They say that when you have an ongoing, self-inflicted problem, you have to hit bottom and realise your life has become unmanageable before you’re triggered to change your behaviour. And you have to hit that bottom hard.
Other people pointing out how badly you’re messing up simply won’t do it. The ‘ah-ha’ moment when you see your dysfunction with sudden clarity must come to you from you, so as to penetrate even the most willful denial.
You might hit your bottom in a nightclub toilet, licking the last remnants of cocaine off the toilet cistern just in case you missed a bit. Or in a gutter outside a casino after gambling away your family’s savings. You might wake up in a stranger’s bed, in prison, in the back of a police car or in a pool of your own vomit. You might wake up in a pool of your own vomit in a stranger’s bed in prison. The ways in which you can hit bottom are infinite.
My bottom occurred one sunny Monday morning in the passport office. I was due to leave for Africa with 11 members of my extended family in 72 hours to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday and my youngest son’s passport had expired.
Mood: freaking the fuck out.
“Do you have a special consideration?” asks the bored middle aged woman behind the counter. She seems to sigh her words rather than speaking them. She does not appear to be loving her life and on that we are aligned. Sadly, we’re aligned on nothing else, especially my degree of need.
“Um, yes. I think so? I need an urgent passport renewal for my son because we’re going overseas on Wednesday.”
“Is it a family emergency?”
“Ah, well, actually it’s a family birthday. My mum’s 70th, so.”
She looks witheringly at me.
I do indeed wither.
“So yes, it is an emergency really because we need the passport in 24 hours. I’ve filled out all the forms and have the photos and everything!”
She doesn’t even look at my impressive pile of paperwork. She is not swayed by my puppy dog eagerness to please. I am in full Golden-Retriever-lying-submissively-showing-my-soft-exposed-belly mode.
Listen: A new how to de-stress’ list is making us… stressed. (Post continues after audio.)
Passport lady is having none of it.
“You need an appointment. You can’t just turn up here and submit your forms. The first appointment I have is tomorrow at 11:25am”
“But I’m here now! And the website says you can issue a new passport in 24 hours if you pay extra! I’ll pay extra!”
I’ve quickly pivoted from eager to begging.
She looks at me.
“We give priority only for compassionate reasons. Like if a family member has died or is critically injured overseas. Do you have a compassionate reason?”
[Mumbling] “Um, we’re meant to be going on safari… to see… you know, animals…”
But wait, she isn’t done shaming me.