Why “Hitting Rock Bottom” Isn’t Necessary to Get Help

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The term “rock bottom” is commonly linked to alcohol misuse and other forms of addiction. Many people who over-drink or struggle to control their relationship with alcohol don’t seek help until they face horrible consequences.

In our culture, there’s often a tendency to wait until things can’t get any worse before admitting to a problem. But waiting for rock bottom is dangerous, and it creates a more difficult road to recovery.

Change is possible before hitting rock bottom. If you feel like you’ve lost control of your relationship with alcohol, or you don’t like the direction your life is going, the best time to act is now.

What Does Hitting Rock Bottom Mean?

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Photo by Aliagha Shirinov on Unsplash

“Hitting rock bottom” means reaching the lowest possible point, a point from which things can’t get any worse.

Of course, the definition of rock bottom is different for everyone. For some, rock bottom could mean getting fired. Others might make excuses for being let go and continue drinking. Their “rock bottom” could be losing an important relationship due to alcohol use, or getting arrested. Rock bottom may also involve severe financial troubles, hurting someone in a drunk driving accident, or experiencing major health issues.

Whatever the definition, the idea is that reaching the lowest point compels people to make a change. When someone reaches rock bottom, they realize that they can’t continue abusing alcohol. It’s destroying their life, and it’s time to ask for help.

Admitting to the problem and seeking help is a huge first step toward positive change. But it doesn’t have to come at the cost of your health, career, freedom, financial stability, or relationships.

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Why Do So Many People Wait to Hit Rock Bottom?

Many people struggle to admit that they have a problem with alcohol. They may reason that since they’re not drinking around the clock or falling down drunk, their alcohol use isn’t a big deal.

In other cases, people feel ashamed to admit that they have a problem. Some people worry that it will cost too much money or time to get treatment. And many people simply aren’t ready to stop drinking, especially if alcohol is a big part of their social life or a form of self-medication.

Concerned about your alcohol use, but not sure how serious the problem is? Take our alcohol use quiz to learn where you stand.

Motivation to Change

Some people wait for rock bottom because it finally gives them enough motivation to seek help. But everyday reasons to cut back on alcohol can be powerful motivators too.

Consider reasons like:

  • Saving money
  • Improving relationships
  • Feeling better physically and mentally
  • Losing weight
  • Sleeping better
  • Thinking more clearly and focusing better
  • Eliminating hangovers
  • Improving long-term health
  • Performing better at work

Not hitting rock bottom doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t negatively impacting your life. If you feel like your drinking is out of your control or is causing problems, it’s never too early to make a change.

Read our interview with blogger Heather Serody on controlling over-drinking before rock bottom

Why It’s Best to Treat Addiction Earlier

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a progressive disease that gets worse over time. The longer you wait to treat problem drinking, the more likely you are to face mental and physical consequences. And the longer you wait, the harder it is to change your relationship with alcohol.

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Substances like alcohol change the brain. Your brain has a “reward circuit” that reinforces activities like eating, socializing, and sex. The pleasurable effects of these activities encourage the brain to repeat them again and again. Alcohol and drugs activate this same circuit.

Over time, the reward circuit becomes over-activated and adapts to the presence of alcohol. It takes more alcohol to achieve the same pleasurable feelings. Eventually, it’s hard to feel pleasure from anything other than alcohol.

The brain’s “stress circuit” also becomes more sensitive with increased alcohol use. Feelings like anxiety, unease, and irritability occur when someone stops drinking, motivating them to drink again. Eventually, people drink alcohol more to reduce these unpleasant feelings than to experience pleasure.

At the same time, alcohol misuse decreases impulse control, decision-making, and the ability to think, plan, and solve problems. Together, these brain changes result in addiction. They lead to tolerance, dependence, and cravings. It becomes very challenging to cut back on alcohol or stop drinking. It’s much easier to make lasting changes before alcohol has severely impacted the brain.

Like any other health problem, alcohol misuse should be treated proactively. No doctor would recommend waiting for cancer to progress before treating it, and the same is true of problem drinking.

“But I’m Not an Alcoholic”

You don’t have to be an alcoholic to change your relationship with alcohol. In fact, it’s better to make changes now, before reaching the point of alcohol dependence.

  • Do you find yourself anxiously awaiting the end of the workday so you can enjoy a drink?
  • Do you often drink more than you planned?
  • Is your alcohol use gradually increasing?
  • Have family members or friends expressed concern about your drinking?
  • Do you ever make poor decisions that are influenced by alcohol?
  • Are you spending more money than you’d like to spend on alcohol?
  • Have you experienced hangovers, mood swings, or sleep difficulties?
  • Do you feel like you’re losing control of your relationship with alcohol?

Answering “yes” to a few of these questions doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an alcoholic. But it does mean you could benefit from regaining control of your drinking.

You don’t have to keep experiencing cravings or hangovers. When to drink and how much to drink can be your choice. If you’re ready and willing, you can make a change before hitting rock bottom.

Support for Changing Your Relationship with Alcohol

Today, alcohol treatment doesn’t have to involve checking in to rehab or attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every week. It doesn’t even require total abstinence from alcohol. With Ria Health, you can meet with a recovery coach, get anti-craving medication, and attend support group meetings—100% online.

You choose whether to cut back or quit, and we give you the virtual tools and support to meet your goals. If you’re ready to control your drinking instead of letting your drinking control you, Ria Health is here to help.

Learn more about how our program works, or get started today

Written By:
Ashley Cullins
Ashley Cullins is a writer with a passion for creating engaging, understandable content on complex topics like addiction and mental health. She has over five years of experience writing for healthcare websites and publications. Having experienced addiction first-hand in her family, Ashley deeply connects with Ria Health’s mission to make treatment easier and more accessible. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, reading, and cooking.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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