“Bob? He’s doing great now. He finally made the changes he needed to make in his life. He had to – he hit rock bottom. His addiction nearly killed him, but after losing his house, car, job, and family when his wife couldn’t take it anymore, he decided enough was enough and he reached out for help. After joining a 12-step program and going through the arduous process of recovery, he has come out the other side as a better man than he ever way before. It’s a shame that he had to lose everything, but he needed to hit rock bottom before he realized that he needed to change.”
Bob is made up, but we all know a Bob. You probably have a close friend that is a Bob. You might even have a Bob that you had to cut out of your life because of his previous actions. The Bobs of this world deserve all of the praise that they receive and more – turning around your life when you’ve bottomed out isn’t easy, and those that complete their transformation are often stronger willed than those of us that haven’t ever had to dig out that far.
But you don’t have to be Bob to make the changes in your life that you know you need to make. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to change your alcohol consumption patterns. You don’t have to lose your family to recognize how valuable they are in your life. You don’t have to get thrown in jail to know that stealing is bad. Popular opinion these days is that you must hit your rock bottom in order to make changes in your life. I disagree with that sentiment, and I’m walking the walk.
In fact, many people don’t hit rock bottom before they make necessary changes in their life. Many of us recognize negative and destructive patterns in our lives well before we reach bottom, and often well before we even want to make a change. How many smokers say “I know I should quit smoking, but I’m just not ready yet”? How many alcohol drinkers think that they should cut back their consumption – not quit entirely, and not maintain their current levels, just lower their average intake? How many people want to get out of their gang/church/job/relationship but don’t feel like they are ready to make that change? What about dietary, exercise, or spiritual goals that slowly get pushed to tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year over and over? I’ve known plenty, and was in a similar state in my life recently.
We convince ourselves that since we aren’t at rock bottom yet, things aren’t that bad. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but the important lesson here is that you don’t need to be at rock bottom to make the changes you desire in your life. Perhaps you are in an ok job, as I was 3 years ago. I was working at a law firm, pushing papers as an administrative assistant. I was making good money, the work wasn’t that hard, and I had paid vacation and an overall decent life. But I knew then just as clearly as I know now that it was not the path for me, and the longer I kept on that path the longer I put off being on the path I wanted to be on. I went for an abrupt change, utilizing the BS notion of a New Year’s Resolution: The first day back to work after the holiday, I turned in my resignation. I hadn’t saved up much money, I was only vaguely aware of what my next step would be, but I knew that every day I stayed working at the law firm kept me from getting to where I actually wanted to be in life.
I recently completed another non-rock bottom change – or I suppose I’m still in the middle of it, but I’ve already burned the bridges on my past situation. Concerned with my listless, apathetic approach to my life in Denver, I decided another change was needed before I hit rock bottom (I was perhaps closer this time, as my bank account was just about dry and my bills were overdue, but I wasn’t quite at the bottom yet). In this case (detailed in my previous blog post), I reached out for help to a friend that I trusted. I made a move, I made a lifestyle change, and I made a mindset change. I substituted waking up early for sleeping in late, exercise for drugs, and hard work for just getting by. I’m already reaping the rewards of this change, and I didn’t have to sleep in a gutter covered in my own puke to get there. All I had to do was say “I know that I’m not happy with this life, it is time to change it.”
If you intuitively know in your mind that you aren’t getting what you want out of your life, don’t feel like you have to continue down your path until you hit the point of no return. If you think you drink too much, you don’t have to make a big deal out of it and announce to the world that you are quitting alcohol – just decide that you are going to listen to yourself and take action, and drink less or not at all. If you smoke and you know that it is horrible for you (yes, you know it), just smoke less or quit. You don’t have to make an announcement, or a promise to a friend, or read tons of books. If you want to start eating healthier, go to your kitchen and just throw away all the junk food – even if you bought it yesterday. If you want to start exercising, stop reading this blog post right now and go for a run. You’re much stronger than you think – just do what you know is right. If you are unhappy in your job/relationship/life/etc., you know the changes that you should make, so go ahead and make them. You’ll survive, I promise.
This, of course, may seem simplistic to you if you are caught in an inherently complex situation. How does the bartender drink less? It is his job to know about alcohol, so how can he curb his own consumption? Simple – drink less. How can the woman in an abusive relationship with no familial support get out? Simple – leave. How can the 2 pack/day smoker quit their addiction, one that is hardwired in their body chemistry at this point? Simple – quit smoking. There are support groups, shelters, doctors, and complete strangers that will pick you up, hold your hand, and make sure you can get through the change. All you have to do is make the change, and the pieces will fall in place.
Are you wanting to make a change in your life, and you’re scared/worried/not ready/anxious? Just do it, and reach out for all the help you need. Do you need someone to hold your hand as you move your belongings out of the house you have shared with an abusive partner for years? Ask. Do you need encouragement to quit smoking, or start exercising? There are millions of people that will help. Do you lay awake at night, knowing you aren’t reaching your full potential? Get up, start reaching it, and people will be drawn to your ambition.
In fact, 3am is a great time to make life changes, because why not? Throw out your last pack of cigarettes. Start your blog. Go for a run. Call your parents and tell them that you are moving to New York City, and you’re doing it tomorrow, and that you’ll figure it all out. Or don’t – and have another sleepless night, wondering when you’ll hit rock bottom, so you can finally make that change.