One of the most commonly used idioms throughout the world of addiction recovery and addiction treatment is “rock bottom.” Family members and friends of addicts and alcoholics are told to take a step back, allowing their loved ones to hit rock bottom. Newly sober individuals may hear men and women sharing their stories in AA meetings, recounting their personal rock bottoms – the moments during which they fully and authentically surrendered.
I remember listening to others share about their personal rock bottoms – sitting in jail cells, drunk and alone; killing an innocent victim in a drunk driving accident; being stabbed in the chest during a drug deal gone wrong. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, things certainly haven’t gotten that bad for me. Maybe I’m not an alcoholic, after all. And if I am, I have a lot more room for error.” I went back out after being in rehab for the first time in California – I started drinking again within days of my release, assuming that the consequences simply hadn’t been great enough. And maybe they hadn’t. Drinking was still fun for me (on occasion). I had just turned 21, and it seemed to me that I had at least another decade of solid intoxication ahead of me.
And then, for whatever reason, drinking stopped being fun. By my senior year of college, I was drinking daily – sometimes in the morning – and blacking out almost every night. My grades had slipped immensely, and I was one poor test grade away from academic probation. Many of my old friends no longer wanted to spend time with me (I condemned them for not being able to “keep up” when in reality, they were simply fulfilling their responsibilities and taking care of their bodies). Nothing had gone too terribly wrong – I still had a place to live, I was still taking care of my bills and payments, and I was clinging tightly to a restaurant job that I probably should have lost months before. I had a boyfriend, a best friend (who drank like I did), and no tangible reason to quit – aside from the fact that I was utterly and completely miserable. I hated myself and my life was essentially futile. I was living with no sense of purpose, no motivation, and no overwhelming desire to change my ways.
I graduated college and continued drinking heavily. I felt totally empty inside, but still… I remembered hearing the men and women in the meetings I had attended talking about their bottoms, and I figured that things still hadn’t gotten bad enough to go back. AA was for people that were on the brink of death. Wasn’t it? Well, maybe I was on the brink of death after all. I was bound to eventually kill myself if I continued to feel the way I did. Either that, or I’d get behind the wheel after a long night of drinking, go home with the wrong stranger, or find myself in another precarious situation that would inevitably result in my untimely demise. So I decided to hit a meeting. And what I heard there changed my life.
“Your rock bottom happens when you decide to stop digging.” So simple and so profound, and exactly what I needed to hear. I didn’t need to continue drinking just because I had not yet become homeless or jobless, and because not all of my bridges had been burned to the ground. I was miserable and drinking was no longer serving me and that was enough reason to stop. Rather than continuously comparing my story to the stories of others, I would honestly evaluate my own life. I didn’t have to let things get as bad as they potentially could; I just had to believe that if I didn’t commit to recovery, I would live the rest of my life fighting to stay afloat. And one day, without question, I would sink. Addiction is a highly progressive disease, and things certainly hadn’t been getting any better. If I stopped digging, I could prevent them from getting any worse. That was a reassuring thought.
The idea of hitting rock bottom can be detrimental. The addicted brain can take any piece of information and manipulate it into a valid reason to continue drinking and using drugs. The key is to take a fearless, searching, and honest look at the quality of your own life. Are you happy? Are you content? Are you living a life of purpose; a life of fulfillment, meaning, and rewarding interpersonal relationships? If not, what is holding you back? Keep in mind the fact that substance abuse is very often a symptom of deeper, underlying issues. In order for these issues to be adequately resolved, an extended period of sobriety must be maintained.
Parents are also often told to take a step back and let their children hit rock bottom – they are told that hitting bottom will help speed up the necessity of recovery. In some instances, this is true. A parent who houses, feeds, and entirely supports a young adult who is grappling with addiction may, in fact, be enabling him. However, when it comes to heroin addiction, stepping back and allowing an individual to hit bottom may result in death. In some cases, intervening and forcing treatment upon an individual is the only way to ensure an introduction to recovery. With the rapid escalation of the nationwide heroin epidemic comes a whole new meaning to the phrase – for the heroin addict, rock bottom means death. If you have a child or loved one who is struggling with addiction, it is absolutely crucial that you confer with an addiction specialist in order to determine the best steps to take. In most cases, a professionally staged intervention will prove to be beneficial. For more information on getting help for a loved one who is struggling with addiction, please feel free to contact us today. And remember – your rock bottom occurs whenever you decide to stop digging. There is no reason that you can’t put down that shovel today!
Getting Help at Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.