Friday, January 29, 2010

Hitting Bottom???

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.


mother of drug addict said...

Whatever you call it it can get really ugly, and I think that that th stronger you made your child, the Harder they have to fall before experience the PROFOUND EXPERIENCE or HIT BOTTOM. I thought and still believe I raised my daughter to be strong, but maybe it took to the wrong area of her life, at one point she was so sick that she couldnt even get out of bed or walk by herself and we had to buy at baby monitor for oout 25 year old daughter so she could get to the bathroom. I personally thought that would be her BOTTOM/PROFOUND EXPERIENCE, but nope as soon as she was well enough to walk on her own she went right back to the streets.

Dad and Mom said...

Yes, i know your feeling. I have seen my son so drug sick he could barely get around but as soon as he made that connection to get stuff he'd be able to drag himself out for his next fix. I've listened to stories about how horrible jail was but he would be out getting his fix the day he was released. He was released from the hospital and when he was checked in he was given a 50/50 chance to live, out and using asap. Prison seemed to do it for my son but I know better than to become too confident in his recovery.

But I heard from others that they or their loved ones did not go to that place so deep. That is what stirs my thoughts concerning bottom. I am not trying to diminish the bottom experieince, I am just trying to find the words to protray it more accurately.

Fractalmom said...

Um...I'm not sure Ron. Maybe 'bottom' is more descriptive.

I'm thinking, of course, of my daughter. She has had many 'profound experiences" where she SAID that she had seen the light, metaphorically speaking. But, she has YET to hit bottom.

You said "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."

I have heard from her on numerous occasions where she understands the impact her drug use has on her future, and her present. I have heard her say she is changing. I have taken away her children, seen her on the streets, not in jail unfortunately, seen her prostitute (okay, not SEEN her, heard about friends SEEING her), etc.

But, she has yet to hit "bottom'.

Maybe the word does suck. Maybe it's not a nice word, but then neither is having a child who is a heroin addict.

Truthfully, I'm more of the "heroin is a dirty business, why try to pretty up the language of addiction to be more socially acceptable" group. If there is such a group.

I call a junkie a junkie, not a mentally ill person. I call addiction - addiction, not a DSM-III diagnosis. And, I call hitting the elusive bottom, hitting bottom because that's what the other addicts call it.

They tell me it's only when they feel they have NOTHING at all left, which THEY call hitting bottom. I guess that means for THEM, there is no lower place to be mentally. Whatever it is for them that brings them to that point, losing family, being incarcerated, losing lifestyle, etc....that they finally see that this life is destroying them and decide to change it.

Many people experience a 'profound revelation' in their lives. I have, you probably have. But hitting bottom? That I have never done.

As always, ::smile:: we may have to agree to disagree LOL.


Barbara aka Layla said...

Its always reminded me of sitting around waiting for him to die, because that's the ultimate bottom. Obviously some addicts "hit bottom" and stay there. I don't want that to happen. I like your term better. I know it doesn't always take a horrible tragedy and losing everything to turn an addicts life around - I've seen it happen.

Mom of Opiate Addict said...

I have to say I agree with FractalMom on this one. I think "bottom" describes it accurately, because it is the lowest they can go before rising above it, staying in it, or going beyond it (death). I have family members that have gone on for years doing drugs, in and out of prisons, OD, been beaten several times, etc. Then, one day, something simple changes them and sometimes they can't even describe it completely. So a bottom can also be something so simple it is almost unrecognizable as such. Great topic. Renee

Dad and Mom said...

I knew when I posted this it would stir a great deal of opinions and I really appreciate that people are participating. I was scared that folks would consider this posting to be just another effort at trying to make something "politically correct" which that is the farthest from the truth.

One of my points is when you look at the definition of profound it is much closer to what I see as the experience that changes an person/addict than the definition of bottom. I know that bottom is a street/slang term for an experience or group of experiences but to me WORDS matter and I have always tried to use words and lanuage that is the most accurate for the situation. And yes I know I fail at that many times.

In fact there is a whole psychological theory about bahavior modification that no one truly changes either addict or clean without experiencing a significant emotional event in their life. And those are defined as subjective also.

I love everyone's comments and thoughts on this, pro or con.

Lou said...

It is all semantics, but in AA/AlAnon it is called a "spiritual awakening". That sounds a lot like profound revelation to me.

I agree with Fractalmom. Most bottoms are ugly, while awakenings and revelations sounds all magical.

Annette said...

