Rock Bottom

There are 183 inmates currently residing at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. It's a diverse group, and daily I witness extreme selfishness and fatuity along with acts of unexplainable kindness and compassion. I can tolerate nearly all of the people here, but am fortunate to be close to about 10. These are the men with whom I can re-establish my smartass white boy roots using my only 2 spiritual gifts: sarcasm and the calling out of false prophets. Among these buddies, there is phrase I like to use when observing their lives. It's an inside joke beginning with, "Just when I thought YOU had hit rock bottom..."

I try to save the comment for precisely the right moment. Like when I watched a big time Houston lawyer turned multi-million dollar real estate developer awkwardly slip a greasy fried chicken quarter into a stolen and used plastic bag into his pocket so that he could steal it from the chow hall and trade it for Shredded Wheat, which was essentially all he ate here. Or when I observed a home-schooled, SMU graduate who had a high-profile job in DC conspicuously carry stolen food in a laundry bag from its hidden confines in the outdoor ice machine to the bathroom so he could cook it on a contraband Presto cooker. Both these events were a far cry from leisurely dining at River Oaks Country Club in Houston or a chic new restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. That just made the irony sweeter and our inside joke better. Yes, this is a humbling place, and we might as well embrace it. We have to laugh at ourselves to survive.

Most people know that rock-bottom is a term used in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step groups. It's the place where you realize that your life is out of control and unmanageable. It's supposed to be the turning point where you begin to transition your life in a healthy direction. All the observations make me wonder about my own rock-bottom. Certainly I've thought more than once I was firmly standing on the bottom, only to descend lower and again even lower. So maybe it's not exactly a place. It could be a state of mind, a realization that what I'm experiencing is not at all good, maybe as bad as it could get, even if I caused it. It could also provide some perspective, that this can't be rock-bottom because I've experienced much worse.

The knowledge gained through that perspective has helped me survive this crazy, stupid place. There have been many times when it's gotten to me and I've been emotionally down only to remember that this is nowhere near rock bottom.