The Concept of Hitting “Rock Bottom”
Through all my years as an addict, I’ve heard more terminologies and catchphrases associated with addiction and what’s needed for an addict to get clean than I care to count. Perhaps there is no theory or phrase more prevalent than the idea an addict must hit rock bottom to have the willingness necessary to get clean. Full disclosure, I hate this theory for many reasons. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that life gets worse for an addict the longer he/she uses drugs. It’s the nature of addiction, something I can easily attest to after my own life continued to spiral out of control the longer I used and abused drugs. What I hate about this belief that the bad must reach a pinnacle before anything gets better is that it’s simply not true. It’s also a very dangerous way of thinking for all involved, including the loved ones of the addict.
The first thing that stands out to me when I hear people say an addict is still using because they haven’t hit their required rock bottom is that it’s nothing more than a pretty convenient excuse to not confront the problem. As anyone who has either lived with addiction or loved an addict can attest, confronting addiction is rarely pleasant. An addict will do almost anything to deflect handling the real issues that drive addiction in a way to protect said addiction, and it becomes very easy for anyone else involved—the spectators who feel the hopeless agony of not knowing how to best help the person—to throw their hands up and proclaim that the bottom just hasn’t been reached yet. It’s an easy out to be sure, but sitting and waiting for things to get worse before they get better does nothing to solve the problem. It simply runs the risk of the problem becoming so great there is nothing to come back from.
That’s where the danger of this theory comes into play. Drugs in 2019 are not getting safer, they are becoming more harmful and more deadly by the minute. The surge in popularity of drugs like fentanyl and the risk of just about any street drug being laced with a lethal dose to the unsuspecting consumer has made playing the “rock bottom” waiting game more dangerous than ever. No parent, child, wife, husband, brother, sister, or friend ever wants to get that phone call. Many have and many more are yet to come. My parents feared it for years and I can only imagine the stress it caused them every time they laid their heads on their pillows at night to go to sleep. The good news for me is that they remained supportive and would always encourage me to get help anytime I would listen, and when I wouldn’t, they would be doing their best behind the scenes to figure out a solution. I never made it easy on them but their refusal to wait for me to ruin my life or die despite the costs and sacrifices is a big reason I’m here today and have turned my life around.
My disdain for the idea that a person must hit “rock bottom” before getting clean is that it implies addiction somehow isn’t bad enough as is, that it must get worse, worse, and worse until a person is driven so low they have no choice but to go up. This only prolongs addiction and gives an addict a reason to keep using and family members a reason to give up with zero guarantees things will ever get bad enough for a person to want to make a change, not to mention the possibility it reaches the permanent rock bottom where the ultimate price is paid and change is no longer possible.
It doesn’t have to be that way—it shouldn’t be that way. The risk of life spiraling to a downward abyss the longer a person uses and because addiction in today’s world is so dangerous is why waiting for a “rock bottom” should be cast aside for the notion that there is no time like the present. There truly is no better time than now to handle the problem before it gets worse and when addiction is handled correctly life can and will get better. If you or anybody you know is seeking help, please reach out.
Justin P.—Narconon Suncoast Graduate