If you think back to the first things you ever learned about addiction they probably include themes like drugs are bad, there is something wrong with you if you become addicted, and you need to hit “rock bottom” before you can ask for help and get sober. As time goes on and society progresses we learn more about public health issues like addiction and the stigma attached to it. One thing I’ve learned about over the last few years is the concept of rock bottom and whether it’s really necessary for getting sober or not.
Rock bottom is a proverbial level that you reach when you decide, enough is enough, and you must change. The term “rock bottom” implies specifically that circumstances in your life have become particularly bad. It normally signifies losing everything or most things, like your house, your car, your job, going to prison, or having some other legal or health issues deeply impact your life. The theory behind this is that you will be in such dire consequences that change will be your only option.
However, this theory is a bit flawed. First of all, everyone’s rock bottoms are different. Depending on where you come from, what you have, and what you’re going through, something as simple as sleeping through your alarm could be a rock bottom, while for others rock bottom might not come even after serving several sentences in prison. Second, telling people they need to hit rock bottom in order to change their lives is dangerous. How are people supposed to know when rock bottom hits? And are they supposed to wait until their lives are so damaged they have become unrecognizable? This can actively keep people drinking and using. I can’t tell you how many times I said to myself, “I’m not that bad.” I hadn’t hit rock bottom so my drinking and using must be ok. I had an unrealistic idea in my head about what rock bottom was, that I had to be in jail, doing heroin, prostituting myself or worse, in order to have an addiction that needed stopping. But that’s just not true. Anyone can stop drinking and using and it can have profound benefits for their life, no matter their current situation.
If you feel like substances are negatively impacting your life at all – like you can’t get anything done on the weekends because you’re hungover, or you spend too much money, or you get too emotional, or you had one DUI, or you blacked out, or you lost your purse, or you made a decision you know was influenced by being under the influence, it’s ok to ask for help and get sober. This notion that your behavior isn’t bad enough or it could be worse, or myths like everyone gets one traffic violation while intoxicated, or everyone has sex they don’t remember, or does something regrettable in a black out, or punches a wall, or ruins a relationship, needs to stop.
The truth is you can seek help right now. You can change your life on any day of the year, regardless of your circumstances. You do not have to wait until the pain is so great it breaks you. You do not have to wait until your life is unmanageable. You do not have to wait until the person you see in the mirror is unrecognizable. There are no prerequisites to asking for help, besides knowing that your life can improve. In fact, early intervention could save you a lifetime of heartache, pain, failed relationships, scars, and legal problems. Asking for help when you’re not sure if you need it or not could save your life. Eliminating harmful substances from your life has no drawbacks. Adjusting to life sober is worth every moment you might feel uncomfortable.
The next time you hear the myth that you need to hit rock bottom before you can change, you can say, “no I can change my life whenever I want to.” Rock bottom is a subjective level that is different for everyone. You are the creator of your own story and at any time you have the power to change its ending. Asking for help before you feel like you need it, could be the key you need to live a sober and full life.
Kelly Fitzgerald is a sober writer based in Southwest Florida who is best known for her personal blog The Adventures of a Sober Señorita. Her work has been published across the web including sites like The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Ravishly, SheKnows, Elite Daily, The Fix, Brit + Co, Addiction Unscripted and AfterParty Magazine. She is currently writing a memoir.