Despite all the media attention the opioid crisis has gotten in recent years, many myths about addiction still persist. One of the more dangerous myths is that someone struggling with a substance use disorder has to hit “rock bottom” before she can have a successful recovery. While many people do have a last-straw moment when they finally decide to get help--this could be a DUI, losing a job, losing a spouse, or some other crisis--the idea that you can only get better when you can’t possibly get worse is dangerous and misguided. Here’s why.
“Rock bottom” may mean death.
The most compelling reason to dismiss the old “rock bottom” idea is that for many people, rock bottom means death. There’s no guarantee that someone struggling with addiction will look at her life and think, “This is awful and I have to make a change.” That does happen, but often people in the grip of addiction are aware they’re heading for an early death and they don’t care. At best, they may be waiting for the rock bottom moment that will make them want to change, but it never arrives. As a result, more than 70,000 people died of overdoses in 2017 and about 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related causes.
The longer an addiction persists, the harder it is to manage.
Addiction is a complex problem with both physical and psychological components. There is a strong genetic component to addiction, but there is also a large part that is learned behavior. Addiction changes the brain by cutting off the prefrontal cortex from the limbic system. This means the part of the brain that is responsible for planning and self-control has less and less control over the reward centers the longer an addiction persists. If you spend 10 years repeating addictive behaviors, waiting for that rock bottom moment, what’s actually happening is that your addictive behavior is being etched more deeply into your brain. It’s never too late to quit, but it does get harder the longer you wait.
You can recover, even if you aren’t ready to quit.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence that the rock bottom notion is specious comes from interventions and drug courts. In both these situations, people who don’t want to get sober are forced to enter treatment. There is now 20 years’ worth of evidence that people who enter treatment only to avoid a prison sentence have outcomes that are about as good as people who enter treatment voluntarily. Even people who do enter treatment voluntarily are never 100 percent sure they want to be there. There are therapeutic techniques such as motivational interviewing that help patients clarify their values and find their own motivation for participating in recovery, even if they never had a rock-bottom moment to convince them.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.