Have you ever thought about turning your rock bottom into a golden opportunity? Is it time for you to leave the shame of drinking too much behind?
When we reach rock bottom as drinkers, we dig ourselves into a deep dark hole and we need to start climbing out, towards the light. For many of us, things get very bad before they get better.
Many people with ‘alcohol use disorder’ or alcoholism often hit rock bottom before they admit to having a problem and asking for help. Sometimes, they need to hit rock bottom a few times before they realise that they are drinking too much for health and safety. Only then do they reach out.
Many drinkers (and it could be you) have lost partners, children, important items such as car keys, money, cell phones and computers because of their drinking. Some people lose jobs and homes! When people hit rock bottom, they find it hard to look within and often look without. They blame others for their misfortunes. Then the shame and guilt start to eat them up.
What Exactly is Rock Bottom?
In the alcohol research field, “hitting bottom” is a phrase that has been used to describe a tipping point at which an individual decides to change his or her drinking behavior. This tipping point is often conceptualized in-part as a culmination of alcohol-related problems; however, this tipping point of hitting bottom may be different for each individual. For example, one individual may perceive his or her drinking as hitting bottom after losing his or her job, spouse, and home, whereas another individual’s hitting bottom may consist of experiencing serious physical problems caused or exacerbated by alcohol use (e.g., liver cirrhosis) that lead the individual to feel a need to change his or her drinking behavior.
This is where the first step of the AA 12 Steps could be handy: admit that we are powerless over alcohol and that our lives have become unmanageable.
While I have never advocated or followed the 12 Steps, I do see how useful they can be to an alcoholic. Remember too that “alcoholics ruin lives” due to extreme egoism and self-involvement where the next drink is all that matters to them.
When hitting rock bottom, the drinking person feels shame and guilt. They start to realise deep down that they have harmed others (physically or emotionally or spiritually) and have been wrong. This is when the golden opportunity is a distant glow.
How Do We Know When We Have Reached Rock Bottom?
This is a personal decline and varies per individual. For some, it may only mean a blackout where they cannot remember how they got home last night. For others, it can mean crashing a car, writing off a relationship and ending up jobless.
It is true, therefore, that drinking may feel fun and happy to those who need alcohol. These drinkers like to justify their constant use of, and need for, alcohol. But in the end, that drinking rears up its dark side and stabs us in the back!
Most heavy drinkers need to seek help. Get online recovery counselling or go to a treatment centre to dry out. Ask for help. Talk to sober friends. Explore your need for alcohol and find out why you have reached the path of no return.
Many alcoholics drink to run away from the shame and the guilt of childhood experiences. Other drinkers tend to feel fear, sadness and anger due to situations they have experienced in life. These emotions darken the way forward and ruin relationships and self-belief.
There is a myth that people need to “hit rock bottom” before getting sober. “Rock bottom” literally means hitting the bottom of the barrel in life. It is the lowest point for you that you can go in your addiction journey. Your rock bottom will be uncomfortable as you will need to reassess who you really are.
How Long Does it Take to Hit Rock Bottom?
Everyone has their own personal rock bottom and it can take a long time to get there. The more people drink, the higher their tolerance levels get and the more alcohol they need. A vicious circle indeed!
Often more damage is done as the person takes in more alcohol and avoids reasoning or social connections. The worst part is that a drinker will avoid admitting they have a problem until the problem hits them in the face and they are forced to face their demons.
“The longer a person waits to hit rock bottom, the more damage that is done—physically, mentally, and emotionally…Getting sober is worth the work.”
Many drinkers who reach rock bottom do the work to get sober and find meaning in their lives again. This is the great opportunity to reach for gold and make life work even better than ever! Many people do turn their rock bottom into a golden opportunity.
Some alcoholics go to rehab and treatment centres to get dry and do some psychological exploration around their problem. This is courageous and meaningful!
My Alcoholic Childhood
I remember when I was growing up and my parents were high functioning alcoholics. As a child and teenager, I sensed that something was wrong at home, but I never knew exactly what it was. During my midlife when I stopped drinking, I started to read about alcoholic parents.
I discovered a lot about my childhood and my parents. They were high-functioning alcoholics who allowed us kids plenty of freedom. They were mostly concerned about the next drink, the next party and the next outing. All alcohol-driven and related.
When my sister became an addicted drinker and then turned to drugs, the sh*t hit the fan and we started to realise. She went to rehab then tried to reform me. She was a party animal who had many rock bottoms. I was the “mommy needs wine” kind of drinker who was happy with 4 glasses of wine a night. But it started to get worse and I needed more – I started to use wine to avoid personal dramas in my life.
