While on vacation I had time to relax on the beach and deliberate about our family situation. There was no great epiphany however; upon reflection one thing bothered me concerning the language of addiction.
For many years through this journey people have counseled us that nothing will actually change until your addict hits bottom. It was always said with sympathy and understanding in a way that I am sure was well intentioned. However, as a parent trying to deal with an addicted child just the thought of hitting bottom was frightening. What is bottom? How do you recognize bottom when you see it? How long will it take and what damage is my son likely to experience on his way to bottom. The answers from people experienced in addiction were always vague and indeterminate. Bottom is different for every person “they” would say. All the while we kept looking for that elusive bottom and with each terrible experience we assumed, surely we are there. Losing a vehicle, losing your license, losing your home, jail, nearly losing your life and prison; what exactly is bottom?
I have been told by addicts and loved ones of addicts that bottom is different for different people. For some it may be losing your family, losing your home or a religious experience. Others it may be incarceration and I read where for some the thought of losing the respect of ones they love was a bottom. The one thing I found out for sure there is no determining what bottom is for another person. That is what is so frightening for a parent about this whole bottom concept. Is death considered bottom?
With all of these possible definitions of bottom and none of them actually defining the experience I would like to throw in my thoughts on what the experience means to me and maybe a more accurate vocabulary for this process of experiencing, bottom.
I propose a different term for this event or series of events that causes an addict to wake up to the fact that addiction cannot be a part of their life, this moment in time or life is when a person has a “profound experience”. A “profound experience” is something that anyone in any situation can experience. Large or small this event or series of events has the impact to change a life. Following a "profound experience” a person is able to gain “profound knowledge” concerning their life and the impact this experience has on their future. With this knowledge a person or addict is able to put in place the things necessary to change their life.
To me a profound experience more accurately describes what an addict must experience before it is possible for them to begin a change process. For me my vocabulary concerning addiction is changing.