Does an Addict Have to Hit Rock Bottom? 

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Waiting for someone to hit rock bottom before he or she seeks treatment is dangerous. For some, rock bottom can mean death. If they aren’t stopped by someone else, and they have simply stopped caring about how their behavior is affecting their own lives, let alone what they are doing to others, they may never hit rock bottom until they die.

In other situations, when friends or family allow addicts to decide for themselves when they have hit rock bottom, the time that is wasted can result in an addict needlessly destroying what could have been a support system. They can also damage their own lives physically, as well as get to the point where they don’t care enough about themselves to cooperate in their own recovery.

What is Rock Bottom?

Rock bottom is often referred to as the point when an addict realizes he or she has sunk so low that there is no way out but to get clean. One of the hardest parts at that point is coming to the realization that they no longer have the power to do it alone and have to ask for help. Asking for help is embarrassing at the very least. It makes addicts feel guilty that they let their lives get so out of control and that they have only themselves to blame. They don’t feel like they deserve help. Often they don’t want to get clean, but know it’s a last resort, and without help along the way, it may never happen.

Hitting rock bottom can be a sudden realization due to a specific event in life, or it can be a slow decline over time. It is a subjective term because some addicts are willing to suffer a lot more than others before they give in.

Events in life that can cause someone to hit rock bottom include:

  • Losing a job
  • A relationship breakup
  • Remorse over extremely bad behavior while high
  • Problems with the law
  • Losing a good friend
  • Serious health problems
  • Being evicted from housing
  • Financial problems

Many things can motivate an addict to enter treatment before they hit rock bottom. Pressure from friends, family members or employers can have a strong effect on an addict. And of course, personal recognition that they have a problem early in their addictions can be powerful, and life-saving, as well. Parents and school staff are often the driving forces in getting teens into treatment. They have more power to take control of a situation early if problems at home or in school develop, but before they become unwieldy.

“Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom and hurting the ones you love, to realize what you have become is not what you planned and who you are is not who you like.” – Unknown

Coming back from rock bottom can be a long trip. Sometimes, people make it through rehab and never look back. More often though, you hear the stories of people going into rehab again and again and again. Many people hover near rock bottom, because they know how tough it is going to be climbing that ladder to clean living. At some point though, living that way stops being fun, and even though the road ahead may be rough, addicts eventually believe, know, it’s worth the relatively short period of a possibly very rocky recovery, to get back to a lifetime of being the person they once were, and to a life they want, and deserve, to live.

The Road Back from Rock Bottom

In life, you don’t get to hit reset and just start over. They have to work their way back from where they are, at rock bottom, to where and they want to be. It’s hard work, and every person has a different way of climbing out of that hole. Some go to recovery centers, some use 12-step programs, some use sheer grit and determination, all with the help of family and friends, to earn the title recovering addict.

People may say they have recovered, but the truth is that recovery is a constantly ongoing process. There will always be that drink that drifts by at a wedding or party, conjuring up old thoughts and cravings. Addicts will inevitably run into that old friend from whom they distanced themselves for a reason. Seeing that person may make them want to jump off the wagon and ride right back down to rock bottom. These are the times to use the tools they took the time to learn on that rocky road to recovery to keep from backsliding, even if it means calling someone to come pick them up and take them out of a dangerous situation. Rock bottom is never far away.

Maintaining that recovery requires forgiving oneself for what they may have done, and doing what they can to make it right. And letting go, if it can’t be fixed. Recovering addicts need to do a lot of taking care of themselves, both emotionally and physically, every day. Foremost, they have to believe in themselves, including the belief that they have the power to maintain their recovery. Second, if they truly want to stay on the straight and steady path of life, creating a routine and sticking to it, is essential. Straying from that routine becomes easier each time it’s done, until one reaches a point where he or she strays from using the tools of recovery and stops showing up for life and starts heading for rock bottom. Again. There is a well-known quotation from a woman named Regina Brett, which sums up the necessities life for the recovering addict, and everyone, very well:

“No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.”

How addicts maintain their recovery beyond that is up to them. They know what works and what doesn’t. They just need to concentrate on the difference, remember what it took to get where they are, and how hard it was coming back. If asked, there is probably not one recovering addict who will say that they ever want to hit rock bottom again.