Bottoms Up

I’d like to show you what a bottom in addiction should look like.

A man comes to from a black out.

Caked blood on the side of his mouth cracks apart when he parts his lips. His jaw is broken, a two-inch fracture of his mandible bone. With every movement, his jaw twinges with pain, the sinew severed, bone snapped apart like a twig.

He can’t speak. The vibration of sound ripples to torn nerve endings. The swelling looks like a banana is tucked under his lower lip. He writes this on a sheet of paper to his roommate: “take me to hospital.”

The surgery.

Wires cinch his mouth shut. A rod the size of a ball bearing braces broken bone together.

That should just about do it. How could a mind continue to allow such self-destruction? Surely a survivor instinct will enact his will for self-preservation. The man should never touch a drink again, the way a hand will never again test a stove-top after one deep burn. This should be his bottom.

But it isn’t. If he is not ready to name his disease, he keeps digging.


He gets a prescription for liquid pain-killer.

He drinks a week’s dosage the first day. He calls the doctor to refill the prescription. The doctor calls it in, but warns the addict, “Take the dosage as it is prescribed.” The addict ignores the warning. The week’s prescription he filled that morning is gone before he leaves work that day. He calls the doctor for another fix. The doctor says it is his last fix. The doctor says it is clear that the addict is abusing the prescription. The doctor refills the prescription but tells the addict, “this is the last one.”

The addict panics. A week? For that little bottle? The pain could be medicated, yes, but what about the fix? What about the need for that extra? Not a pain-killer, but a pain-slaughterer, a massacre of the senses, the bliss of overdosed numbness, the head-to-heel sensation of complete oblivion?

Liquor won’t go down easy. The alcohol burns and bores through bone. A week?


The addict hordes his medication.

He goes to work. He is paid by the hour and his habits allow no time off if he wants to remain solvent. He wants that. Otherwise, he’d have to ask for help. He has his pride, after all.

He skips each dosage during the day. He bears the pain. He learns to communicate with gestures, and head nods. He keeps his body in a monkish stillness to avoid aggravating the throb of bolted-together bone. He gets home. A whole day’s worth of pain-killer to slaughter his senses.

He endures the next day, only he doesn’t wait to get home for his day’s worth. He takes it down in the company garage after work. He drives home unable to feel his hands on the wheel. The next morning, he realizes, since he can drive just fine on a day’s dosage, he can enjoy a liquid breakfast. Bottoms up. He could float through work and figure the rest out later.

Now it’s the weekend. And he knows Mexico, not a bad drive from Los Angeles, sells over the counter what you have to hustle doctors for or buy off the street in America. Everything will be all right.


Take it from me.

A broken bone doesn’t make for a bottom. Neither does downing three weeks of pain-killer in a matter of days. A bottom occurs when the addict stops digging. When the addict says, “I have a problem” and “I need help.” There is no requirement to recover—from drugs, from alcohol, from phone use, from over-eating, from sex addiction, from internet porn, from tobacco, from Netflix streaming, from social media, from gaming, from gambling, from thrill-seeking, from isolation, from selfishness, from greed, from praise—except for a desire to stop digging.

36 Responses to “Bottoms Up

  • Really powerful and beautifully written, Mark!

  • So sad. To think what we put ourselves through on our journey to the truth.

  • I agree with Alicia, well written Mark! <3
    Diana xo

  • Visceral, powerful, disheartening and true. The disease of more it’s sometimes called and I can vouch for that! Even these days when I’m doing my sugar fixes, I have to have back ups for my back ups. Bottoms never seem like bottoms when we’re in them – until the pain of going on overcomes the pain of stopping. I read this and cringed because I know just how powerful the allure of addiction is. It sucks us of our dignity and life light. It makes us dig in the caves like Gollum looking for that damned ring, and even when he has it, he’s still damned into the darkness.

    Wonderful stuff man. Made my morning.


  • Ryan Michael Sirois
    1 year ago

    Well you summed it up. So well, in fact, it made me a little uneasy to read because it hit way too close to home. The scheming, the insanity, the obsessive tunnel vision. So grateful I don’t ever have to go back to that way of life. Thanks for sharing, Mark.

    • It’s so great to have read your memoir. Now I know just how closely you relate to all this. Espcially with meds! What an amazing and powerful thing recovery is.

