A major misconception when it comes to addiction is the idea of a “bottom.” The term can often be heard within the 12 Step rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous of family-focused programs like Al-Anon. Phrases like “he needs to hit bottom” or, when referring to an individual that continually relapses into symptomatic behaviors of substance misuse, “Maybe she just hasn’t hit her bottom yet.”
The analogy of a bottom makes sense in theory, but the truth is that there is no such thing as a “bottom.” There is no undeniable place a person gets to that will ensure that they find sobriety or that they enter into a life of recovery. A person can hit what others perceive as a bottom, be it losing a job, destroying a family, finding themselves hungry and homeless, but that does not in of itself ensure that they will either get sober or find long-term recovery. In fact, another well-known phrase in the 12 Step rooms in regards to bottoms is “You reach bottom when you stop digging” meaning that a person can find recovery when they are willing and able to stop engaging in self-harming and addictive behaviors and engage in a process of healing.
Another major issue with the idea of “bottoms” in addiction is that all bottoms look the same. Again, typically bottoms are thought to be when a person’s outside circumstance warrant what normal society would view as undeniably painful or bad, meaning they were unemployed, broke, homeless and without the connection to family and friends. This certainly can be one example, but the truth is that recovery is found when an individual reaches their emotional “bottom”, when the pain and loneliness becomes so great and their present situations (no matter what that looks like on the outside) are so intolerable to them, that they are willing to make uncomfortable choices and actions that support health, well-being and recovery.
The idea that a person “hasn’t hit bottom yet” because they are employed or wealthy or still have their family is ultimately untrue. The idea that someone’s “bottom” has to look the same or similar to another person’s “bottom” is just not accurate. An affluent individual living in a mansion and in charge of a successful company can hit a bottom just as much as a homeless individual unable to find work and begging for food and change on a street corner. The inability to accept their current circumstances in active addiction and reaching a point where their life, their behaviors and attitudes are unacceptable to them will be the catalyst for change and that can occur regardless of outside circumstances.
It is also extremely important to note that if a person is suffering from co-occurring disorders such as mental health, trauma, eating disorders or other process addictions along with substance use disorder, that they will need an entirely different set of clinical help along with whatever “bottom” they made hit. Not everyone’s situation is the same and therefore neither is the idea that they must hit a “bottom” based on what society deems as poor outside circumstances.
As a society, as recovery communities and as a treatment field, we must do away with the idea that the typical “bottom” exists. We must understand that addiction is the symptom and the outside manifestation of a deeper and more underlying emotional and psychological pain and disconnection and until we are able to identify those core issues, the outside circumstances don’t matter. We must be able to bring someone to a place of recovery internally before we assume that their outside circumstances will influence their long-term recovery. A person can hit a bottom in active addiction, but if recovery is to occur that bottom will almost certainly be an emotional or internal bottom.
If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our website at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.