Hitting Rock Bottom
What does it take to create real change? Well, for alcoholics and drug addicts, it’s usually the pain of using becoming more than the pain of not using. For each it is different. There is no “one size fits all” for rock bottom. In the most extreme case, some addicts never hit it at all. They die from the disease before they make a real effort to quit.
The concept of rock bottom is important in the 12 steps and treatment in general because it serves as a touch stone and a reminder. Addicts and alcoholics are very good at altering the world they see to match up with what they wish it were. Without an end-of-the line in clear view, it’s very easy to pretend things are better than they are – or that they won’t continue to get worse if left to themselves.
From the loved one’s perspective, rock bottom is tough. Sometimes they will be involved in laying down the law or explaining just what the consequences of continuing in active addiction will be. When a spouse makes it plain that it’s them or the drug, this can actually help some addicts see just how bad things will get. Is it enough? Not always. Threats and the consequences of continuing to drink or use are part of the process. There is no guarantee that someone will attempt to quit just because there is another problem in their lives.
The question of just where rock bottom is often depends on how self-sufficient the addict has become – or even how stubborn. As the pain dial gets ratcheted up, some learn to take more and more while sticking with the addiction. In fact, they may turn toward using more as the emotional stress rises.
If you ask, most addicts or alcoholics in recovery have a good idea of just when they hit rock bottom. There’s usually a pretty dramatic story attached – going to jail, being involved in an accident, the loss of a relationship or a job. For some though, there isn’t anything in particular. One day they just had a moment of clarity and the fog dissolved to expose how rotten their life had become. The importance of hitting rock bottom isn’t about the drama; it’s about the change that can then happen afterward. The bad clears out enough junk for the good to have a chance.