Hitting Rock Bottom

My husband and I had a conversation a few days ago about “what it takes” to make a BIG change in life. I shared with him that for me my biggest changes occurred when I felt like I had hit “rock bottom”. In my early 20s I was living near NY City and I was addicted to heroin and losing my grip fast. I was about to lose my apartment and just barely got myself to work each day. I saw what Methadone programs were doing to others — creating greater addiction and dependence and there was no way I would take that path. I did not feel I could turn to my parents nor did I want to. They had their own “rock bottom” at the time and my shame was too deep. I had to face the truth. I was an addict. I couldn’t get clean alone.

Through allowing myself to surrender to “rock bottom” and then the grace of the Divine, I found another way. Removing myself completely from my environment, giving up my job and apartment, packing up my VW bug and heading a couple hundred miles away to a friend who had offered help, I quit, “cold turkey”, and got the monkey off my back, never to return.

I realize today that this is a theme in life, at least in my life, that sometimes I need to hit “rock bottom” in order to surrender, ask for help, let go, let God.  From somewhere in that place of humility I find the strength to go on.

I could write a book just about my experience of “hitting rock bottom”. But I’ll stop with two more stories.

My first “real” Adirondack Mountain hike that I took was when I was in my late 40s.  I was overweight, out of shape, and had lousy hiking boots. As I struggled to make it to the top and back again, in true tortoise fashion (and covered with mud — head to boot), I engaged in self-deprecating dialogue: I hated myself for being so unfit, I hated hiking, I hated my boots, I hated the boyfriend who took me on this slog, and I vowed I would NEVER hike again. It was October and it looked like I was safe from an invitation until the following year.  I threw away my hiking boots in the nearest trash can and started thinking of excuses.

That was a “rock bottom” place for me. I felt defeated and weak. Something shifted over that Winter that I can’t even recall consciously. By Spring I was shopping for new boots and had begun to work out to strengthen my legs and core, improve my balance and increase my aerobic capacity. Over the next year or so of frequent hiking, I was able to work up to a high peak experience for my 50th birthday! All from hitting “rock bottom” and surrendering to the truth;  I was pathetically out of shape and I needed help.

Fast forward to today. As you know from reading my blog I am in a treatment protocol to cure me of hepatitis C infection I picked up as an IV drug user all those many years ago. Being transparent, no longer hiding both the “truth” of my addiction and my decision to go for treatment, took hitting “rock bottom”. In order to “thrive” during my treatment, I knew that I needed help from the divine, my angels, all the powers of the universe. I reached out and asked for support and the prayers of friends, to have the strength to face treatment each day. I pray for strength. All from experiencing “rock bottom”.

Now at about 11 weeks in, at moments I feel that I’ve hit “rock bottom” again. I need more rest than I did even when pregnant or sick. I need to practice impeccable self-care more than ever. That self-care changes on a daily basis, because my needs seem to change on a daily basis. I never know what to expect. Being fluid, surrendering and “going with the flow” and making constant adjustments has been an extraordinary lesson. I’ve been forced by “rock bottom” to give up hiking and my usual training routine. My body just won’t let me.

I have grown so much in just these few short weeks. I relish in leisurely walks with time to explore my surroundings. My husband and I bought our first canoe (having sold our kayaks a few years ago because we preferred hiking). We’ve been getting outdoors while the weather still allows  us to “paddle”. What a treat! I’ve never really “loved” paddling until “rock bottom”. I feel like a little kid again, noticing all that nature has to offer along the shore, in the water and air.

I love naps. I’ve learned that I really CAN live without caffeine. I appreciate the support of my friends more than ever. I love my life, with all its challenges, and am grateful that I can have this treatment that may be a cure.

I look forward to the days of getting my muscular self back in shape. I believe that I’ll be even stronger because the virus that has been there to offer an extra challenge to everything I do will be gone.  I have a VISION of a healthier-than-ever ME. I have a GOAL of hiking with ease a year from now. Both my vision and goal fuel me on the path to full recovery. I can picture myself scrambling over the ROCKS of BOTTOM. Nothing can stop me.

Do you need to hit “rock bottom” in order to make a change?

Have you created a new VISION and GOAL to inspire your journey? I would love to hear all about it.

