Me in Vietnam
A few years ago, every part of my life was smashed into tiny little pieces and scattered all over the dirty floor of my cold, lifeless, dark, bedroom where the curtains never opened to let the sunshine in.
Everything was completely broken. I was broken. A failed business attempt, many broken romantic relationships, one failed passion after another, a toxic circle of friends, a bad drinking problem, a reckless disregard for money ? whatever could go wrong, did go wrong. I let everything go wrong.
The process of getting out of rock bottom took every ounce of emotion, energy and knowledge I had. There was so much sweat, a huge amount of tears shed behind closed doors, and times where there felt like there was no hope.
Somehow, I managed to get out of this dark place. For that, I?m thankful.
I feel as though I?m very fortunate to have got through this period in my life and I?m hoping this article can help many more people who have endured something similar to what I have made it through.
Sometimes all it takes is an idea, a person or a quote to change your thinking.
Here are the 16 ways I rebuilt my life which you can use in your own life:
1. Disrupt the stability in your life
I found that my life during this time had become a series of habits that I?d repeat every day. The stability in my life was part of the reason I had gone to such a dark place. It was easy to keep doing what had got me there rather than try something new.
When I accepted that stability , in fact, be the problem, I opened my mind to the idea of disrupting every value, belief, and rule I had which was the first step in the process.
Stability and repeating the same habits that have got you to where you are, are often what is holding you back. A new version of your life starts with disrupting the current one.
2. Give a little piece of yourself to someone
Much of what had taken me to this dark place was the obsession I had for myself and my problems. Until I had the courage to give a little something to another person, I continued to stay trapped in my situation.
Selfishness is the root of so many of our problems.
If you can find it in your heart to give a piece of yourself away, you?ll be introduced to an idea that will begin to eat away at the burden of selfishness and show you an important step in rebuilding your life.
3. Don?t try to predict the future
When you crawl into a dark corner and find yourself in a basement called ?rock bottom,? you find yourself spending your days trying to predict the future.
?Will this situation be the death of me??
?Is this all there is??
?Is this it? Is there how I am destined to spend the rest of my life??
These questions all try to answer the question of what the future holds for you. It will get you absolutely nowhere ? other than making you sink deeper into isolation, misery and further darkness.
Predicting the future is a helpless pursuit, whereas, what helped me, was to start doing something that might change my future. Change doesn?t come from predictions and relying on luck; it comes from making a few decisions and trying your best to take action.
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Taking action and making decisions feel as though they are the only two things you can?t do when you?ve hit rock bottom.
They are the two hardest things you can do and they are also the two things you must do. The only way you can possibly do either when you are at rock bottom is to start small ? and I mean microscopic when I say ?small.?
Make one decision and one action that is so small, it seems completely useless. It is at that point where your life will start to get rebuilt.
4. Learn to feel something again
Rock bottom is when you have forgotten how to feel.
Picture this: You hear someone has lost their mother and you are in such a dark place that this news does nothing to you. You can?t shed a tear for the son or daughter who has lost their mother because you are completely numb. Nothing that happens phases you anymore and that?s dangerous.
What I?ve just described is what it can feel like to be numb to your emotions. Learning to feel again is about reconnecting with the idea that you are not the only one struggling.
If all you care about is yourself and your own problems, you?ll spend much more time in a dark place than you need to.
If you can?t feel something for someone who has lost their mother, what hope have you got of feeling something for the child that lives inside of you and is desperately crying out for help?
5. Develop thick skin
Being in a dark place can look like weakness to some people. It can be an opportunity for someone to kick you when you are down.
People may judge you because you let your life lead you to this very dark place. They may make comments about you or say nasty things. Know this: they are only acting this way because of their own misfortunes. The insults and criticism are more about them than you.
As humans, we do crazy stuff and treat people poorly without often knowing that is what we are doing. Developing thick skin is not about ignoring those people who criticize and insult you; it?s about being compassionate for why they are doing it.
