“How do you know when you’ve hit rock bottom?”
“When you stop digging.”
Goes the classic adage in the Twelve Step community.
America, are you close? This — my heart is hoping, pleading, praying — might be the storm before the eery quiet of rock bottom. You’ve pushed away your friends, you’re bumbling about drunk off your face on your unbridled self-destructive definition of freedom. The freedom to do WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT.
This is a nation ruled by a sense of freedom that is entirely absent of a true belief in the common good and equality of all human life. This is a nation that truly believes that you can somehow be free to do whatever you want without eventually self-destructing. America, don’t you understand?! Living in community requires forfeiting your ability to do absolutely anything you want anytime. But ask any sober alcoholic, now loved by a community of other broken and beautiful humans getting honest every day, and they’ll tell you, hands down: it’s worth it. It’s worth laying down your arms. It’s worth wearing the damn mask for the common good. It’s worth investing in government agencies that protect the public. It’s worth trusting each other. It’s worth giving someone another chance rather than locking them up. It’s worth getting vulnerable.
What does rock bottom look like? What will it look like for you, America? Are we close? Gosh I hope we are.
Rock bottom is messy. It’s a shit show. It’s fragile and everyone who loves you will hold their breath waiting to see if this, this finally, will be the moment where you choose to turn over a new leaf. And rock bottom is never eternal, immortal, everlasting. One day at a time.
But America, we’re here. Within this nation and around the world are countless souls ready to insist that you can do better, insist that this is not the end of the story, insist in hoping in the story of redemption that could be. Rally the troops. Rally the troops to hold you up as you lay in a proverbial hospital bed, on your proverbial anti-seizure medication, as you finally let the world in. Finally, let down your guard. Finally show the world your wounded, real self.
Oh God, I want to look away. If this is rock bottom, we all better take shelter. But there’s no way to skip out on this breakdown. It has to really be the last straw. It has to really be the moment where the District Attorney gives you an ass-whooping for showing up drunk to the court hearing. “Get your ass to detox. Show up here next week sober. Otherwise, it’s the end of you.” And then you still need to do your time. Justice still needs to be served.
“But I’m a great person who has so much good to do in the world,” you insist. Be that as it may, America, you are only as helpful as your inner healing. “The line between good and evil cuts through the human heart,” as Alexandr Solzhenitsyn so aptly noted. Your inner congruence will be the factor that determines your capacity to hold space for the rest of the world. I see your pride. I’ve seen it in embassies around the world. It’s not all BS. There’s a there there. My colleagues wear their stars and stripes with deep and sincere pride with good reason. You do have so much to offer the world. But, my God, child, sit the FUCK down and do your steps.
Step one. We are powerless over our obsession with unbridled freedom defined as the ability to do what we want regardless of how it affects others…and our lives have become unmanageable.
Step two. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity (perhaps a better definition of freedom?!).
Step three. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God.
Step four. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step five. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another country the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step six. We were entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.
Step seven. We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. (Curious…we can’t do it ourselves…)
Step eight. We made a list of all the persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step nine. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step ten. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, we promptly admitted it.
Step eleven. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
Step twelve. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicted nations, communities and societies, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
* * *
What if every person in this country went to a Twelve Step meeting everyday for 90 days, as is often done by someone on the path to sobriety? Imagine. Imagine.
So, America, let this break you. Let this moment break you. That is step one. Let the anarchy wash over. Let the lines wash away. Let the chaos rein. Let the destruction unfold. Creative destruction will lead to new life. I promise. You’re ok Cougar, stay on my wing.
You will be shaky. You’ll need someone else to write your name for you for a while. You’ll be exhausted as hell. And you’ll be humiliated as you lay in that proverbial hospital gown with those proverbial purple socks hanging halfway off your feet, doctors asking you probing questions about your history of addiction. You’ll be humbled by the reality that you’re not allowed to walk alone for a lap around the ward, that you must wait for a true friend to show up and walk by your side. But we’ll show up. I promise.
America, you let me in as an immigrant, you dared to let me see inside, you showed me your most vulnerable parts. And now that I’ve seen that, as your friend, I need to kick your ass and tell you to stop bullshitting to yourself. I need to speak truth into your life. You are going to need to learn to ask for help. You are going to need to learn from others.
You are going to have to realize that you are not the greatest country on earth. You are just America. Broken, beautiful, bizarre. And we’re not going anywhere.
Previously published on “Equality Includes You”, a Medium publication.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Ruth Jerome Norwich