Rock Bottom and Back™ shares personal stories of hope — from desperation to inspiration — about people from all walks of life, from celebrities to ordinary people, who overcame insurmountable adversities and now give back to others in amazing ways.
Published by BIC Media Solutions and written by The New York Times bestselling author Susan Mustafa with Earl B. Heard, Rock Bottom and Back depicts the incredible lives of 22 people who hit rock bottom and then came back from profound despair to help others in extraordinary ways.
Featuring celebrities as well as ordinary people, Rock Bottom and Back reveals the tragedy of reaching bottom through loss; trauma; alcoholism; and drug, sex and gambling addictions. This compilation provides inspiration and hope by illustrating that recovery and success are possible through living in service to others.
A companion DVD and sizzle reel — narrated by actor Danny Trejo and co-produced by BIC Media Solutions, Mission Media and YASNY Entertainment — features interviews with Jerry Strickland, Whitney Strickland, Tonja Myles, Stanley Roberts, David Bottner and Billy Rivers, whose stories are highlighted in the book.
“The idea for this project sprang from my own experience,” Heard said. “I have hit rock bottom several times both professionally and personally, so I know how hard it is to come back. I wanted to create something that would show everyone that hitting bottom is tough, sometimes life-shattering, but we can come back to be happier and more successful than we could imagine by learning from those who have faced overwhelming adversity. This book reminds us that we are never alone; God and people who care are always available if we reach out for help. The stories of the people we have featured in the book and DVD are a shining example of that.”
While certainly inspirational in tone, Rock Bottom and Back also offers hope to those who have hit bottom and a roadmap to wellness, redemption and ultimately a successful life.
“The writing of this book inspired me to want to do more to help others,” Mustafa said. “It helped me understand how easy it is to make poor choices when we don’t have the tools necessary to cope with our pain. Each story is different, but all of the stories share the same lesson: Through helping others, we can heal ourselves. It’s a powerful message.”
Those featured in Rock Bottom and Back include:
- Dr. Bobby Smith, a Louisiana state trooper who was blinded after being shot while working a driver’s license checkpoint. Smith rebuilt his life, earned his doctorate and began helping others recover from trauma and grief. Then tragedy struck again: He lost both of his children. Smith’s story shows the human spirit can triumph over unfathomable pain.
- Maurice “Termite” Watkins, a boxer who fought for the world championship in the welterweight division on one of the most famous cards in boxing history and lost. Watkins succumbed to cocaine addiction and spent the next five years destroying his life. After his recovery, Watkins went to Iraq during the first Gulf War and trained an Iraqi boxing team, readying the team for the Olympics in only 57 days. Watkins’ story proves we can overcome, rebuild and achieve the impossible.
- David Bottner, an entrepreneur who once lived a life of excess fueled by traumatic sexual abuse he experienced as a child. Bottner had it all — wealth, women, homes, cars — but there was an inexplicable emptiness that no amount of money, booze or cocaine could fill. Finally, after contemplating suicide, Bottner went to church and changed his life. Through his story, we learn sometimes when we give up the material things we value the most, we can gain something far more fulfilling.
- Tonja Myles, a former crack cocaine and sex addict whose life went into a downward spiral that led her first to drugs and then to prostitution as a means to feed her habit. After an attempted suicide, Myles realized she had to change her life. She made a promise to God that if He helped her get well, she would dedicate her life to helping other addicts. Myles’ story takes us all the way from the crack house to the White House.
- Jerry Strickland, a businessman who began using alcohol as a coping mechanism. Before he realized it, he became an alcoholic. His behavior affected his four children, three of whom began using alcohol and drugs. His story shows how addiction can be generational, and he discusses his personal experience with changing the cycle of addiction in his family.
- Whitney Strickland, Jerry’s son, whose out-of-control behavior caused him to crash and burn. A chronic alcoholic, Whitney finally saw the light after a night in prison when he realized he had alienated everyone in his family. His story shows no matter how dysfunctional our lives may seem, we can find redemption and change the world one person at a time.
- Deena Burnett Bailey, the widow of Tom Burnett — one of four men who stormed the cockpit of United Flight 93 on 9/11. Her tragedy is a tragedy shared by the world, but her experience is more personal than most. Bailey’s story shows even something as horrific as 9/11 can teach us how to live our lives with dignity and grace.
- Stanley Roberts, a former college and NBA star who tried to live a dream that wasn’t his own. While he enjoyed the perks — money, women, drugs — that came with celebrity status, Roberts soon found himself at rock bottom. His story depicts the pitfalls of being a star and the rewards that can be reaped by being true to ourselves.
- Dr. Mark Laaser, a pastor and counselor who lost everything after his sex addiction was revealed to the public. Through intense therapy, Laaser saved his marriage and started over, determined to help others who shared his addiction. His story reveals the truth about sex addiction and shows how honesty can set us free.
- Bea Aikens, a businesswoman and advocate for compulsive gamblers, who tragically learned that gambling is always a lose-lose situation. After recovering from her own addiction, Aikens tried desperately to help with her sister’s recovery. Through Aikens’ story and the work she does with her foundation — Lanie’s Hope — we learn that life is the only game worth winning.
- Billy Rivers, a hardened biker and gang member who spent 13 years in prison for smuggling Mexicans across the U.S. border. While serving his time, Rivers found hope through the Christian Bikers Association. Upon his release, he began a ministry to help the homeless. His story is a wonderful example of how God’s love and forgiveness can restore even those who are plagued with interminable guilt.
- George Mills, who went from a lifetime of running heroin to trafficking hope for young women who are victims of sex slavery. Given a choice between a long prison sentence and rehabilitation, Mills chose to go to Cenikor, a decision that saved his life and opened the door to his future. His story illustrates the depths to which drugs can take us and the heights that can be reached by helping others.
Other Rock Bottom and Back heroes include Danny Trejo, Henry Tobias, Kristen Maddox, Karl Garcia, Michael “Iron Mike” Peterson, Theresa Westbrook, Jeremiah Fry, Ken Paxton, Mindy Crane and Bradley Blue.