Compassion goes a long way when you are trying to get out of a dark place. It brings people who have the potential to assist you, closer to your situation.
Compassion is what can make people want to help you for reasons they don?t even consciously know.
6. Look after yourself
Rock bottom can be a lonely place and if you are not careful, it can lead to mental illness and suicide.
That?s why it is completely acceptable to treat yourself well during these times. Spoil yourself with an ice cream, watch a movie you?ve been dying to see, play a video game you love for an hour, indulge in a sport you?ve been meaning to try.
Don?t be so hard on yourself. You are doing the best you can.
Even though today might be crappy, it doesn?t mean you don?t deserve to participate in things that you enjoy doing or treating yourself.
You can treat yourself through the good times and the bad times. In fact, in my experience, it is more important to treat yourself well during the dark times than it is during the good times.
7. Find a way to do something for someone else
No need to save the world with this one. The goal is to find some small thing you can do for someone else that you weren?t asked to do.
One thing I did when I hit rock bottom was give a few LinkedIn recommendations to people who I admired and respected. They didn?t ask for it, but I thought it was something small I had to give.
These silly, little recommendations sparked many conversations. These conversations were incredibly comforting when nothing else seemed to be helping my situation or making the future look bright again.
Ringing a few random people who I hadn?t spoken to in a while and telling them what I admired about them also seemed to help.
8. Spend your energy taking it day by day
Change doesn?t happen overnight. I know you want to hear one tip or one bit of advice that becomes a superhero moment where you breakthrough, but in my experience, these moments rarely happen outside of Hollywood movies.
The real transformation comes from aiming to make it through each day with one small win at a time.
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Waking up could be a win; not crying for a day could be a win; feeling slightly better than yesterday could be a win; coming across one new idea could be a win; meeting a new person could be a win.
When you layer each of these small wins on top of each other, what seems like 0.00000000001% of progress, quickly becomes momentum that takes you from rock bottom to doing okay, to feeling good, to ?I?m doing amazing, thanks for asking.?
9. Assess which people bring you a lot of unhappiness and take a break from them ? perhaps even divorce them permanently
What you definitely don?t need when you are trying to rebuild your life is people who are holding you back or trying to make you stay the same.
During the dark period of my life, certain friends wanted to keep me down because they knew that I was more likely to be reckless or get drunk with them if I was. This may have made them feel good although it certainly wasn?t useful to a tired, lonely, worn out, unhappy man who was at the end of his tether.
It was hard to face up the reality that I had to divorce the friends that were holding me back and not letting me rebuild my life. It felt as though I was betraying them and when I?d see their names pop up on the small screen of my phone, I could see in my mind photos of us hanging out as kids and going to nightclubs together and feeling like we were on top of the world.
These images were hard to discard when I went through this process of divorcing them. As hard as it was, I knew I had to at least try a few months without them to see if it made a difference.
It turned out to have made a huge difference and became one of the few steps that I?d put off doing for way too long out of fear of disappointing people who didn?t have my best interests in mind. The same might be true for you.
10. Wear your heart on your sleeve
It?s okay if you are going through dark times. Wearing your heart on your sleeve is about being open about what is happening.
If all you do is bottle up inside what is going on, it?s going to be much harder than it needs to be, to rebuild your life again.
Wearing your heart is about being vulnerable and giving yourself permission to ask people for help.
People will help you when things get rough and sometimes all you have to do is ask them. No one wants to see you live like this and if you can find a way to put aside your pride and your ego, and ask for help, you?ll be pleasantly surprised by just how kind other human beings can be. I had many people help me when I asked for help.
I even had people I?d never met before help me in secret because they saw a small part of themselves in what I was going through.
People want to help you. Don?t forget that.
11. Take people out for coffee
There doesn?t need to be an agenda. Coffee is one of those substances that bonds people.