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8 Responses to Hitting Rock Bottom

  1. Anne Porter says:


    You are so inspiring…I loved your blog about “rock bottom” . You truly walk your talk. I am a beginning integrative coach with a desire to touch others in my own uniue way. You have certainly touched so many in yours. Blessings and thank you so much. Anne

  2. Nettie says:

    This is truly amazing, Cate – amazing how strong you are in living through these “bottom” times, and amazing how honestly you are sharing. A real gift to all of us, a real inspiration. thank you.

  3. Marisa Harris says:

    Cate, I love your honesty. It’s such a good question. I used to always have to hit rock bottom to do what was needed for me to survive. But even then I made compromises. There were just some habits that I couldn’t let go of because I believed that I would die without them. For example, in 1998 I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I was told I’d die in less than 9 months. For me that was rock bottom. I gave up tons of coffee, sugar, white flour products, a stressful yet high-paying/ego boosting career. I took on tons of green vegetables, green tea, meditation, supplements. But I couldn’t (wouldn’t) give up binging and purging even though I believed that helped cause the cancer. I couldn’t because getting fat like my sister and all the humiliation that would face me was worse than dying of cancer. I didn’t give it up until I started doing this work with Debbie Ford and I learned to accept myself. I learned that like you I could share all my dirty dark secrets because others were sharing theres and I saw I wasn’t alone in making mistakes and doing regrettable things. My need to hit rock bottom to take care of myself is unnecessary because of the years at a 12 Step Program. It’s not that bad things don’t happen in my life but I am no longer the cause. And, that is the greatest miracle that has been granted to me. I love you Cate.

    • Thank you, Marisa, for your honesty. I have tears in my eyes your heartfelt share. You are a miracle, Marisa, and I am so blessed to have your love and support. It is also true for me that it doesn’t take rock bottom for me to practice impeccable self-care. I learned along the way that it is a daily practice. Yet, as you know, sometimes “rock bottom” happens despite our best efforts. It is those times that I am most reminded to let go and give my pain and suffering to the divine. That I am truly not alone, that I have friends like you for support, and some “energy” outside myself that is always there, if I just ask. I love you too!

      • Marisa Harris says:

        Cate, I ask myself do I create the experience of rock bottom or is there an objective rock bottom experience? My son-in-law was diagnosed September 15th with a malignant stage 4 brain tumor. Isn’t that rock bottom? My daughter who has already had cancer–a melanoma–is falling apart. Their dog has fleas. She has had to use chemicals on their rugs and is sure that her daughter, Abby, who is almost 3, will now get cancer from these toxins even though she has followed all the directions. I now go into future drive. Abby is now without a mother and a father. I am now bringing up a 3 year old. Am I creating that state of rock bottom? I remember a wise teacher saying to me when I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 13 years ago, that all I need to do in every moment is to ask: “How am I doing right now?” In the present moment, he promised, I will always be fine. That’s the question that always takes me out of the despair of rock bottom to faith and peace. Not sure that I am really answering your question. And I am so grateful that a dreaded-rock bottom-assessment process brought us together.

      • Thank you Marisa. I am sorry for all that your family is experiencing right now. I am reminded of what Debbie Ford challenged her coaches to do this past January, in response to a share. She asked, “What would it be like to have a drama-free year? Can you commit to NO DRAMA for this entire year?” This is the question and challenge that always comes back to me when I feel a moment of despair. If I become keenly aware, remember these words, and allow the drama to flow through me and melt away, back to source to be transformed, what is left? For me it is acceptance of the facts, because it is only from that place of acceptance that I can make empowering choices. The brilliance of our dear teacher, where would we be without her and each other in our amazing community? My prayers are with your dear family. Much love.

  4. Wendy Schimmel says:

    I was also touched by your story. I have had the privledge to be on the wellness support team of a friend/aka “sober sister” who was taking treatment 15 or so years ago. I got to be the Thursday girl. For a few hours on Thursday evenings, I got to be available to do what she needed; do some dishes, cook some supper, grocery shop…. what ever. I got to wittness her surrender to and fully allow the love that was available to her from the others in her life. We would all remind her of the gift that she was providing us, in allowing herself to be cared for. She has now been Hep C free for over 10 years ….. and continues to inpire. – Holding a warm thought of healing for you – Wendy

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