“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
― J.K. Rowling
The term rock bottom was coined in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and has become synonymous with a person reaching a point where they have nothing left to lose and are FINALLY “ready for recovery”.
Possibly an arrest with the potential of a criminal record, an overdose, another lost job or losing the support of family and friends after many years of addictive behaviour? This hypothetical fall from grace is assumed to be so painful and humiliating, that it may be just enough to motivate a person to change. Pain can be a powerful motivator and has brought many people to realise that they need help. But a rock bottom is not necessary to realise you have a problem or ask for help.
Everyone who’s addicted is in denial. Denial is an unconscious defence mechanism that protects us from pain. When we finally get through to patients and they see the full severity of their addiction they often break down and cry. A proper cry, an ugly cry, a cry that acknowledges the hurt they’ve caused the people that love them.
Actively addicted people have slipped down the rabbit hole of rationalization and say things like – “Well, I only drink on weekends” and “I haven’t lost my job so I can’t possibly be an alcoholic” or “My doctor prescribed these pills because I need them. They’re legal; drug addicts use street drugs”.
The alcoholic addict justifies their use by comparing their current unmanageable situation to the stereotypical rock bottom characterised by the junkie on the park bench or homeless person panhandling for loose change. It can cause an addicted person to believe that they don’t need help yet because they haven’t reached their lowest point. They may tell themselves they can only sober up or get clean once their lives have completely unravelled.
Similarly, friends and families fall into the trap of believing that their loved one HAS TO hit “rock bottom”. This serves to further enable the addicted person to remain sick. The concept of rock bottom causes people to believe that they are unable to help a friend or loved one – believing that the addicted person must admit that they have a problem and reach out for help.
We know today that pre-admission levels of motivation have nothing to do with a successful treatment outcome. In fact, it’s been proven that treatment outcomes are often enhanced when addicted people are encouraged or leveraged into treatment by their families, friends, employers and even the judicial system.
The reality is that the earlier a person receives treatment for their disease, the better chance they have of preventing health problems and other complications that might make recovery more challenging. People who are abusing substances for long periods of time have a greater potential of developing co-occurring conditions such as epilepsy, depression, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions. Delaying seeking treatment can result in life-changing consequences such as heart attacks, strokes, liver and brain damage- not to mention the life-threatening consequences that people in active addiction are unnecessarily exposed to such as car accidents, violence and rape.
Instead of waiting for these catastrophes to happen, it is better to get help as early as possible. If you realise that you or someone you care about is suffering from this progressive, incurable and sometimes fatal brain disease, it is never too early to ask for help.
Although rock bottom may have been the way that many in recovery were able to end their denial about their addiction, very often families intervene to help their loved ones realise the magnitude the problem and offer them a treatment solution to kick-start their recovery process.
We can help to “raise the rock bottom” by educating families and doing interventions. Please contact us should you need this service.
Ending the trauma of active addiction isn’t easy but the freedom and joy that awaits in recovery is truly beyond the compression of the enslaved still suffering addict or alcoholic. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to get yourself or someone you love the treatment they need.
If you are wondering whether you have to hit rock bottom before you get the help you need, please remember that you don’t. Help is a phone call away.