The phrase “hitting rock bottom” is one that most people know. For some, it could mean financial trouble or unemployment. For others, it could mean the emotional exhaustion of a breakup or divorce. But for you, along with 23.5 million other Americans, hitting rock bottom might mean falling so far in addiction that life is no longer enjoyable. In any case, rock bottom is a concept that means something different to everyone; and not every individual struggling with addiction will experience the same kind of rock bottom, if at all.
What Does “Hitting Rock Bottom” Actually Mean?
The definition of rock bottom varies depending on who you ask. Most of the time, rock bottom refers to “the lowest possible point” in a given person’s life. Its best description comes from the Cambridge University Dictionary, which defines rock bottom as “the most unhappy an individual has ever been.” Objectively, rock bottom means that things cannot get worse. For people who struggle with addiction, however, hitting rock bottom tends to go beyond being unhappy.
Getting Past Denial to Hit Rock Bottom in Addiction
For anyone with an addiction, the concept of rock bottom is closely tied to denial. Even when their lives are falling apart at the seams, most addicts find ways to place blame on anyone or anything else so they can continue to feel comfortable in their substance use. So, until you recognize the damage that addiction is causing, you might continue to feed into it until finally hitting rock bottom. In a way, hitting rock bottom is when the veil of denial is finally lifted.
Myths About Rock Bottom
For the most part, people understand the idea of hitting rock bottom. Unfortunately, some misconceptions surrounding it might be preventing you from getting the help you need. Learning the myths and the truths about hitting rock bottom will help you better understand what to expect when (or if) it finally happens.
Myth: Rock Bottom is a Singular Event
This particular myth about hitting rock bottom might be the most widely-accepted as fact. Most people tend to believe that a single major event is what triggers the fall to rock bottom. Following this idea, rock bottom could mean:
- losing your job
- medical problems
- financial problems
- ending a friendship
- a breakup or divorce
- problems with the law
- eviction or homelessness
These are just some of the many examples that most people might label as rock bottom. However, these events don’t wholly define rock bottom; instead, they’re part of a much larger picture.
Truth: Hitting Rock Bottom is a Gradual, Individualized Experience
The key to understanding rock bottom is recognizing that it’s a unique process for everyone, especially during addiction. There’s no formula for hitting rock bottom. It’s not a singular event or even a chain of events. Instead, hitting rock bottom represents how badly you feel about the state of your life during active addiction.
While it is true that hitting rock bottom might include situations like joblessness or homelessness, it doesn’t always have to. Rock bottom doesn’t have to be a catastrophic situation that causes irreversible damage to your life. Hitting rock bottom simply means that you’ve had enough and are in need of a change.
Myth: You Can’t Get Sober Until After Hitting Rock Bottom
Arguably one of the most romanticized ideas about addiction is that you must hit rock bottom to recognize your need for treatment. This has been illustrated countless times in television and film. The addicted main character loses everything before finally entering treatment. Then, he or she fully recovers in a neatly-packaged, foolproof conclusion.
This particular myth is easy to believe since it is (loosely) based on a fundamental truth about addiction: treatment is only successful when the addict is willing to work for it. Naturally, this perpetuates the misguided idea that if you haven’t “seen the light,” then you haven’t hit rock bottom. Therefore, you are not ready for treatment.
Truth: You Don’t Have to Hit Rock Bottom Before Seeking Treatment
This myth about hitting rock bottom is not only inaccurate but also potentially harmful to anyone struggling with addiction. Your rock bottom doesn’t have to be so low that you can’t climb back up. You don’t have to lose everything to be ready to make a change. Instead, enter treatment when you feel it’s the right time. Waiting for the worst to happen before seeking treatment means you’ll only have more to lose before getting sober. Even worse, putting off entering treatment might mean hitting the lowest rock bottom that you can’t climb back from: death by overdose.
Myth: You’re Ready for Treatment Once You Hit Rock Bottom
This myth links back to the previous one. Many people falsely believe that hitting rock bottom means losing everything before finally being ready to make a change. So, theoretically, you should be willing to seek treatment once the worst has happened in your addiction.
There is a small glimmer of truth behind this myth. There are some who don’t seek treatment until after reaching a low point where there is little left to lose. In most cases like this, the people struggling with addiction are ready to enter treatment. However, hitting rock bottom doesn’t necessitate losing everything good in your life. So, you may not be prepared to enter treatment even after you realize that enough is enough.