When I had a major blackout, that became my rock bottom, and I knew in my heart that I had to change my life. That was 5 years ago. I know that it is my duty and my responsibility to change my life. I cannot blame others for where I was, or for where I am at now.
I love learning about the physiology of the brain and how and why we drink more than others. There are scientific reasons and that helps us remove the blame and shame, the guilt and self-hatred.
Studies show that alcohol has an enormous impact on the body’s central nervous system. Even worse, alcohol has negative impacts on particular parts of the brain. Not everyone experiences blackouts when they drink a lot which means there is a genetic influence at play. And some blackouts are broken up or splintered while others are complete and involve a large portion of time.
It is frightening to note that ongoing drinking can change the hippocampus part of the brain, and its related structures, on a cellular level, affecting learning and memory. When someone drinks a lot at one time, a blackout is likely. But not everyone.
Large amounts of alcohol, particularly if consumed rapidly, can produce partial (i.e., fragmentary) or complete (i.e., en bloc) blackouts, which are periods of memory loss for events that transpired while a person was drinking. Blackouts are much more common among social drinkers–including college drinkers–than was previously assumed and have been found to encompass events ranging from conversations to intercourse.
If this has happened to you, it is time to acknowledge the damage and move on. Many alcoholics and almost alcoholics have managed to reboot their lives after horrendous blackouts. Ditching the drink and rediscovering your zest for real life is a challenge and excitement.
Check out these 10 Ways to Turn your Rock Bottom into a Golden Opportunity
- Reflection and Realization – At the bottom, you feel darkness and despair. You realize just how far off course you were, and that your life choices were simply not sustainable. You may feel anger, fear, sadness, mixed in with shame and guilt. You decide that you will move forward, into the light.
- Dysfunctional Behaviors Revealed – At the bottom, all your dysfunctional behaviors are finally revealed. If you never hit your lowest point, the dysfunctions continue to go unnoticed and unchecked. This sets you up for a harder fall later. You build your life up on a lie – until that rock bottom moment, when you must face the truth.
- Gaining Fresh Perspective – Hitting rock bottom is the beginning of questioning everything that you’ve ever thought to be true. The very fabric of your life is turned upside down and examined in raw detail. It’s from this point that you build again, from the ground up, with a fresh perspective based on your renewed sense of clarity.
- Self-Awareness of Bad Habits & Behaviors – At the bottom, your disempowering patterns and behaviors become glaringly obvious. The triggers that kept you repeating those behavior patterns come into sharp focus. You realize that hitting rock bottom was not only inevitable but necessary, because those behaviors were simply not conducive to your growth.
- Trusting in Life – Rock bottom is where you realize you were not where you thought you were in life. Ego’s death grip loosens when you come to this realization; you start to trust life and choose to live in the moment more often. And it feels good.
- 6. Humility – You gain humility. You see that life is not black and white and that you don’t know everything. In fact, you realize you know very little, and you decide to become a student of life rather than a juror.
- Compassion – You gain compassion. You understand what it’s like for people in the depths of despair, shame, guilt, and fear. You can’t help but come back from the bottom feeling immense empathy with the human condition.
- Letting Go – You’re able to let go of everything because nothing is working anyway! Letting go of the old creates space for the new and soon new ideas, people, opportunities, talents, and gifts start to flood into your experience.
- Taking Responsibility – You begin to accept full responsibility for all the outcomes in your life. You see that blaming is futile, that complaining is dumb, and that making excuses is for the unenlightened. You realize it was you who created all the good and all the bad in your life.
- The Only Way is Up – The good news is that once you’ve hit rock bottom, you have to go up. You are on a great springboard that will take you away from the darkness and back into the light. Your future beckons but you need to live in the present and take it day by day.
The Way Forward after a Rock Bottom Experience
Reach out and get help. You can turn your rock bottom into something positive, your golden opportunity. The chance to get sober and help others. The chance to move away from that ego-driven life into a life where you serve others. Remember that for many drinkers, it was the shame that made them take that first sip.
Shame is often one of the very roots of drinking in the first place. Take the child who was shamed by important people in their life, then becomes the teenager who doesn’t feel “good enough”, the adult who feels socially awkward. Drinking may seem like the magic solution to feeling outgoing, better-looking, sexier, funnier. But that is not true. When you hit rock bottom it is your time to shine!
Contact Janet Gourand for your online recovery coaching session.