I would love to call it "profound experience" and be content with that....but I do think it softens it just too much. Gives false hope that it won't be as bad as it really can and probably will be. I wish it was so. I like what Lou said about "spiritual awakening" because that has some real power behind it. imo.

clean and crazy said...

for me i call it "the gift of desperation". because i was so desperate for help that i was willing to do no matter what it took to stay clean. i was ready to stop, because getting high wasn't fun anymore. i heard it said in a workshop about relapsers in the program and how we always welcome them no matter what but we try not to help them do what they should be able to do for themselves. so for me it was the gift of desperation that brought me to these rooms, i only ever needed it come in one time so far and for the last 5 years i have been doing pretty good. when an addict is desperate enough for change there is hope for us and a safe place we can go to get that help. great post i pray for your addict every night.

Garnet said...

Ooh, I like the 'gift of desperation'.

I've heard the bottom described as 'when you're brought to your knees.' I think of that as the moment when I was finally willing to try anything to get sanity, including subjecting myself to 'a program' designed by people other than me.

But I think it's kind of the like a stock market bottom. You don't know it's there, when you're in it. You can only tell in retrospect.

Dad and Mom said...

I knew this would be a controversial posting. Another blogger has added thoughts to the issue of "hitting bottom". You can find their thoughts here. The posting delves deeper into the subject than I. It is worth reading.

Dad and Mom said...

I personally know 2 people with their stories of drug usage and their “bottom”. 1st person, quit when his child was born. He got a girl pregnant, married her and when he saw that tiny baby he admits that was the stimulus that ended his heroin addiction. Been clean for 5 years. 2nd person, quit when he realized that he had spent 5 years using drugs and there was no single event, he said he just realized his life was going nowhere. Been clean for 25 years.

Neither of these sound like the traditional “bottom”. They just sound like they had a “profound experience” that changed their life. I’m sure there was at times a measure of pain associated with their usage but neither of them said the pain was what caused their change. The experience changed the person not the pain, a profound recognition that their life needed to change an they had to take responsibility to do change it.

Of course there will be people testify to how bad it got and that pain caused them to change. Even with that I still assert that in the midst of their pain they had a profound experience. Most of the people that have told me about their “bottom” and the pain one thing I did observe it was not a single incident of pain. It was not the first time they experienced that pain. It was just the first time they actually recognized the hopelessness of the situation and they had a profound moment. Maybe call it an awakening to their own life but I am sure if examined deeply it is profound change in their life and mental picture no matter what you call it.

Heather's Mom said...

Great post and great comments... profound experience... like Lou said... spiritual awakening... reading all this I'm just thinking... SOMETHING has to cause an AWAKENING...
What ever the term, I pray for all our kids who haven't found/had "it" yet. I do like the thoughts regarding "BOTTOM" with opiate addiction from the post...
Again, great post, great comments, a lot to think about and a lot to hope for...
God bless.

Anonymous said...

I just recently told my therapist I despise being told my AD needs to "Hit her bottom"--it seems that these are the only words anyone can seem to say. I too much prefer "Profound awakening" with the hopes she soon has one. I am in a nightmare as are all parents of an addict-a world that not 1 of us chose to be in yet find ourselves. I've yet to find nor use a positive word for this journey-if there is a positive I have come to see all of the users my daughter has hung with are someones child. I am in uncharted territory for my family & seek guidance for us to help heal & understand this darkness that has been put into our lives through no desire of ours. I will now use Profound Experience as where it is my AD needs to get to before she rises to who she was before the dark world of addiction grabbed her. Thank you for this change of wording,

Anonymous said...

Yes, "hitting bottom" is a scary, nebulous term, becuase it varies so much from addict to addict. However, to a parent,I think it means only one thing - - - the ultimate bottom, death. Although most 12 step programs advise family members that addicts need to 'hit bottom' before they are receptive to or ready for recovery, this has always seemed to be quite a crap shoot and risky prospect, to me. It also feels impossible, as a parent, to watch and 'stand by' as the addict moves closer and closer to irreparable outcomes. How can I, as a mother, let my daughter hit bottom? I do believe that some addicts may luck out by having a random encounter with a nonfamily member who will have some kind of profound effect on them in regards to moving towards recovery. But, it's still a dice throw - - - and one that I wouldn't personally bet on.

Laura said...

PROFOUND EXPERIENCE creating PROFOUND KNOWLEDGE may catch on!! I like it. I don't like the phrase "hit bottom". I imagine a homeless person laying in a gutter or pushing a grocery cart- or as one mom put it "death". Even though profound experience may soften it, I think it may more aptly describe it. Plus, I need to have that hope, no matter how false it might be. I think the only modification I would make is "a profound experience at a time when the person is FINALLY DESPERATE for profound knowledge to change their life". I think there is something about a readiness and desperation to change because some of the things my son has experienced would be bottom for most people.

