Does an alcoholic have to hit rock bottom to get sober? The answer is no. Is it true that alcoholism doesn’t stay in one place? Why yes, yes it is. It doesn’t hit a certain stage and then level off. Gradually things progress and get worse, in the course of many years for some of us. The general consensus from our loved ones seems – if we haven’t “seen the light” or continue to relapse, then we simply haven’t “hit rock bottom” yet.
Put the shovel down, people, not every alcoholic has a rock bottom to hit – a place where we finally admit that our lives have become unmanageable, where things could not get any worse. News flash: every situation could always be worse. And the worst possible scenario I can think of is being dead. THAT’S rock bottom. The dramatics of this misconception were surely conjured-up by an alcoholic. Only people like us feel the need to embrace our painted pictures of utter despair and destruction – a “woe is me” predicament for the self-tortured and tormented.
This rock bottom ideal of the stereotypical alcoholic lying in a pool of their own shit and vomit – jobless, loveless, and damn-near lifeless – is exactly what allows most of us to justify our continued drinking. Because we haven’t yet reached that negative ideal. Your neighbor down the street might miss work here and there, have raging hangovers on the weekends and start fights with his wife when he’s wasted, but he’s not THAT bad. He’s not experiencing the level of pain he’s been programmed to watch out for. I remember knowing I had a drinking problem, but relying on the excuse that I wasn’t that bad, so I didn’t yet need to quit. I’m sure that’s why none of my friends or family were too concerned either, because I was just a crazy party girl who had a lot of fun and didn’t get into too much trouble.
Not every story of recovery has to be a juicy one. We all have different levels of tolerance for pain in our lives. Alcoholism wraps its hideous grip around every race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, and financial status. You wouldn’t notice the majority of them if you saw them at the grocery store or in the classroom teaching your kids. While it’s true that many of our major life decisions are prompted by some amount of discomfort before we decide to change, there’s no rule that they have to get worse before they can get better. There is no magical moment we are destined for, as alcoholics.
Stop comparing yourselves to others and just get real. Do you have a problem? I didn’t make the decision on my own, I was waiting for an ultimatum. I got one. Not everyone is lucky enough to receive an ultimatum or an intervention. It blows me away when I hear of people deciding on their own to get sober. My brother did it. I want to learn from these people. Their stories and achievements are no less impressive or important, in fact, they fascinate and inspire me.
I look back and wonder if I would have ever gotten there on my own, without an ultimatum. I had that picture in my head of what rock bottom looked like and I certainly wasn’t anywhere near it. So, how do we help each other to truly appreciate our own worth and realize how important today’s decisions really are? Maybe if there wasn’t that stigma forcing shame on us. Maybe if our society wasn’t so focussed on alcohol, it’d be easier to let go of it. It seems like alcohol is engrained in all of our lives with movies, tv shows, commercials, magazines, holidays, red-blooded American football, celebrations, events, non-events – it’s everywhere. Granted, I’m speaking from my perspective, but come on. I’m not far off . Where does it start to seem worth it to completely alter our lives and alienate ourselves from the norm? I don’t know. I do know this: the people who love us have a lot of power – they need to educate themselves, stop enabling us by helping us avoid our falls and nutt up and intervene. It’s not a solution, but it’s a step in the right direction. And this is what I propose. When an alcoholic can’t get out of their own way, our loved ones have a very powerful resource at their fingertips.
No matter what your story is, if you are sober, you’re absolutely amazing. To my friends out there who are still drinking and need to quit (whether you know it, or not) – I wish I could help you. I wish I could tell your friends and family that it’s not “mean” to do an intervention; in fact, it’s the ultimate act of love. I wish I could beat it into you (that’s my unresolved anger talking) that you can change now. Life is so short. Just don’t drink. Sound simple? It can be. How we get there is still the mystery. Getting sober isn’t easy and it’s not pleasant, but it’s worth it. But then, it’s the living sober is part that isn’t so simple.
From my friends at Recovery Systems Institute:
- Introduction to Intervention: You Can Do It
- Is Your Alcoholic Already Considering Change?
- Creating Leverage for Intervention
- Using Leverage in Counseling the Court-Referred Client, Part 7
- Defense: Intellectualizing
- Defense: Minimizing
- Defense: Externalization
- Intervention: Dealing With the “What ifs”
- Defense: Rationalization
- Video: Can I Help an Alcoholic Change?