Sometimes I feel like I had too high a bottom. I’ve heard people in meetings say this, too. I haven’t had a machete in one hand and shotgun on the counter next to me as I drank straight from a fifth, threatening everyone with my own demise, begging them to stop me. I’ve never had a close friend nervous about what I would do next or too scared to help me (I think). I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never shot up. Some people call these things “yets,” meaning that, given what they believe to be the progressive nature of addiction, that if they continued using, all those bottoms they hadn’t hit before would surely lie in wait down the road. All the things you haven’t done only remain mysteries because you were lucky enough to stop when you did.
When I start thinking about all the things I haven’t done and thereby feeling different than those who did them, I wonder why. What purpose could that line of thinking serve for me? It might be a means to generate self-esteem by feeling superior to others, but that doesn’t feel exactly right to me. It might serve to give me the idea that I have been more in control over drinking than I thought. That the blackouts and the bad times might not happen again, given all the healing I’ve done since being sober. It becomes clear that believing I had too high a bottom is a way out, and a reason for me to drink. And why wouldn’t I look for an excuse to go back to my addiction? My reasoning may make no sense, but my desire to create it makes perfect sense: I want to drink. So when I start thinking like this, I try to remember how low it really was for me.
To do this, my sponsor had me write some lists like “10 things I would never have done if I wasn’t drinking” and “10 times I said I wasn’t going to drink, but did anyway.” Here are a couple items from the first list:
-I would never have dropped out my window, in the most dangerous part of town, and walked to the adult bookstore, to find it closed, and ran back, terrified.
-I would never have gotten a DUI or totaled my car.
-I would never have woken up knowing I had sex, but not knowing with whom.
I could list hundreds of episodes.
In rehab, I made a timeline. It was a grid tracking my chemical use, sexual behavior, major life events, feelings, and consequences over the course of my life, separated into periods of 2-5 years. I remember sitting on a couch in the fireside room, which I believe must have had a fireplace, but I don’t remember one. It was my first week and we split into small groups during a workshop and one of the guys there looked at me and said “I look at myself and I look at you and I think: you don’t need to be here. You seem to have it together.” I remember that same guy looking utterly shocked when I presented my timeline a couple weeks later, saying “I am so glad you’re here. I am so glad you’re alive.”