For many of us, the image of rock bottom is that of a homeless person begging for drinking money outside a liquor store. We may also think of a person dying from an opiate overdose or doing irreparable damage to their internal organs. Chronic severe illnesses like cirrhosis or hepatitis C are, for many of us, linked with our conception of rock bottom. Each of these mental images, of course, represents a worst-case scenario. We think that a person has to lose absolutely everything in life before they could possibly commit to a large, aggressive life change as recovery.
For better or worse, however, rock bottom is a much broader category than we might think. It also has a much more important definition, for the purposes of recovery. In recovery, rock bottom is often considered to be the point in a person’s life at which they’ve become genuinely willing to do the work necessary for long-term sobriety.
Low Bottom/High Bottom
If you’ve been in A.A. meetings or participated in any other structured recovery group, you’ve likely heard a distinction drawn between low- and high-bottom people. The tales of low-bottom alcoholics and addicts typically include harrowing prison accounts, hospital stays, and homelessness. These people have often been at death’s door several times, and probably fit a more stereotypical conception of rock bottom.
High bottoms, on the other hand, often have no experience with these things. Instead, these are people who managed to hold down a job while drinking and using, and generally did okay for themselves. They may have been able to keep their substance abuse a secret from their families. Even when they were under the influence, these people were often able to continue functioning at work and in life – at least well enough to keep it from all falling to pieces.
Young people are often lumped in with the latter category, as well. Broadly speaking, young people tend to lack consistent access to alcohol and hard drugs. As such, the damage they suffer is generally less than those who have been drinking or using for decades. While this isn’t always the case, of course, substance abuse disorders do require time to effectively destroy your entire life. After all, it is a progressive illness, and if we catch it early enough, we can avoid years of pain and suffering.
Anyone Can Get Sober
The key to each of these “rock bottom” experiences, however, is the outcome. Whether a person is coming to treatment from skid row or remains employed at their job on Wall Street, they are all willing to change their lives.
The thing is, it’s almost impossible to predict what our rock bottom will look like. We hear stories of people who spend years on the streets, survive near-death experiences, and finally claw their way back to a degree of normalcy – all while using and drinking. It’s not until some seemingly minor event transpires that they finally break down and become willing to get sober. Others seem to suffer overdoses nearly every month until they’re finally inspired to get sober by running into a person from their past. There’s really no predicting it.
While this may seem concerning or chaotic, it’s actually a good thing. For those of us who got sober before our entire lives were destroyed, the “high-bottom” stories can serve as proof that we can still stay sober. Things don’t have to entirely fall to pieces for us to pick up the tools of recovery. Likewise, no matter how bad things have gotten for us, people can and do, stay sober for life after living through situations just like ours.
Whatever your rock bottom looks like, the key is that you’re ready and willing to make a change at this point in your life. Nobody can tell you that you didn’t suffer enough or that your drinking and using weren’t actually all that bad. If you’re ready to put in the hard work of sobriety, something has dramatically shifted inside you, and the change has already begun. Rock bottom isn’t something we should fear; we should appreciate whatever it took to get us to open our eyes. Embrace the future, accept the help, and take your first step on the path to recovery.
Once you’ve hit rock bottom, it is essential to take action immediately. Some people in recovery refer to a “window of opportunity” which follows rock bottom. People in this state are more open to change and willing to ask for help – but it’s not permanent.
If you find that you’re left with nowhere to turn, and your substance abuse disorder is overwhelming you, give us a call at Hired Power. Our goal is to help transition you seamlessly into the world of recovery and provide you with the tools and accountability you need to stay sober for life. Remember, you don’t have to lose everything to get sober. The earlier you make this change, the better. Our team of experienced and compassionate professionals is standing by to help you out.
Give us a call at (800) 910-9299 to learn more.