list of failures.

Life’s not linear. Nor is our path through it. Rather, this journey is jam-packed with detours, switchbacks, and dead ends.

Likewise, our faults and failings are not ends in themselves (if we survive them). Our failures and losses do not have to define us. Taken in stride, we can, in fact, accept them into our meandering, crazy path, reworking our original map to give them a place in our lives.

Trauma and failure touch us, move us, and change us. They force us off the highway and into the weeds. They even throw us off the ledge to deep, dark places where we struggle to even fumble back.

Perhaps it’s better to use an analogy. Writers write. Novices tend to write and think the first draft is the finest. More masterful writers know this: that first draft is never the best one. It need time, critique, and rewriting. Quality writing is always revised. Great writing always adds and subtracts, rewords and reenvisions. Balance is the trick, tempered by experience.

So to, our failures. We can dismiss them entirely or focus on them exclusively. Better to include them in the manuscript, to let their impact be continually read, revised, and rewritten. Revisiting them during our ever-changing story allows us to alter our perspective, point of view, and plot. Our dark times become part of the story, not the beginning, not the end, and not the focal point. As narrators of our own lives, we live the story, yes, but we also retain the editorial power to continually review and revise it.

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