Hitting Rock Bottom: Is It Necessary to Change?

If you’ve been dealing with a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you’ve probably heard many people tell you, “He/she needs to hit rock bottom before he/she can change.” The logic behind this statement makes sense; if you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly how it works. Hitting rock bottom is not necessary when dealing with destructive behavior, and it can actually worsen the problem.


Well, in short, everyone has a different definition of what “rock bottom” is. What encourages each person to change is unique and personal. Your loved one needs to reach a point of clarity and have the desire to want to change. Sometimes, this does come from reaching the lowest point. But, it doesn’t have to.

If you wait for a loved one to hit rock bottom, how do you know when they have reached it? When they lose their job? Their spouse? Maybe for your loved one, death is rock bottom. Waiting for this to happen can be destructive, and early intervention can save lives.

Let’s take a look at this example.

Jordan is a 27-year-old male who has been struggling with heroin addiction. Throughout college, Jordan was a partier. He drank heavily and experimented with drugs, but still kept his behaviors in control, at least in his mind. Jordan was successful enough to graduate from college, despite his wild ways, and he landed a job shortly after. Although things seemed to be moving along well, Jordan found himself needing to unwind in some way. No stranger to drinking and drugs, he got his hands on OxyContin and started taking it regularly to unwind.

Drinking and pain pills became his go-to drug, but Jordan built up such a strong tolerance to the pain medication, the cost of the habit was through the roof. He was struggling to afford the pills he needed to get through the week until a dealer put him in a touch with a heroin dealer. Jordan thought heroin may be a little much for his taste, but he was so addicted to pain pills, he needed something to take the edge off.

It didn’t take long for Jordan to develop an addiction to heroin, and it took a toll on his life. Jordan didn’t realize that his life was starting to unfold, especially because he had always prevented his destructive habits from interfering with work and school. Jordan’s parents see the decline; he is moody, irritable and putting his life in danger. He ends up losing his job, and with no income, his apartment, too.

As his life unravels, Jordan’s parents feel that he has reached rock bottom. Jordan, on the other hand, denies that his life is that bad. He continues using and engaging in destructive behavior. He assures his parents that he’s looking for a new and better job and will be out on his own again.

Jordan’s parents have two choices: They can wait until their son hits rock bottom (whatever that means to him), or they can intervene, hold an intervention and encourage treatment.

While it’s true that you can’t force a person into rehabilitation, you can support it 110 percent. You can, as the parent, friend or spouse, execute tough love so that your loved one knows they must seek treatment if they want to have a relationship with you. You may feel that you are forcing your loved one into a rock bottom state, but really, you are showing that you love and care about them but do not support their drug-using behavior. Think of it as raising the rock bottom; bringing it closer so that your loved one realizes they need to change.

In the case of Jordan, his parents stage an intervention and firmly encourage him to seek addiction treatment. Jordan is not happy, or even in agreement, but he does oblige. He realizes that he’ll be out on the street with no money if he continues his behavior. If Jordan’s family would have waited it out, they could have lost Jordan to heroin.

At The River Source, we see people like Jordan every day. Some are willing and hopeful to come to treatment, while others are on the opposite end. We give new beginnings to people; some feel that they reached rock bottom while others are in denial. What we find is that most people want to change, they just don’t know how.

It’s also important to stress that being an enabler is toxic to an addicted loved one. You can love and support your family member or friend without enabling destructive behavior. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, you don’t need to hit rock bottom for healing to begin. Call The River Source at 866-294-9331 and start the healing today.

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