Monday, May 23, 2011

Hitting Bottom?

Hitting Bottom?

Where did this notion that alcoholics hit a bottom come from?

Did this come from 12 x 12 Bill W. bullshit? Is this in the 164? God, I hope not.

I've heard Mark Houston talk about , "Hit a bottom."

But I disagree with the notion. I don't think there is a bottom bad enough for the alcoholic. It's the fact that I drank again and thought that my drinking was quite alright, "Watch me now." despite past "bottoms" that is baffling.

When I'd wrecked my Nova, I'd sat there in a jail cell, feeling like pounded whale shit... a real fuck-up... I hated me and my life and I would have jumped off if I could have. If you came to me then and told me, "You will drink again and you will think nothing of it." , I think my head would have exploded if it could have. But that's what happened... again and again and again...


  1. Good post,
    I don't know exactly what AA literature talks about a bottom. I know the book describes it pretty well.

    "He will wish for the end"

    " Ultimate sacrifice"

    "To drink is to Die"

    Ï work with a fair amount of people, the folks who have gotten down to the two alternatives do the work and recover. They were done for good and all. This notion of hitting bottom is not necessarily a bad idea. However, like a lot of things in AA it tends to put way too much emphasis on the externals. Wife, job, house etc... When a bottom is defined by this, the recovery process is often a self will attempt to gain these back (quite the opposite of what the book tells us).

    The emotional, spiritual "I hate my life and want to die bottom, in my experience is a better mechanism for finding God. I'll be interested in what the others have to say.

  2. I'm not certain where the term originated, but I agree with the concept. We alcoholics reach a certain point in our drinking careers where we either stop drinking or we'll end up dead.

    I think at this point we somehow, probably both consciously and unconsciously, look at the material and psychological aspects of our lives and are frightened enough to try and do something to reverse the course of our lives. I didn't mention the spiritual aspect as we're pretty much spiritually bankrupt at this point.

    And it differs with each of us. What's bad enough for me might not even cause Patrick to blink. I was "high bottom" in that I never lost any material things. But emotionally and spiritually? My life was a disaster.

    The best definition of the term I've come across is from George Vaillant: "'Hitting bottom', then, is not arriving on skid row. Rather, hitting bottom signals that the message 'I have truly lost control of my use of alcohol' has penetrated the alcoholic's system of denial."

  3. Oh, by the way Patrick. About this rapture thing? When I was up there I happened to see a notice on the bulletin board just before they threw me back. You're scheduled to speak at the meeting this Friday. Just a head's up.

  4. Well that's good... because I had to turn down a pitch at the state hospital Sunday due to work.

    That karma can be a bitch.

  5. Part I:

    This is a blog dealing with opiates. (I was a opiate user for many years plus a "Wild Irish Rose" connoisseur).
    They have a interesting take on "hitting bottom"
    philosophy. I quoted a bit below,the site link is above.

    Just change the opiate word to alcoholic/alcohol if you will.
    Another interesting point is there take on not having to hit bottom at all. Which if you think about it, AA is filled to the brim with folks who avoided a drastic and tragic bottom.
    The "real alcoholic" term is meant for people like Bill, my alcoholism was not like Bills nor was my drug addiction like my cousins (now dead, may god rest his soul).
    I sobered and cleaned up at 28 years old, I was in a drug and alcohol treatment facility till I was 18. So I really had a ten year run with sports and other activities thrown in, plus owning a business with another person.
    My point is my bottom is unique (not me) but my circumstances. There is no one size fits all and I don't know if Bill really literally meant this. He was speaking through a Book. We need to give some latitude on this.

  6. Part II:
    The Devil’s Dictionary: “Hitting Bottom”

    by recoveryhelpdesk on January 29, 2010 · 12 comments

    Addiction and recovery are serious business. Lives are literally at stake.

    It’s a world where words and the concepts they describe have enormous potential to do good, or harm.

    Over time, I’ve developed what I call The Devil’s Dictionary of Recovery Terms. These are words or phrases which I have come to believe do more harm than good.

    Ron at the blog An Addict in Our Son’s Bedroom did a great post about the term “hitting bottom” today. Read it here.

    Ron says in his post, “For many years through this journey people have counseled us that nothing will actually change until our addict hits bottom.”

