(Originally Published on The Recovery Village)
Rock bottom can be described as one’s lowest point after making a string of questionable choices; the lowest point emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually; a point in one’s life that makes them want to change for the better because they do not want to feel any lower. Everyone has their own definition of the term, and everyone has their own version of what rock bottom is to them. The thing about rock bottom is that it is NOT for everyone; you do not have to hit your lowest point to realize that something in your life needs to change.
When we hear this term, we often think of those who struggle with addiction. Whether your addiction is with gambling, drinking, drugging, shopping, sex, love, technology, food, etc. – there is a bottom to it all, but we do not have to wait until that moment to change what we already know we need to change deep down.
As an addict, I have learned that it was always very easy for me to justify my behavior by thinking that ‘things could be worse;’ or because I wasn’t waking up and starting my day with alcohol, that meant that I didn’t have a problem with it. Addicts will tell themselves whatever they need to hear to continue their bad habits. Keep in mind, even though I was not waking up each morning reaching for a bottle, there was never a night of drinking that went by where I was able to stop myself from having another for fear that I would sober up. Blacking out became the norm in my life, and I wasn’t able to see that as a problem until I wanted to see it as such. This is, unfortunately, the issue with addicts…it is hard for us to want to change when we firmly believe that our reality is attainable.
For me, rock bottom was a destination that I kept finding myself in, but because I wasn’t able to see it for what it really was, it just became a part of my life. Although one could classify certain events/activities in my life to be ‘Rock Bottom’ (getting arrested, cracking my head open, maxing out my credit cards, suicidal ideation, and constant self-medication for my underlying mental illnesses), they were never quite powerful enough for me to recognize that I had a problem. Denial can be a very dangerous place to remain, and because I spent so much time living there, it took a suicide attempt for me to wake up, take a look in the mirror, and own up to what I never wanted to see…the rock bottom that I had just kept digging myself further into.
Many addicts will hit bottom before they consider it to be just that; that is why the term can be applied to many different situations. There is not an exact location of where rock bottom is; it is a matter of how far down a person wants to keep digging themselves. For example, when I was arrested for DUI, I could have used that as my reason to change my life around. That could have been the rock bottom for someone else, but for me, that was not enough to quit the addictions that I was allowing to run my life at the time. My point is that many people will hit rock bottom without even realizing that is where they are. The change occurs when the person using takes a look around and has the realization that they have lost much more than just control. We do NOT have to hit rock bottom to experience this often-powerful self-awareness.
So, how do we change before we hit bottom? Honestly, that is a hard question to answer because if simply correcting our addictive behavior was easy, addiction would not be considered a disease. It boils down to one’s willingness to change, and ability to take notice of the path our life is going. Addiction thrives on our choice to live in denial of what is really going on, and it promises us this false belief that we can survive the worst of it. Rock bottom is NOT for everyone because the worst-case scenario is NOT the way we should decide if changing our lives is worth it. The addict is most likely already aware that they are not in control of their actions; it is just a matter of admitting that before something extreme occurs in their life.
When I say that rock bottom is NOT for everyone, I mean that we do not have to reach our lowest points to want better for ourselves. It should not have to come down to a life or death scenario. Instead, it should be a matter of getting honest with ourselves and making the choice every day moving forward that recovery is more important than our addictions.
To those of you who are currently struggling, please know that you can change your life around today. Not a few months from now, or a few years down the road, but RIGHT NOW. Rock bottom does not have to be in the cards for you. Take back control of your life by putting an end to the things that are only bringing you down. Once you stop digging, you will realize that the only other direction to go is up.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate you.