Hitting bottom is talked about a lot in recovery. It seems people have to hit bottom before they can begin the climb back up (or out). I have been asked what my bottom was and the fact is that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was also in trouble at work and thought I may lose my job. That scared me enough to take a serious look at my life and to get honest. I discovered the ugly truth that I needed help and that I couldn’t make it much farther without cleaning up my act. This revelation was my bottom.
The strange thing about a bottom is that it’s different for everyone. I still had a job, could pay my bills, and had a driver’s license. My first sponsor said I had a high bottom and it took me a while to understand what he meant. It also took me a while to realize that a high bottom is no better or no worse than a low bottom. The only bad bottom was one where the person dies before they hit it. When that happens, there’s no chance for recovery.
Some people say, “You have hit bottom when you quit digging.” This implies the sad truth about addiction; that we participate in our own destruction and that things will only get better when we change our ways. Another saying is, “You know you have hit bottom when your quality of life is getting worse faster than you can lower your standards.” While this is a more humorous way of looking at a difficult problem, it does point to the heart of the problem. As long as the addict doesn’t see a problem, there is little likelihood he or she will want to change. Change comes when the last thing they lost (or gave away) is the last thing they wanted to lose or when the next potential loss is simply unbearable.
The addict is faced with two ugly choices: get sober or continue using. When getting sober looks better than or at least not much worse than continuing to use–and the person is ready to do something about it–that person has hit their bottom. The saddest thing about this process is that no one can decide where the bottom is except the person doing the drinking and drugs. Hitting bottom is a process that can also include bouncing a couple times or finding a trap door leading to yet another bottom.
The family can complain, the employer can threaten, or the judge can sentence. But the final decision on where or what one’s bottom is, lies with the person using. Loving and innocent people join us on a terrible ride as we discover our bottom. I took many innocents along for the ride when searching for mine. And although I do my best today to help others find their way–helping others is one aspect of my new normal–I can be of little assistance to anyone until they decide to grab on and hold on to a helping hand.