Truth: You May Not Be Ready for Treatment Even After Hitting Rock Bottom
One thing that most people fail to realize when it comes to entering treatment is that the idea of change, even if it’s beneficial, can be frightening. Just because you’re determined to get sober doesn’t mean you’re looking forward to entering treatment. After all, your resistance to getting help up until hitting rock bottom was probably driven by fear.
Fear is one of the most powerful deterrents for seeking treatment. You might be afraid of facing withdrawal, your bottled-up emotions, or the trauma you’ll have to discuss during therapy. Whether it’s conscious or not, you’re probably afraid of the uncertainty that comes with making such a significant change in your life— and that’s okay. You may not be entirely ready for treatment even after you hit rock bottom. When you are, you’ll have the support you need.
Myth: You’ve Missed Your Chance for Recovery if Your Addiction Continues After Hitting Rock Bottom
This myth can inflict a lot of damage for addicted individuals who believe it. While it is true that hitting rock bottom serves as an “aha” moment for people struggling with addiction, it doesn’t always mark the start of treatment. Again, you don’t have to hit rock bottom before entering treatment. And, if you do hit rock bottom, that doesn’t mean you’ll be instinctively ready to change your life.
Still, most people view hitting rock bottom as a definitive catalyst for change. This is especially true when it comes to addiction and treatment. This view is harmful because it implies that those who continue to use even after hitting rock bottom have no chance of getting sober. So, people who continue to struggle past rock bottom might feel like there’s no hope left for them. Even worse, they may feel like there’s no point in trying to get sober since this myth labels “post-rock-bottom sobriety” as impossible.
Truth: It’s Never Too Late to Seek Treatment and Start Your Recovery Process
The most important thing to remember about the recovery process is that the concept of rock bottom does not rule it. Recovery, like rock bottom, is different for everyone. The chance to enter treatment doesn’t have an expiration date. There isn’t a point of no return. You have the option to seek treatment whenever you’re ready, and you may not even need to hit rock bottom before deciding to get help.
Raising Rock Bottom
These and other myths about hitting rock bottom can have severe repercussions for addicts looking to get sober. Like any other misconception about addiction, these myths ultimately hurt someone’s chances of recovery by warping his or her expectations. Moreover, they also have the potential to influence the way family, friends, and peers think and act towards addicted individuals. So, it’s important to remember that rock bottom doesn’t have to be extreme. It doesn’t even have to happen at all. This concept is called “raising rock bottom.”
How to Raise Rock Bottom
Raising rock bottom means becoming more aware of your self-destructive behaviors so that you can prevent your addiction from taking everything from you. The best way to raise your rock bottom to a pre-destructive level is by facing the consequences of your addiction.
Until now, you probably used denial to shield yourself from any consequences brought on by your addiction. It’s also possible that your family and friends enabled you throughout your addiction in a misguided effort to protect or take care of you. In any case, allowing the consequences of your addiction to occur naturally and facing them as they happen will help you better recognize your need for treatment before they build and worsen.
Your friends and family can help you raise your rock bottom by being more upfront about the consequences of your continued substance use. For example, your roommate might help you raise your rock bottom by refusing to help you afford your half of the rent. With this boundary in place, you might be more motivated to seek treatment with the knowledge that your addiction could lead to eviction without the financial help from your roommate. These kinds of boundaries— sometimes called “crisis points”— form a sense of rock bottom that isn’t wholly devastating or too difficult to bounce back from during recovery.
You can also raise your rock bottom by stepping back to observe all the things in your life that have been negatively impacted by addiction. Thinking of all the good things in your life that haven’t been affected yet can also motivate you to protect and maintain them by entering treatment. Your fear of losing everything may very well be what prevents you from actually losing everything.
Find Hope After Hitting Rock Bottom with TTC Care
Hitting rock bottom doesn’t always happen for people in need of addiction treatment. But when it does, it can be one of the most effective forms of motivation to get sober. This is why distinguishing the truth from the myths about rock bottom is so important— it may mean the difference between continued addiction and lifelong sobriety.
At The Treatment Center’s Residential Care facility, our staff of counselors and medical professionals are here to help you throughout the recovery process. Our residential treatment plans and services are tailored to fit all of your individual needs during treatment. If you’ve hit rock bottom and need help making the climb back up, please call us at (844) 201-3136. All calls are confidential.