We share stories over coffee; we find solutions to problems over coffee; we meet like-minded people over coffee, and we get out of our own head and get in touch with ideas that our own brain may not be able to come up with because it is exhausted from the struggle.
12. Walk around your neighborhood
Walking is a way for you to get a bit of exercise without feeling as though you need to run a marathon.
The simple truth I?ve realized is that when you are in a dark place, exercise can be difficult. Exercise becomes something that is very unimportant and taking care of yourself can become a low priority. Walking is a simple form of exercise that you can do no matter where you are in life.
Maybe you walk to the supermarket or to the post office to pick up a parcel or to the bank. There is always something you need to do that requires walking. Maybe you park your car far away from the shopping center when you do your weekly food shopping which forces you to walk for a bit.
Walking, during a dark period in my life, was like teleporting out of my own head and looking down at myself from high above the Earth.
It made me feel connected to something much bigger and more significant than my own problems.
13. Get a voice in your head that is not your own
Your own voice can drown out everything else when you have hit rock bottom. Having another persons voice in your ear ? who disagrees with all the lies you are telling yourself ? can be incredibly useful.
That voice for me was Tony Robbins. He called me a liar, a cheat and an asshole ? and we?d never even met each other.
His audio tapes screamed at me and his voice was much louder, more passionate, crazy, radical and empowering than my own inner voice. He was impossible to ignore. The questions he posed in my ear were deafening and there was no way I could ignore them.
Without another voice like Tony?s, I?m not sure I would have ever woken up from the horrible nightmare that was my life at this time.
14. Embrace randomness
Image Credit: chrislabrooy.com
This is going to sound a bit odd. Another thing that helped me was watching walkthroughs on Youtube of Mario Games.
In Mario Games, your imagination is left to run wild and anything can happen. There are all sorts of puzzles that need to be solved and that makes you think.
The randomness of watching someone play Mario, helped me to silence the inner critic for a few hours who was telling me there was no way out.
15. Find something to fall in love with
The gift of writing was something I fell in love with during the difficult times. It was a love for the written word that became yet another distraction.
Writing sentences on a blank computer screen helped me to link up several ideas that seemed pointless and useless in my head, but on my computer screen seemed to hold a different meaning.
You can fall in love with something that is not a hobby. You could decide to fall in love with your partner or children again ? or deepen the love you have for them already. When you are in love with someone or something, you have another piece you can use to rebuild your life.
Really beautiful things happen from people and experiences that we would dare attach a strong word such as love to.
16. Forgive the people who have wronged you
The final way I rebuilt my life was finding a way to forgive someone who had done everything in their power to wrong me.
Whenever I felt alone or frustrated or low, I?d think of this person smiling at me and it would make me feel even worse.
I realized that one of the triggers for me to arrive at the last stop called rock bottom was my unwillingness to forgive someone who may have done the wrong thing by me.
One of the hardest things you can ever do is forgive someone who has unquestionably wronged you. If you can learn to forgive that person, you can do anything ? including rebuild your life and getting away from rock bottom for good.
The crux of this advice is to do something different. You can?t keep plodding along the way you are and expect to rebuild your life. The only reason I ever got off rock bottom was because I became obsessed with trying new ideas and seeing if there was another way.
You may not have the answers, but hopefully, if you try some of these tips, you might discover another alternative.
It may not be my exact advice that helps you, but it could be something you discover because of the process you begin as a result of you reading this advice ? and seeing someone who is just like you, make it through to the other side and be able to look back and see the whole process as worthwhile.
Rock bottom looks really ugly when you are there. When you rise up from the circumstances that took you there in the first place and have the opportunity to look back, it really does look different.
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You realize something absolutely crazy: you needed rock bottom to move forward and go on to whatever that new way of life is that brings you a sense of fulfillment and joy that you never had before.
All I ask is that when you rebuild your life, you see if there is a way you can help 1?2 people do the same thing. That is what really makes a difference.
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