Rock Bottom

You hear this all the time. “An addict has to hit rock bottom before they’ll recover.” Let me be clear, the concept of “rock bottom” only has value as part of a personal narrative — as part of the story a person with SUD (substance use disorder, otherwise and disparagingly known as an addict) tells themselves as a point of reference to mark where recovery began.

The simple fact is that “rock bottom” for anyone with SUD is dead. Plain and simple. Rock bottom is dead.

As a society, whether we are people with SUD or the people that love and support them, we need to start looking at each of the bumps on the way down as opportunities to “pull the lever” on getting in to treatment, whether that is community based mutual support groups (like AA, NA, Phoenix Multisport, Celebrate Recovery, SMART Recovery or any of the other excellent groups out there where a person with SUD can find community and support) or coerced treatment (things like Drug Courts, inpatient or outpatient treatment at the suggestion of loved ones or an employer).

Saying an “addict” has to “hit rock bottom” deprives the sick person of life saving intervention. It is cruel. It is inhumane. What if we said a person with cancer had to hit rock bottom? What if a person with diabetes had to hit rock bottom? That doesn’t even make sense, does it. It doesn’t make any more sense when we say a person facing SUD has to hit rock bottom.


One of the things about a relapse is that you can see it coming and still feel powerless to do anything about it. In 12 step recovery they often tell us, however, that “in God’s economy nothing is wasted.” My relapse was a waste but I refuse to let the experience be wasted.

I’ll tell you this; coming back is not easy. Coming back I sat in meetings and wept for months. Coming back I felt shame that I cannot begin to describe. Had it not been for the kind people in the room, the one’s that didn’t judge me, that hugged me and told me how relieved they were that I was back (no matter how long or how skeptically they looked at me for the first three, six, nine moths) I could not be where I am now. I owe those people my life.

“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” We have much to catch up on.