The idea that an alcoholic or drug addict has to hit rock bottom before they are willing to get help can be a dangerous misconception.
This is based on the presumption that for addiction treatment to work, it must be voluntary; the addict will hit bottom, realize that they have made a mess of their life, and want to change. Studies done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that the outcomes for those that are legally forced to enter treatment are similar to the outcomes of those who enter treatment voluntarily.
On the other hand, it is also commonly known that an addict will not seek recovery or put an honest effort toward changing their life until they have reached a bottom. Addiction effects a person’s well-being emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually, economically, and socially. When a person has had a great loss in one or more of these categories, they may be more apt to seek treatment.
It is heart wrenching to watch someone we love struggle with an addiction.
Waiting around for them to hit bottom is most likely not the right thing to do. One of the problems with this is that each time an addict uses, something triggers in the brain that makes it more difficult to stop. The longer the addiction goes on, the more difficult it is to treat.
What is important to realize is that addiction is a disease of the brain. When an individual initially begins drinking alcohol or using drugs, they are not an addict. Over time, consistent use of high doses causes changes in the brain, thus causing brain disease. Anyone suffering from a chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, or any of the other chronic diseases, does not wait until it has become devastatingly horrible to seek treatment. As with all chronic diseases, the outcome is better if treated early.
Another problem with the idea of hitting rock bottom is that no one person’s bottom is the same.
It is difficult to know when someone has hit rock bottom because it comes in many forms. For some, it is losing an important relationship. It can be losing a job that gets one to look at their addiction and seek help. For some it may take losing custody of their children to get help for themselves. Some people lose everything, their home, their family, their job, their health, and still that is not enough to make them be able to, or want to stop using. Someone else may just be sick and tired of being sick and tired, and decide to get help.
It is often necessary for someone to hit some kind of bottom to want to change, and put forth the enduring effort that long term recovery requires. That bottom does not have to be devastating. That bottom could come in an intervention. Showing the person with the addiction that you care about them and want them to get help may be enough to open their eyes. Addiction effects all of the people that are involved with the addict, and loved ones get hurt the most. It is a difficult position to be in, but helping your addicted loved one to get treatment instead of waiting for them to hit a bottom and want treatment may save their life.