Syd said...

Whatever it is called, I think that one finally has to surrender and become willing, teachable and humble. Without those things, I don't think that recovery is possible.

etheltest1 said...

Perhaps the whole concept is false.

We want to be able to look into the future and find hope there. So we say, the addict has to hit bottom or there has to be a divine intervention. But like someone said here - sometimes even the addict doesn't know why they change, they just do.

Our son is 15 years into his addictions, alcohol and drugs. He has had 4 DUI's, in and out of rehab and jail. Broken nose, hand, lost jobs, friends and his health. Sometimes I think he is losing his mind.

The one thing I do know is that we have just a thimble full of knowledge when it comes to the brain.

AA is popular with the law because it is free. Government officials can say they are doing something when really they are doing nothing. MADD is simply just that - MAD. AA is out dated and has a poor success rate. Their cliches are ingrained in our society - that doesn't make them true-perhaps more like old wives tales.

I just stumbled onto your blog and want to read more : D Addiction has not found it's real voice yet. The stigma of this disease is high and the emotional damage runs deep. People are angry at the addict. Many still believe it is a character flaw, that if the addict wanted to stop they could.
I have always felt that 'hitting bottom' was wrong, it always felt like a slap in the face when someone would say that to me. But it's hard to fault people who say it, they just don't know any better - they want to comfort but end up doing just the opposite.

Society needs to be educated about addiction, same as other diseases or conditions in the past. It is not to be feared but to be understood and hopefully some day it will be treated differently. Rather than addicts being jailed they'll be given treatment.

There's a lot of work to do and this blog is part of that - thank you !

rockybalboa said...

Im an ice addict and use it through a pipe.

I'm not sure what its like for other drugs, but I believe that "you hit bottom" at the very moment you come out of denial and be honest to yourself.

It might seem simple, but when your using day to day. Between coming up with a master scheme on how your going to get your fix, then getting your fix and worrying about running out, and falling asleep everytime you sit down and finally giving up for the day. People can go months and months, even up to a year and even longer befor theres a moment where you stop, think and even suggest to yourself that there may be a problem with your doing and they way your living life. Befor my life was consumed with the day to day battle of getting on, using a little here and there was not a problem at all. But once my my life took a steep turn I started using more and more, my head got clouded and started making poor decisions. Befor long I become more and more emotionaless until the spark of life that makes you want to be a better person, or makes you want to even want things, died out.

So even after you do get that moment where you plant the seed that suggests for the first time that there might be a problem and what your doing may not be the right way to be living life. Taking a honest look on just how bad life is, reflecting on the everything you've done and how you sunk to new lows that you never thought you would do. Continually taking advantage of your loved ones and constantly letting them down. Realising that what your doing isn't just affecting your own life, your also draining the life of everyone that cares about you.

By the time you see the situation for what it is, all the damage that your causing and knowing completely where your life is heading. The state your in at this point, there is next to no will to even attempt to do something about it. At this point we all know what we're doing is the wrong thing to be doing, we all know how miserable our lives are and how pathetic we've become as a person. But its like theres fight to honestly want to change. We all want to be clean and I'm sure i speak for everyone when i say, if we could go back to when we first used knowing everything we know now someone would be getting jabbed.

I don't like to be treated any less cause of my problem. I don't it when I'm clean for a few weeks and get praises saying I'm doing well. Cause I'm not doing well. I'm just trying to be normal. And I agree with alot of what was said, the concept of the more you have then the more you can lose. Is the same as the stronger the person, or the more built up his been. Then theres more they need to break as well. I've put myself in a difficult situation by never working at all. I've always made money from this kind of crap. So now I try and get off it and do between 2-4weeks then lapse and so on and so forth. Having no job experience makes it hard to keep busy during the weeks, i think my state of mind has been ready to get clean a while. I just need to get my life style correct, and get a routine with a full time job. Ice isn't addictive like nicotine, there is absolutely no point at all where you have to have it. Its just when the scenario pops up where you think theres a chance you can get high. Once the seed plants and then the drugs are in sight, even if you say no and leave straight away you'll still get an overwhelmingly anxious and this sick butterfly feeling in your stomach. So yeah I do agree that you it can be up to the user, some people can quit when ever they want to. They just need to avoid everyone that might possibly have it and avoid all scenarios where it might pop up.