Ten years ago, pretty much to the day, I woke up in a Reykjavik hotel bed, drenched in a cold sweat.
I had been there on an all expenses paid work jolly up, and had as per usual got myself into a very messy mess. I had the familiar heart sinking feeling that shit had gone down the night before, but couldn’t recall the details.
It took me some time to gather the momentum to get myself out of bed. I needed the loo but didn’t make it, and instead ended up on the bathroom floor retching. I’ve often wondered if my inability to vomit is a blessing or a curse, and have concluded that it’s both, but that’s a whole other story.
Whilst lying on the bathroom floor trying futilely to eject the poison that I’d been voluntarily feeding myself for the previous forty eight hours, I noticed an empty bottle of wine from the minibar. On the shelf in the shower.
Who in their right mind drinks wine in the shower, straight from the bottle?
That was when I realised I had crossed the line
Once the retching had passed, I sat with my head in my hands and bawled my eyes out. Snippets of the weekend came back to me in flashes. I remembered arguing with my boss, and making a complete idiot out of myself in front of my work colleagues.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I’d put myself in unnecessary danger (again) by taking a taxi from one end of town to the other, alone. In the state I had been in, anything could have happened.
I felt deeply ashamed of myself.
I knew that I could no longer just laugh it all off as I had done so many times before back then. If I was to have a chance of making it through 2007, I couldn’t carry on like that. In the four years between my first mental breakdown and that morning in Iceland, I had many incidents that could (and should) have propelled me to rock bottom.
But they hadn’t. Why not?
I wasn’t ready to face my demons before that morning, and rock bottom only comes after pushing the boundaries to the absolute max
I remember being in that hotel room like it was yesterday. After my pity party in the bathroom I had a shower, got myself dressed, and took a long hard look in the mirror. I was a broken mess. I had survived a shitty childhood and in many respects had got through my first decade as an adult by the skin of my teeth.
Yet, amid the chaos of my life, I had met some truly amazing people who I am privileged to call my friends. Without even finishing high school, I had managed to forge a decent and fairly paid career. I had also found my wonderful husband, who I was in serious danger of losing at that moment in time.
Ultimately, I knew there and then that I was deeply flawed as a human being, but I was capable of great things too. I hadn’t come this far to give up, and I would be damned if I allowed my relationship with the bottle destroy everything I’d worked so hard to achieve.
I was overwhelmed with a sense of clarity, and the fighter in me who had given up in favour of getting smashed took over.
Just like that, everything suddenly made sense
I was a weekend bender away from losing absolutely everything and everyone that mattered to me. I knew, sitting there in that hotel room, that things had to change. I also realised, perhaps for the first time, that nothing would change unless I did, and that I needed to change a lot.
My eating habits.
My outlook on life.
So that’s when the hard work began.
Step One: Awareness
It’s so much easier to just ignore our problems and hope they will miraculously disappear, but they never do. What actually happens is they become harder to deal with the longer you leave facing them.
To start helping yourself, you have to acknowledge what your problems are in the first place. Self-reflection can be a bitter pill to swallow, but you absolutely must be willing to do it.
It became obvious to me that I was in the mess I was in because of the crappy things that had happened to me. However, I came to realise that holding on to the hurt of the past was destroying my chances of future happiness. I had all but written myself off as ‘tragically messed up’, but I wasn’t. I just needed to make peace with my past, so I could move on from it.
Step Two: Determination
I truly believe that most self-destructive behaviour stems from being engrossed in the cycle of dysfunction. By getting obliterated we are burying our heads in the sand, and not facing up to our problems. We think at the time that we’re having fun, but actually we’re doing even more damage to our broken selves. In order to start healing we need to surround ourselves with the the very best people.
A supportive partner, real friends or loving family will want to help you thrive and succeed in life. They absolutely, categorically, will not try to sabotage your efforts.
People who genuinely love you would only ever want to encourage your success. If you’re at rock bottom, chances are you have toxic people in your life that are holding you back. You’ll need to identify who they are and either redefine the rules of your relationship, or sever ties with them altogether.
Step Three: Courage
You will have to get to know yourself, and always be true to who you really are. This means not getting swept up with the crowd, and never living your life according to anyone else’s timetable. You’ll need to become a ‘what you see is what you get’ type of person, not someone who changes their personality based on who they happen to be with at that moment.
It’s time to identify the steps you need to take, that will get you onto the path to the life you deserve. If you need a little help with doing this, you might find my book Become the Best You useful. Click on the image below for more info.
I wish you the very best of luck!