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What Rock Bottom Is and How to Tell When You Have Reached It


rock bottomIf you are addicted to alcohol, you will likely deal with increasing levels of pain until you decide enough is enough. Alcoholism can steal everything of value from you and, if you are unable to quit in time, it can even take your life. Those who do manage to break free of this downward spiral often describe how they hit a rock bottom. There are also experts who claim that the individual has to reach this point before they will be able to stop. The issue here is that there can be a great deal of confusion regarding what hitting rock bottom actually means.

What is Rock Bottom?

Rock bottom means a point in the affected person’s life where they have had enough. It does not refer to any objective point in the process of addiction; there is no magical ‘sweet spot’ at which point every person manages to break free of addiction. The high number of people who die due to alcohol abuse is proof of the very subjective nature of hitting rock bottom. Some individuals may be on the verge of losing everything yet still do not feel like they have lost enough to justify breaking free of addiction.

Rock Bottom Myth

One of the most dangerous myths surrounding the concept of the rock bottom is the idea that it involves losing everything. This very simplistic description of the process does not really reflect what happens. Plenty of people lose relatively little due to their drinking but still decide that they have already lost enough. Rock bottom has nothing to do with how much the person has lost and more with how much more he or she is willing to lose.

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous like to describe the process of hitting rock bottom as akin to being within a descending lift. This lift is always going down and the next level will always be worse than the last. It is up to the person to decide at what level they want to step off this lift. Some of them realise early that each floor brings worsening horrors, so they do not need to take the ride all the way to the bottom to see what awaits. The problem is that some individuals are so trapped in the denial of addiction that they miss the obvious; they keep on expecting the next floor to be better despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Some even believe that they need to lose everything before they are able to break free of addiction – this is known as the rock bottom myth. The problem with this way of thinking is that it means the individual could end up suffering far more than he or she really needs to. There is also the real risk that many will die before they decide that they have had enough; this happens all too frequently. Hitting rock bottom is a purely subjective experience and it is always up to the individual to decide when he or she has reached this point.

High Rock Bottom

A high rock bottom means that you have been able to break free of alcoholism before things have deteriorated too badly. It will always be best for you to have a high rock bottom as it means suffering less and not losing as much. There is absolutely no benefit to falling any lower into addiction and it is a myth that it leads to a stronger recovery.

The reason some develop the motivation to quit alcohol early in the process of addiction is that they have been able to recognise the warning signs. They have been able to escape denial just enough to understand their predicament. This type of insight is more likely to happen with the help of a counsellor or addiction therapist. An intervention organised by loved ones can also wake individuals up to the dangers they are facing.

The Difference between Hitting Rock Bottom and Promising to Quit

Just because an alcoholic makes promises to quit does not necessarily mean that he or she has hit rock bottom. Sometimes people make this decision because they feel pressurised into doing so but are not motivated to quit. It is also common for alcoholics to feel ambivalent about recovery, which means that they want the benefits of recovery but to still hold on to the hope that they will one day be able to drink ‘normally’ again. Hitting rock bottom is the realisation that the game is over and so the only option is permanent sobriety.

How to Tell You Have Reached Rock Bottom

Hitting rock bottom is not about reaching a destination but in making a realisation. It is a realisation that a person could arrive at whenever he or she chooses. Some of the most common signs that you have reached this point include:

An End to Ambivalence about Recovery

If you still think that stopping drinking for a few weeks, months, or years will be enough then it is unlikely that you have reached your rock bottom. So long as this ambivalence to sobriety remains, it will be hard for you to develop enough motivation to build a good life free of addiction. Rock bottom always means that you understand that you are beaten by alcohol and there can be no going back.

You Are Ready To Do Whatever It Takes To Achieve Lasting Sobriety

The power of hitting rock bottom is that it gives people a level of motivation that they have never experienced before. It means that you are willing to consider anything that might help you break free of addiction. At this stage, you have no more qualms about asking for help if you need it.

You Have No More Excuses for Staying Addicted

Those trapped in addiction will always have plenty of excuses to justify their inability to break free. Hitting rock bottom means that you no longer have any need for excuses. There will always be plenty of reasons for not changing, but once people hit rock bottom they no longer care about these excuses.

A Glimmer of Hope for the Future

It can be hard for those who have suffered in addiction for a long time to fully accept that their life could be much better. When you hit rock bottom you may have some doubts about the future, but you also have this glimmer of hope that probably wasn’t there before. You become more open to the idea that things might improve for you and, as you take steps to break free of addiction, this hope turns into certainty.

You Say ‘No More’ and Mean It

Hitting rock bottom can be described in two words: no more. It means that you have reached a point where you refuse to lose anything else from your life due to alcohol. It means you have found an inner strength that will allow you to take charge of your life.

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