Every bottom is different. No, I am not referring to human anatomy. The bottom to which I am pointing is a mythical place where alcoholics and drug abusers meet their moment of recovery. Often it is a place found on the other side of homelessness, prison, and mental or physical ruin.
Finding your bottom is mythical, not in the sense of make-believe but in the sense that is describes an experience of radical change that is descriptive rather than prescriptive. It is a moment in time impossible to predict or impose, and is unique and different for each addict.
To add a theological dimension to the moment, a first century idea common to Jews and Christians alike was metanoia (teshuvah in Hebrew, I believe). Metanoia (Greek) means literally, “to change one’s mind” or “to turn around.” It indicates a radical rotation, turning around on the spot and immediately going in a different direction. Many of us are hoping that November 3rd is a moment of metanoia.
Have we hit bottom yet in this long national nightmare that became horridly acute three years ago but has been coming on for years? In Alcoholics Anonymous’ Big Book, the disease is described as “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” That about sums up the self-orbiting, power-focused, tribalism infecting our national psyche. Like the proverbial frog in the Bunsen burner being boiled alive so gradually it doesn’t know to leap for its life, we have been stewing in our own worst natures. The bitter partisanship, regional animosities, urban-rural economic competition, and long corrosive bile of racist and ethnic violence has risen around us gradually like the ice-melt of ocean tides. It is ruining and killing us all regardless of our partisan or religious culture – taking its toll first as it always does, on the most economically vulnerable.
Here is what I know about reaching bottom: it is only arrived at when we stare into our situation and recognize it has become unmanageable, and that we are individually powerless to fix it. This piece of recovery wisdom from the “Big Book” (page 24) also has a lot to say about our national political turmoil: “The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called willpower becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago.” Likewise, so much hatred, ugliness, corruption, deceit, and lawlessness has taken place that we can’t even focus on a single incident long enough to learn from it. The river of cultural and political spew just keeps flowing and we are carried along in its current.
Clearly some will never recognize the moment we are in. But others, regardless of political party, partisan independence, past voting or non-voting behavior, conservative, progressive, or middle-of-the-road – will say “enough” and vote for new leadership. Hitting bottom is when we have decided there has been enough suffering and we reach out for help. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Democratic-Socialists, previous non-voters – now is the time to reach out for one another and begin recovery.