One of the biggest misconceptions in the realm of addiction is, a person must “hit rock bottom” before getting help. We hear this phrase all the time, from families of addicts, from addicts themselves, and in the most general of conversations. But what exactly does it mean? What does it mean to hit rock bottom, and does it mean the same thing for everyone?
When someone who is struggling with drug abuse “hits rock bottom,” it implies that they have hit their lowest possible point – perhaps they were arrested, hurt someone while high, or had an overdose scare. Essentially, “hitting rock bottom” means hitting a point where things cannot get any worse.
“Rock Bottom” Means Something Different for Everyone
Addiction is a unique battle, and while situations may be similar, everyone has their own addiction story: a different drug of choice, a different reason for trying drugs, different experiences using them. In the same breath, every person’s “rock bottom” is unique. “Hitting rock bottom” is not an easy thing to define, because it looks and feels different for everyone.
For one person, “rock bottom” may involve getting behind the wheel high and causing a car crash.
For another, “rock bottom” might mean an a near-fatal overdose on opioids.
“Hitting rock bottom” might mean getting kicked out of the house or fired from a job, due to a failed drug test.
It might mean losing someone – whether a relationship or a life – as a result of your drug use.
Rock bottom might show itself as a mental or emotional breakdown, or even suicide attempt.
Drug addiction changes people, physically and mentally. A person who once hated stealing might find themselves stealing prescription drugs from family members, in order to get high. They might consider that “rock bottom.” Others might say that’s not “rock bottom” at all. You see, it’s impossible to define. The important thing here is not what “rock bottom” means or looks like, but rather, what it represents. It represents a turning point, when a person is hurting or so uncomfortable that they actively seek change. So, why get to that point?
The Problem With “Hitting Rock Bottom”
“Rock bottom” suggests a person has lost (or is about to lose) someone or something they can’t stand to live without – a loved one, a place to live, a career, a relationship. Yet many people battling addiction are high-functioning, at least in the earlier months, and it can take a long time before their “rock bottom” is reached. Because they are still going about their life to an extent, does that mean they shouldn’t get help? What if “rock bottom” never hits at all?
The problem with the phrase “hitting rock bottom” is that, in theory, it means a person will not seek out (or even benefit from) drug treatment until he/she reaches that low point. This suggests that addicts, along with their loved ones, are powerless in encouraging treatment, until “rock bottom" is reached.
Rock bottom is not a destination, nor something to aim for. No one – whether you are battling addiction, or have a loved one battling addiction – should wait for rock bottom to hit. Asking “what does rock bottom mean” is essentially asking, “how much hurt can I bear until the benefits of treatment outweigh the costs?”
As we’ve detailed in prior articles, addiction is a chronic disease of the brain. While the initial act of using drugs is voluntary, the consistent and pervasive use of drugs – despite negative consequences – happens because of physical changes in the brain. Drugs are chemicals that neurologically alter a person’s ability to control impulses, make rational decisions, and foresee consequences. That said, people battling addiction often have trouble recognizing when it is time to seek help.
If your loved one has been struggling with drug problem, you may notice that he/she often denies that a problem exists at all. That is the nature of addiction. It’s difficult for addicts to accept when they no longer have control over their drug use, but instead, that the drugs have power over them. And until that “rock bottom” comes along, it can be difficult for them to know when treatment is actually needed. However, this does not mean that “rock bottom” needs to happen in order to get help. It is never too early to seek out addiction treatment if you suspect a problem is there. It is the role of families and friends to intervene and to help loved ones battling addiction, even before their low point is hit.
If you yourself are battling with addiction, it’s important to know that there isn’t always such a thing as “rock bottom” at all. You may feel as though you have already hit your rock bottom, only to fall even further with continued drug use. There is no sense in waiting for “rock bottom” to hit, because there is no way to quantify, or measure, or define it. Everyone’s worst point will look different, but why wait for that point to hit? Addiction, as a disease, is “rock bottom” enough. Rather than trying to understand what “hitting rock bottom” means, try to understand the extent of your current substance use disorder (read the signs of addiction here) and seek out the help you deserve. Whether through family members, trusted friends, your doctor, or even a treatment center, help is always within your reach.
Turnbridge is a recognized young adult and adolescent drug treatment center, specializing in co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Having seen, and even experienced for ourselves, what many might call “rock bottom,” we don’t ever recommend getting to that point. Addiction is a very treatable disease, and it is never too early to start treating. It can, however, be too late. The earlier a substance addiction is treated, the better the treatment outcomes.
For more information about Turnbridge, and to get on the path towards recovery today, please do not hesitate to reach out. Call 877-581-1792 for more information.