  • When the pain of continuing becomes greater than the fear of change, ONLY then will I find myself at my bottom.
    Good things to think about, Mark.

  • Mark Decker (Sr)
    1 year ago

    powerful witness Mark – xo

  • Just keep em coming. The honesty with which you tell your story makes it so powerful. Clear and plain, TRUTH. Love ya brother.

  • Truth, man. Excellence is telling it. Keep ’em coming! – Danno

  • Surrender! I’ve never heard a description like this (digging) before, and I think it is excellent. I am only lucky that my own digging hit bottom prior to striking the land mine.

    • Striking the land mine! Yes! That’s a great way to extend this metaphor. I’m not sure if mine was a mine or not. I’m still here, so I think I missed it too! See you next Saturday HD!

  • Relating to this is easy. Stopping is harder
    Well received Mark
    M xx

  • Very good Mark. Addiction is a killer for many. Thanks for posting.

  • So raw and so powerful. Wow.

  • This was a powerful read. I could feel the panic and desperation. (I could not imagine the pain!) I get too why it wasn’t the bottom. You said it all so well – stunning writing.

  • Oh, another good one, Mark!
    Thank you!

  • This hurt to read, because it was so well written.

  • Absolutely beautifully written. Powerfully executed. Frighteningly very real life x

  • So true, we don’t stop until we sick and tired and ask for help…it’s a long journey!!

  • Had to read that one twice Mark. And it’s a tough read as the behaviours in there are very close to home. Thanks for writing it so well. Red xx

  • Powerful. Eloquent. I am eager to read more!

  • johnny spence
    1 year ago

    Fuck. This has been pushing, probing the internals of your claymore(thx HD) like sub con seeking release. This is probably your best piece (ive read) yet. The style makes it all the more realistic. I’m so glad you got this out, sent unnerving fingers of memory down most of your readers I reckon. And for the new comer, the still weighing recovery upper it might be the story that gets them to commit, seeing their own nightmare staring back. All of the recovery posse should consider telling more like this. Incredible share brother

    • Thanks John. Unfortunately, I have many more like it in me. It’s just a matter of when I can stomach getting them out there. I really appreciate your feedback, though. I need to write about Mexico. I will, eventually. One day at a time, right? Have a great week, my friend.

      • John 2flags
        1 year ago

        Of course Mk, I’m trying to imagine t depth of 8 years. What was going on in your life, the decision to commit to electronic ‘rooms’ as the sober crew likes to call it, and now…. I know you have a vision, the capability to light the touch paper, and don’t stand back, rush in like a mad man,! Something stirs among the under, whine, sickly eyes open for the first time, look. At its eyes. Mmmmmmn check yr email next couple days. And their off!!!!!!!

  • Your writing is visceral….
    oh the insanity of it all at what cost?!?
    Thank you

  • This was so beautiful and striking it almost brought me to tears at the last paragraph. I am on Day 6 today after a year and a half in a 12 Step program and many ups and downs…so grateful to have found your blog.

    • Stick with it! It’s worth it, and so are you.

      • Thank you so much. I’m in it for the long haul- I have an amazing sponsor and lots of support- I’m going to stick it out. I am really happy to have found a place to read about the process in a way that is so raw and relatable. Your writing is perfectly suited to describing the journey- you have a real talent.

  • It’s the digging – the constant digging. I am going CT now with painkillers. I wish I didn’t get chronic mirgraine but I can’t use it as an excuse either. It’s much easier than ditching the alcohol was – maybe because I know I can do it.
    This is a great post – it is the behaviour of the addict that ends up on the floor somewhere and you always end up on the floor somewhere. It doesn’t hit bottom their either I agree. It’s the click. The decision click. It replaces the alcohol and drug click. You just don’t want to do it anymore.

    Thanks for this post Mark

    • Thanks Michelle for your feedback.

      And hang on tight during those withdrawals! What a shitty thing to go through, but what freedom remains on the other side! You can do it!

  • What a great post. Oh… that desire to dig. I know it all too well. Will someone please take this shovel! Your list there really got me. I’m free from alcohol but many of those other things creep up… whispering “you just need meeee.” Even being aware of it, they still can trick me. Thanks for sharing Mark. 🙂

    • Thank you for that kind feedback!

      Naming the demon is a powerful thing. The demons don’t want to be named.

  • Well said.

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