You are alone, feeling the first signs of withdrawal from your substance of choice. You’re out of money. There’s no one you can “borrow” from; you burned those bridges long ago. You have hit rock bottom.
Or so you think.
You pick up a dirty hoodie from the floor, and a $10 bill flutters out of the pocket. At that moment, your spirits lift. You can get that “one last one,” and then you can deal with the rest of the mess that is your life. Just one more, so you don’t have to be sick while you figure it out. Just one.
Your “rock bottom” has a trap door, and you’ve just opened it.
The Spiral to the Bottom
Ask any recovering addict or alcoholic how they knew they had hit bottom. Many of them will say that it was the culmination of a series of seemingly insignificant events. They knew they were in a dangerous place; they knew that things seemed to be getting out of control. But there was usually an “out,” some way to fix the current problem and put off looking at the bigger picture.
Like most crises, hitting the bottom in your addiction doesn’t happen all at once. Rarely do you wake up (or come-to) one morning to find that everything has come crashing down on your head. Yes, sometimes, as in the case of an overdose or other major crisis, that can happen. Usually, however, it is several smaller things that add up to a breaking point:
- You have lost your job.
- You have lost your children.
- You have become homeless.
- You are getting physically sick more often.
- You are losing your friends.
- You are doing things you never imagined you would never do to get “the next one.”
The average person would experience any one of those things and decide that it was time to stop using substances. However, people suffering from the disease of addiction or alcoholism don’t think that way. Their brains don’t process events the way “normal” brains do. What would seem like a significant crisis to someone else seems like just another day to someone with substance use disorder.
Finding Out That the Bottom Isn’t the bottom
Most of the time, when someone feels like they’ve finally reached their lowest point, they start looking for help. When the person is ready, they might go to detox, start attending meetings, go to an outpatient program, or a residential treatment facility. Sometimes, they succeed and remain clean and sober. That is the hope.
But what if you’re not willing to make the necessary changes to achieve long-term sobriety? What if you don’t view your bottom as a need for permanent change? You might consider it only a need to “clean up” for a little while. What if you’re just trying to put out some fires until things “settle down” again? Chances are, you will find that the bottom you thought you had hit has got a trap door, and there’s a key in the lock.
Choosing to Get off the Elevator
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “We didn’t wait to hit bottom because … we could see the bottom. Actually, the bottom came up and hit us.”
If you think of your addiction as an elevator on its way down, with an endless number of floors, you can decide which one to get off on. There are many definitions of “bottom.” Some people felt that it was taking a morning drink when they swore they never would. Some viewed it as losing their job or a relationship to their addiction.
Rock bottom doesn’t have to be Skid Row and its accompanying horrors. It’s where you, as an individual, realize that your life is unmanageable, and you are willing to start working on making it better. Often, the feeling of hitting the bottom can come about due to one event or a short series of events.
However, hitting your bottom is more than that. Rock bottom can be:
- A moment of clarity
- Realizing how far off course you’ve gone
- Feeling the pain you have been avoiding
- Understanding the pain you have caused others
- Questioning everything and finally seeing the truth
When you have arrived at this point, you can see for the first time, and hopefully for the last time, how far you have deviated from what you hoped your life would be. It’s a call to action. As the saying goes, it’s the first day of the rest of your life.
When the elevator you’re on starts plunging faster, you have a decision to make. There is a solution. Though you may think that hitting your bottom is the worst thing that could ever happen, it’s a beginning of a life that you have so far only imagined. When you have decided that you have reached the lowest floor on your journey, the staff at Everlast Recovery Centers is waiting to help. Our detoxification and inpatient residential services will set you on the path to recovery. Through individual and group therapy, learning new coping skills, and aftercare planning, we can give you the tools you need to succeed in recovery. Calling (951) 434-3869 to speak with a staff member about how you can stop the downward plunge is the first step. Remember, you don’t have to lose everything to find the solution. Help is at the other end of your phone.