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Is “Hitting Rock Bottom” Part of Addiction Recovery?

By Linda Whiteside

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Table of Contents

hitting rock bottom

Hitting Rock Bottom in Addiction

We’ve all heard the term. When someone hits “rock bottom” it represents the lowest or lows. In the context of drug or alcohol abuse, it’s often seen as some kind of turning point in someone’s recovery. How true is it that someone must reach “rock bottom” before they truly commit to an addiction recovery program? Is it a necessary requirement or simply a myth that has been perpetrated by popular belief surrounding substance abuse?

The idea of “hitting rock bottom” has ironically been established as some kind of positive experience that becomes the motivation for someone to finally change their way. In reality, what is being referred to is a living nightmare that some addicts never recover from. There are plenty of people out there that hit “rock bottom” and never left.

The idea that someone needs to hit the bottom before bouncing back is a counterproductive and potentially life-threatening idea that has the potential to do much more harm than good. It’s important to remain hopeful and support someone struggling with addiction. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment and making attempts to intervene and course correction is much preferable to simply letting someone fall off the deep end with the hope that it will be the catalyst for change.

Can an addicts “Rock Bottom” Even Be Defined?

The problem with the concept of a “Rock Bottom” is that it can’t really be defined in concrete terms. Everyone has a different threshold for what they can tolerate. While there are life experiences that will cause one person to say “enough is enough” others may dive much deeper into their level of despair until they reach their breaking point. For some, that point may never be reached despite the destruction their addiction has caused.

The reality is that hitting rock bottom will look different for each individual addict. For some, hitting rock bottom may be the loss of a marriage. For others, it can be the loss of a career or extreme financial loss. While an addict may be waiting for that “lightbulb” moment to turn things around, the damage may already be done and too much to overcome.

Why “Rock Bottom” Doesn’t Necessarily Translate to Recovery

Even if an addict reaches the point where they realize they need help, they may not embrace the idea of entering into a substance abuse program. No matter how much an addict may want to change their life, they may not be willing to enter into the type of lifetime commitment that is required to maintain long term recovery.

The term rock bottom itself can also serve to reinforce the belief that an addict has reached the point of no return. They’ve fallen off the deep end and hope has gone out the window. Even after completing a treatment program and attaining significant “clean time” they still may maintain the belief that they are still destined to fail at some point. Relapse under these circumstances reinforces this belief system and may send someone right back to the bottom. While relapse is often part of the recovery process for someone who believes they are destined to fail it can be the nail in the coffin, affirming that they will never be able to live a life free from their addiction.

Raising the Bottom

The idea of “rock bottom” is a slippery slope. While it is a potentially dangerous and destructive idea, there is some truth in the concept of hitting rock bottom as being a turning point for some. Oftentimes, the biggest impetus behind getting clean and sober is the loss of resources such as finances and relationships. To help the addict truly become motivated in seeking treatment, there are things that loved ones can do to help “raise the bottom”

First and foremost, friends and loved ones should stay persistent in their attempts to help and remain supportive while at the same time making sure they aren’t enabling someone’s addiction. This means offering support when it comes to seeking treatment or offering emotional support when it’s clear someone is trying to change. What it doesn’t mean is giving someone a place to crash, or money to support their addiction. It is up to an addict to do the work, and dig themselves out of the hole they’ve dug.

Secondly, family and loved ones need to set solid boundaries regarding interactions with those addicted to drugs and alcohol. If family members or friends extend help to addicted loved ones, it would be to provide transportation to doctor’s appointments and support in discussing treatment options.

Seeking Professional Help!

Sometimes your efforts to help a friend or loved one get clean simply won’t be enough. It’s important to make an attempt to intervene before irreversible damage is done. If your loved one is struggling with addiction, it is critical to seek out the help and support of experienced treatment professionals. Contact NuView Treatment Center if you need help. Our treatment professionals have the experiences needed to make an impact on you or a loved one’s life. We’re here to help find treatment options that work for you and to help you avoid the pain and consequence of hitting the bottom.

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Author

Written By: Linda Whiteside
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Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson
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Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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