The Dangerous Myth of Rock Bottom

There is a pervasive myth in the ambit of addiction recovery that a person must hit their respective rock bottom before they can enter into addiction recovery.  The general belief is that the painful impact of hitting one’s “rock bottom” might be sufficient to motivate that individual to seek help.  The term “rock bottom” has been popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and has now been woven into the colloquial vernacular of recovery work.

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While it is true that pain and loss can be potent catalysts for change, I wonder whether or not we have become overly tethered to this notion that an individual must lose everything and hit rock bottom before they are sufficiently ready to embark on a new path.  One inherent problem with the notion of rock bottom is that it is somewhat amorphous, and it is easy for individuals to manipulate this ambiguity and perpetuate their use.  I have encountered clients whom have lost their families, are in financial ruin, have multiple drug related arrests, and yet continue to justify their use because they don’t believe they have quite reached their rock bottom.  Family members can also harness this ambiguity as a way to inadvertently enable use.  On more than one occasion while working with families I have heard, “Well, he’s not hit rock bottom yet, and we don’t believe that he will do anything until he hit’s that point.”  While family members may think that allowing an individual to hit rock bottom is the best conduit to them seeking treatment, research shows that the earlier the intervention, the more likely the individual will achieve favorable outcomes.  According to Mental Health America, “Early intervention, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of mental health conditions can alleviate enormous suffering. Providing early care can help people to more quickly recover […] and ultimately lead more meaningful and productive lives.”

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Another element of the rock bottom myth that is dangerously misleading is that it implies that an individual’s rock bottom is also the end point of their addiction.  This is inherently problematic because in actuality the fight against addiction is never finished.   Addiction is not something that simply goes away, and to think that rock bottom is its definitive end-point is reckless.  Part of healing from addiction is developing a cognizance that the addictive part of oneself will always be present, but that you can ultimately develop the capacity to control it, rather than it controlling you.

If you or someone that you know is struggling with addiction, please reach out to the professionals at Column Health, before you or that individual reach rock bottom.  The treatment team here will develop a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan that will help you on your road to recovery.