We all know the expression “hitting your bottom,” and we use it all the time whenever referring to serious instances such as addiction, but also apply it to everyday situations such as watching too many dating shows or eating too many hamburgers. What all those things have in common, however, is the very engine that drives all addiction—namely something that someone does compulsively to the point where it starts to negatively affect their life. Sure, eating too many hamburgers might make you sick temporarily and watching too many dating shows might give you a bout of insomnia, but neither are as life-threatening as addiction is – yet all of them trap us in behaviors that interfere with our well-being.
And what about relinquished individuals? Is there something specific that would make one hit bottom? As it turns out this is completely a case-by-case situation. There can be one instance that will cause someone to reassess and redirect, but for many it’s a set of events and emotions that signals that denial and delusion are no longer working. It was like that for me. It started with a medical event where I was forced to seek my medical records to see if there were biological reasons for a seizure, but that in itself was not enough of a bottom for me. No, in fact, I put whatever information I did find in a box and shelved it for later. And guess what? It haunted me. As much as I wanted to ignore what I learned and as much as I tried use alcohol to self-medicate in the beginning, I could no longer ignore what I knew and subconsciously I could feel that a Big One was coming—mainly me hitting my bottom. In a way I have alcohol to thank for that. It was alcohol that made me hit my bottom, it was alcohol that made me see that there was absolutely no more room for denial and refusal to accept that I was spiritually relationally, emotionally, mentally, and physically sick from something that had been with me since the beginning. Something that told me even at six years old that I was different, and not in a good way, and that I had no instruction manual for how to conduct myself.
It was alcohol that finally brought me to my proverbial knees, which humbled me enough that I finally understood there were parts of my life which needed addressing. First, I needed to stabilize and get sober. Next, I needed to look for pieces that made up the puzzle of my beginnings. And so the journey to wholeness had begun.
Do you need to hit bottom in order to heal? That depends. People have many self-protective instincts, denial being one of them. It’s hard to face the truth and it’s even harder to face the sort of truth that will shake up your life to the point where you will no longer be able to ignore your own deception. In my case, I couldn’t drink anymore because I understood that it was only a cover-up for unhealed trauma, and I finally saw how it was affecting others – and it was not a pretty picture. This might not have been enough—many people suffering from Substance Use Disorder go through variety of bottoms before they finally reach the one that aligns with their salvation (if they manage to find it; some die before they do). But it was enough for me. Thankfully. This is why I say that I have alcohol to thank for my own awakening and I consider myself one of the lucky ones who only had to hit that specific bottom once. I did hit other ones, even in recovery, but at least next time around I had my sobriety and my Higher Power, which is Reality, where I had absolutely no room for self-deception, which simply forced me to deal with things and see life through the prism of solutions rather than problems. It’s very hard to fall asleep again once you’re wide awake, and that’s what it felt like for many years in the beginning of my recovery, like I was wide awake and like I had to acknowledge all the parts of myself, the ones I drank about and the ones that would’ve made me drink in the past (such as finding out that my biological mother died in tragic circumstances of the disease of addiction).
It is possible to create an artificial bottom, and I’ve seen clients for whom a professional intervention with their loved ones or one major event that shook them up had been enough to make them change the course of their self-destruction. Sometimes we need others to show us what is wrong with us, because on our own, we might be so far up our own lies and have built such intricate smoke-and-mirrors mazes that we simply cannot get past the denial – and we need a mirror not obscured by that smoke to see what is really going on. I’ve had clients whose families staged loving interventions where the unwell individual suddenly came to and got better, and I’ve also had clients who didn’t get better, but at least their families started to because they learned to deal with their addicted person in a way that allowed for their own safety and detachment. Those are never easy situations, and detachment is hard to practice, but in both cases, the underlying motivation is hope. It’s hope that drives all of us upwards from our rock bottoms.
Photo by Camila Quintero Franco on Unsplash
Everyone’s bottom is different. We cannot compare ourselves to others when it comes to that, as what might be a terrible tragedy for one is only a bleep for another person. At the same time, we must remember too that you absolutely do not need to hit a bottom in order to recover; it is not a prerequisite. Sometimes all you need is that quiet voice that you hear inside yourself that tells you that there’s something wrong and that you need to do something about it. Don’t wait for things to get worse, listen to your inner voice and avoid hitting any and all bottoms all together. I assure you that you will never regret not finding out what your limits are, but instead you will find that what you have is a limitless potential to get better.