What it means to reach the bottom
The pull of an addiction may be so strong that efforts to convince him or her of the need for recovery will be very difficult. Ultimately, the decision to pursue recovery must come from the individual alone, and they must decide when they are ready. In order to become ready, it is often necessary to “hit bottom,” or be in a situation of pain that jolts the addicted person out of a sense of compliancy.
Heavy users will invariably reach a point when life feels dangerous, out of control, or fundamentally unsatisfying. It is at this point that the myth that your addiction is not a big deal or under control comes crashing down, and you feel forced to admit a need for help. The phrase “hitting rock bottom” may bring up dramatic images of homelessness, prison, or a near-death situation, but the truth is many people’s bottoms may be less dramatic, internal pain that simply creates a moment where you “wake up” and realize that you don’t want to continue living this way.
Each person struggling with substance abuse is going to have different experiences, and different things to get them to the point of “waking up.” Here are a few of the factors that can affect what someone’s bottom will look like.
1) Supportive relationships with others
One factor that can make a huge difference in what a bottom looks like is whether or not an addict is surrounded by support from friends and family. People struggling with addiction may behave in hurtful ways to the people around them, as the craving or effects of a substance takes over.
Enabling an addict, or reducing the consequences of their behavior can reinforce behaviors of denial, but abandoning someone to their addiction can also further reinforce feelings of hopelessness. Instead, friends and family can lovingly confront addictive behavior, brining them to a point of realizing the dangers of their behavior.
2) Socio-economic factors and structuralized racism
Addiction affects people from every walk of life and ethnicity, but social context can affect the perceived consequences or outside pressures to achieve sobriety. Police activity against illegal drug use is highly concentered in lower-income urban areas, leading to huge disparities in the enforcement of drug laws.
Poorer people of color are more likely to get “caught” and face jail time for their drug use then wealthy white users, and users with disposable income may be less aware of how much their addiction is costing. This made lead to more denial and a false sense of security among wealthier and privileged users, thinking their addiction is less of a problem since they face fewer social consequences.
3) Personal awareness of behavior, and self-honesty
“Hitting the bottom” works as a motivation to seeking recovery because it helps the person struggling with addiction to see reality. Two false ways of seeing reality that create a barrier to seeking recovery are hopelessness and denial. Hopelessness, or exaggerating the badness of a situation and failing to see how theirs a way out, makes recovery seem impossible.
Denial, failing to see the negative consequences at all, makes recovery seem unnecessary. Practices of careful self-examination will reveal two truths – that you need recovery in order to live a fulfilled life, and that it is possible to work through and obtain. Both of these truths need to be grasped in order to escape from your rock bottom.
4) Honest look at the future
The ability to look into the future and see how small issues could become bigger if untreated is one of the primary things that can help stop after a “high bottom” (in which a realization of the need for recovery is reached without serious loss), rather then a low bottom.
Denial can get caught up in “yets,” making you believe that your addiction isn’t a problem “yet,” causing you to postpone treatment. Missing one day of work because of an addiction may not seem like a big deal, but it can be a warning sign that going further down that path could lead to loosing your job.
5) Honoring self-dialogue
Denial can silence the thoughts you have of yourself. Very light consequences of substance abuse, such as feeling sick during withdraw, may cause small thoughts of changing behavior to creep up.
On the other hand, in the throws of addiction, multiple arrests, loss of jobs or relationships, or threats of death may not be enough of a “bottom” to make you want to seek treatment. Self-awareness can be a very important tool in helping you avoid getting at the lowest bottom possible.