For many alcoholics, it takes some kind of life altering event to admit we have a problem and seek help. It may be losing a job or a relationship, it might be a car accident or a DUI, or for some, it may mean losing the family they love. For me, it was vomiting up a bottle of wine as my five-year-old asked if I was okay that finally pushed me to get sober. For my brother, it meant going to jail.
It’s different for everyone.
Hitting bottom is a process an alcoholic (or any addict) goes through to lift their denial about their disease and/or addiction, and the physical and emotional damage it is doing to them and others in their lives. It is that light bulb moment when an addict realizes he or she has had enough. Enough of the misery they feel each morning they wake up. Enough of the broken promises to themselves and others. Enough humiliation, enough remorse, enough dis-respect. It is the wake-up call many alcoholics and addicts need to go through to make them commit to ending the rampage created by their disease. It is time for help with alcoholism.
Where exactly is bottom?
No one can really say where bottom is for any alcoholic or addict. In the 25 years of my active drinking, I hit numerous bottoms. I was fired from a job, arrested for DUI, suffered endless hangovers, landed in the ER twice from alcohol poisoning, was told by a therapist I needed to stop and by men they’d never marry someone ‘like me.’ So of course, I married another inebriate, who when I revealed I might be alcoholic convinced me I wasn’t, which allowed me to continue drinking for another 12 years.
“The premise of hitting bottom is that addicts hit one bottom and, when they get there, they are either struck sober or go running for the nearest treatment center. But addicts are resilient. They find people to rescue them. They often bounce along the bottom for years without a flicker of recognition that they need help. When they find themselves in a tough spot, alcohol whispers reassurances: There’s nothing to worry about as long as you have me,” says Interventionist Debra Jay in her book No More Letting Go.
When I first started attending A.A. meetings, I was shocked by some of the stories being told there. I couldn’t help think that most of the people I was listening to were worse off than me. Many talked about the ‘yets,’ in other words, all the things they hadn’t done when they drank but could have if they’d kept on going. After all, they hadn’t wrapped a car around a telephone pole yet, they hadn’t gotten raped from being drunk yet, they hadn’t beaten their wife yet.
The sabotaged mind
Dr. David Karol Gore, a substance abuse counselor from Atlanta, believes the disease of addiction is the only illness people can experience, while remaining oblivious to the fact they have a serious ailment requiring immediate attention. Simple logic says if you break your arm, you need medical treatment; the body and mind work together to make it obvious the limb won’t work properly until it’s treated. Alcoholism and alcohol addiction, on the other hand, works the opposite way; even as the physical symptoms manifest themselves, the disease sabotages the message between body and mind to keep the addict captive to the whims of the illness. Denial is the hallmark of addiction; complete negation of the problem or that there is a problem ‘yet’.
Sometimes, ‘yets’ can help people get and stay sober, but they can also keep an alcoholic in denial about their situation and in need of hitting what some call ‘rock bottom.’ A lose-everything-kind-of-place that no one wants to go, which for some, results in death.
The best thing to do is get help before any of this happens.
Things to remember about hitting bottom:
- For many alcoholics, it takes a life-altering event to admit you have a problem and seek help.
- Many alcoholics will stay in denial about their disease by saying that bad things haven’t happened yet.
- Hitting rock bottom is a lose-everything-kind-of-place no one wants to go. Get help before that happens.
Where alcoholics can go for help: 5 Tips
1. Take a self-assessment test for alcohol problems.
How can you tell if you have an alcohol problem? If you think you have a drinking problem, chances are you probably do. It might be helpful to take this self-test issued by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in order to identify possible alcoholism.
2. Seek out support groups.
If the test leans towards a problem, attending a 12-step meeting like A.A., SMART Recovery, or Rational Recovery may be good places to go next. Try a few different meetings before making a decision which one is best for you.
3. Seek one-on-one professional help.
Talking to a psychologist, therapist or counselor will also help you get the reason why some people are alcoholic. The American Psychological Association operates a “Find a Therapist” directory on their website. It’s a good place to start.
4. Look into treatment centers that treat alcoholism.
Many mental health clinics offer intensive outpatient programs, often referred to as IOPs, for those seeking help for alcohol and substance abuse. While residential rehab may work for some, other people find that a treatment center is the best option for them.
5. Make sure the family is treated.
And lastly, if someone’s else’s drinking troubles you, attending an Al-Anon meeting might be helpful. The CRAFT model for intervention, which requires family participation and training is also helpful.
Reach out now for help
Remember that you are not alone! You can leave us a comment and we’ll get back with you as soon as we can. And if we can’t answer a specific question that you have, we can refer you to someone who can.