Signs You’ve Hit Rock Bottom in Your Addiction and What To Do

2 min read · 6 sections
Whether a person is addicted to alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, or something else, hitting rock bottom may be seen as the lowest point in their life or addiction. Although hitting rock bottom can be upsetting, it does not have to be an entirely negative experience. Instead, it can be used to help propel someone forward and inspire them to get professional help for their addiction.

What is Rock Bottom?

Rock bottom is the point at which someone with a substance use disorder feels the lowest they can possibly feel. This can be triggered by life-altering events such as losing custody of their child, getting arrested, or other eye-opening experience.

Early addiction research suggested that for someone to change their behavior and seek help for their addiction, they would need to hit rock bottom, or experience consequences that were oftentimes terrible and beyond repair.1 However, as understanding of sobriety, addiction, and the world of mental health has evolved, the concept of “rock bottom” has shifted to describe the turning point in a person’s life that inspires them to want to change their unhealthy behavior. For instance, for someone with a substance use disorder (SUD) or other mental health condition, rock bottom might involve an eye-opening or startling event that may motivate them to seek professional treatment at a facility.

It is important to note that the concept of rock bottom is subjective. In other words, a person’s circumstances and experiences (such as whether they have a co-occurring health issue or mental condition like depression) may vary, and their rock bottom may vary as well. With this being said, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests that a person’s rock bottom, which often represents their motivation, desire, and need to change problem behavior and substance use, is what facilitates movement toward change.1

Signs You’ve Hit Rock Bottom

Although rock bottom is different for everyone, certain situations may shed light upon your addiction and help you to recognize it as a serious problem. Some of the signs that you have hit rock bottom include, but are not limited to:

  • Experiencing a serious health crisis, such as hospitalization, injury, or overdose.
  • Trouble with the law.
  • Being fired because of substance abuse.
  • Losing custody of your child/children.
  • Divorce or break-up due to substance abuse.
  • Utter lack of control over everything, including substance abuse.
  • Feeling hopeless and that nothing “works” to feel even partially okay anymore (including your drug of choice).
  • Feeling that there is no escape anymore.
  • Feeling discouraged and demoralized.

Why Do People Reach Rock Bottom Before Getting Help?

Many people reach rock bottom before getting help due to a lack of access to treatment, denial, and a variety of other reasons. Laws such as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 require insurance providers to provide quality coverage for SUD treatment;2 however, many people are not aware of this and prematurely assume that they are unable to afford certain treatment programs due to financial issues or lack of private insurance benefits.

If you are interested in checking your health insurance coverage for rehab to determine whether you may have addiction treatment coverage through your benefits, fill out the quick and easy form below.

Other people may hit rock bottom before getting help due to denial, which can manifest in many different ways.3 For example, a person may refuse to believe or could be unable to recognize that they have a substance use problem or SUD. Alternatively, a person’s denial may stem from a lack of desire to stop abusing substances, or they may not feel as though they can stop.

What to Do When You’ve Hit Rock Bottom

Regardless of what circumstances or life events have caused you to hit rock bottom, seeking professional help from a physician or rehab center like American Addiction Centers (AAC) can ensure that you have the support you need as you begin your life-changing journey. Not only does AAC offer medically supervised detox in a safe and comfortable environment so that patients can safely endure and overcome their withdrawal symptoms, but we also provide an array of quality treatment and therapy options such as co-occurring disorder treatment, behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and more.

Even if you do hit rock bottom, there is hope for recovery, no matter where someone is in their journey.

How to Help Someone Who Has Hit Rock Bottom

Though it can be very difficult to experience rock bottom as a person with a SUD, it can also be overwhelming and frightening to realize that your family member or loved one has hit rock bottom. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you navigate this challenging process and provide you with insight on substance use, treatment options, and more. A few of these include:

  • American Addiction Centers (AAC), call
  • SAMHSA, 800-662-4357.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 800-698-2411.

If you believe someone you love may have hit rock bottom, there are a variety of things you may choose to do to help. These may include:

  • Staging an non-threatening intervention.
  • Finding out more about treatment options before you talk to your loved one
  • Being open, honest, empathetic, and understanding when you do decide to approach your loved one.
  • Asking others such as professionals for help.

Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.

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