The Myth of Hitting Rock Bottom

Have you ever heard it said that someone needs to hit rock bottom in order to change? Sometimes an addict or alcoholic will get clean and sober then relapse and you hear the excuse said, “Well I guess they just haven’t hit rock bottom yet.” Rock bottom is a myth and can be destructive.

Why is “Rock Bottom” a myth

The myth is that an addict needs to hit rock bottom in order to change or that if they haven’t changed it is because they haven’t hit rock bottom. Have you ever seen a homeless alcoholic? Have you ever seen a drug addict that has lost everything? Wouldn’t you say they’ve hit rock bottom? If not, how would you define rock bottom? And there lies the problem: how do you define rock bottom?

The truth about rock bottom

Let’s set the record straight about what it means to hit rock bottom:

  • Rock bottom is different for everyone
  • Some people can survive at rock bottom for a long time
  • It plays no part in whether or not a person is ready to change
  • Interventions are not intended to create a rock bottom
  • Rock bottom does not determine whether or not a person will relapse

Why the Rock Bottom myth is dangerous

Addicts, alcoholics, and those involved in self destructive behaviors need help. If they could stop on their own, most of them would. But they can’t so they don’t. They don’t need excuses. They don’t need to wait for the “magical right time” to get better. When we say they need to hit rock bottom we are creating this magical time where everything is going to work out right. While we wait we suffer and they suffer.

Helping someone put their life back together is messy. It is painful. It is full of emotion. It if full of fear. What we don’t need to add to the process are myths that can disappoint or give reason to delay. If we believe that someone has hit rock bottom and is therefore ready to change, when they don’t change or they relapse we are disappointed. This can lead to hopelessness and we end up in a worse state than before. We can’t loose hope and we can’t give up. And we can’t use excuses.

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