You hear it all the time in treatment programs, the rooms of support groups, like 12 step programs and from family and friends. “They just need to hit bottom.” Even from the person with addiction themselves, when they buy into the abstract idea of “bottom.”
So what is that anyway? Bottom? If you want to get really clinical, Relational Frame Theory would say that it’s a word to which we have affixed a meaning and label, which our mind has bought into and therefore reacts in a prescribed way upon hearing it. I think that in layman’s terms it is the idea that people need to hurt enough or suffer enough in order to be motivated to make the changes necessary to get better.
In that ideology, there is good and bad. Let’s start with the good. The good in that line of thinking is, that if as friends and family of people with addiction issues, we stop enabling them by giving them money, listening to their excuses, etc…it starts to limit their options to continue on with their addiction. Enabling is, to not put too fine a point on it, a subtle form of abuse. By enabling people we are taking away their God given right to grow and solve their own problems. That doesn’t mean we can’t be supportive. I have a woman I know who straddles the line between enabling and being supportive with scary precision. Her child is struggling, and while she will not allow him to stay in her house while they are still using, she does give him rides to treatment, and will go with him to make sure he can get the medication he needs. She is saying “I will support you. I will help you get to where you need to go in order to get the help you need, but I will not enable you to continue to kill yourself. You want to do that, it’s on you. You want to get better, than here I am.” We could all learn from that.
The bad side is that people with addiction issues have developed an amazing tolerance for suffering. Many of us have just adapted to worse and worse situations in order to keep our addiction going. The irony is that in recovery, the smallest discomfort can send us back into it, but that is a topic for another article.
People in addiction need to stop “comparing out.” There is always going to be someone who did things worse, and went farther down in their addiction than you. Some people have a greater tolerance for suffering than others. This is something you want?! No. It’s not a contest. There’s a reason “war stories” are not allowed in treatment or in the rooms of recovery meetings. They serve no healthy purpose. People who have addiction issues need to stop minimizing with statements like “It’s just alcohol. I never used “heavy drugs,” (one which makes me laugh out loud every time I hear it), or “I only smoked, I never used IV.” It’s all garbage and all it does is perpetuate the problem.
If you have issues with addiction, the time to get help is now. Your bottom is today, if you want it to be. You do not have to go down any farther. You are no better or worse than anyone else. You have a disease. I’m pretty sure people with a more treatable form of cancer want to slap everyone who ever said “Oh, well at least you have (fill in type here).” Ya, cause that makes it better! It’s cancer! Like addiction it’s not good period. Sure some forms may be more treatable, but like people with addiction, I’m pretty sure no person with cancer ever felt lucky to have it. In fact I’ll bet my next paycheck they would just as soon not have it at all. Guess what, me either, when it comes to addiction. However, I do have it, and so do all the people I am blessed to work with. The difference is that the people I work with made a choice. They decided that where they were at (no matter where that was) was the perfect place to start in a new direction. ANYONE CAN DO THIS!
Don’t wait for the “yets” to arrive. Yets are those things you haven’t experienced…yet. You haven’t used IV…yet. You haven’t been homeless…yet. I could add to this list ad infinitum, but I think you get the point. I once had an older recovering addict ask me if I had ever used IV. I told him no, and then naively (this was early in my career) told him that it was because I was scared of needles. He looked me straight in the eye, and very seriously told me “”You would have gotten over that pretty quickly.” I carry those words with me today. I’m a person with addiction. There is no “never.” There are yets. I haven’t used IV…yet. That is still waiting for me as are a host of other atrocities I missed out on the last time around. All I have to do is pick back up, and I will get there eventually. One of the things that helps me to stay on a path toward what is important to me is to remind myself that I am pretty sure I have one more run left in me. I am equally as sure I don’t think I have another recovery left in me. You can keep your yets. I’m good.
No one has to find more yets. At Recovery Works NW we have a team of amazing people with decades of combined experience in working with people to help them start to climb up from their bottoms. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance issues, in whatever form they take, call us. We love what we do and we want to help. It’s OKAY to stop now. Put down the shovel and pick up the phone. Stop digging. We have a ladder you can use.