    Ron goes on to explore the term, and it seems clear to me that he is uncomfortable with the term. We all should be.

    He tried to learn from the experts what he should expect about his son “hitting bottom.” The answers he got were “always vague and indeterminate,” he says. “Bottom is different for every person,” they told him.

    I think Ron, and thousands of other parents, have been given bad counsel. A LOT can change without an opiate dependent person “hitting bottom.”

    In a familiar pattern with words and phrases that make it into The Devil’s Dictionary of Recovery Terms, the devilment starts with a kernel of truth: discomfort is motivating.

    When you put your hand onto a hot burner, the pain motivates you to remove your hand from the fire. Great.

    So the pain of “hitting bottom” should motivate the opiate dependent person to stop using opiates. And to some extent it does.

    Here’s the problem:

    1. An opiate dependent person does not have full exercise of their free will. Their free will is compromised.

    To continue with the hand in the fire metaphor, the opiate dependent person does not have full control over their hand.

    They can’t just pull it out of the fire. They need help to get it out of the fire.

    They would pull their hand out of the fire on their own if they could, of course.

    So just sitting idly by waiting and waiting for them to pull their hand out of the fire while the pain and harm gets worse and worse is just stupid and cruel.

    2. Opiate dependence is powerful enough and the opiate dependent person’s free will is compromised enough, that waiting for the person to “hit bottom” can mean the person goes on to experience HIV infection, Hepatitis C infection, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, loss of child custody, loss of family relationships, risk of violence, or worse.

    They might die of a fatal drug overdose before they ever have the fabled opportunity for recovery that hitting bottom is said to bestow.

    And let’s not forget the collateral damage to families and communities.

    You can’t wait for an opiate dependent person to “hit bottom.” The price is too high.

    What drug treatment program would be granted funding if they explained that their program would effectively treat opiate dependence, but it would first require subjecting the client to that list of horrors?

  7. Part III:

    3. Opiate dependence is powerful enough and the opiate dependent person’s free will is compromised enough that most of the time this kind of extreme suffering/harm/damage is not sufficient to create the conditions necessary for successful recovery.

    This means that the suffering/harm/damage was unnecessary, because it didn’t work.

    4. Most of the time this kind of extreme pain/harm/damage is not necessary to create the conditions necessary for successful recovery.

    Even if all that pain does create some motivation to change, less destructive and more effective methods are available to set the stage for recovery.

    5. The concept excuses drug treatment professionals from taking responsibility for their own failures.

    They don’t have to make the effort to improve their treatment interventions. They don’t have to acknowledge or remedy their own inability to effectively engage, retain and treat clients.

    It’s an excuse to say that a client doesn’t want treatment or left treatment early because they haven’t hit bottom. No Mr. Treatment Provider, you haven’t developed the skill or program design necessary to engage and retain the client in treatment.

    It’s an excuse to say that a client relapsed during or after treatment because they haven’t hit bottom. No Ms. Treatment Provider, you haven’t developed the skill or the program design necessary to adequately stabilize that client in recovery.

    Treatments fail clients, clients don’t fail treatments.

    6. The concept implies that it is a good thing for people who are opiate dependent to experience pain, suffering and serious harm. It says that all that harm is necessary to get to recovery.

    The concept excuses those who sit idly by and do nothing to prevent suffering.

    It gives permission to politicians, treatment providers, probation officers, judges and others to pile on the pain and suffering.

    Consider the ER doctor who refuses to use anesthetic to drain an abscess. Or the jail that refuses to provide medical support for opiate withdrawal.

    It’s a devil’s delight.

    The concept of “hitting bottom” is recovery folklore –nothing more. There is no science to back it up.

    I have never seen a scientific research study that proved that an opiate dependent person has to “hit bottom” before they can change.

    More than 10 years of experience helping people who inject opiates transition from use to recovery tells me they do not have to hit anything like a “bottom” to achieve recovery.

    The sad thing is people living with opiate dependence often do experience extreme suffering and harm. It just doesn’t result in recovery.

    And sadder still, recovery was available all along without the need for all that suffering and destruction.

  8. I know it is a long read but I thought it was interesting enough not to cut any of it out.
    Hope you feel the same, if not do tell.
    Still learning the ropes here.

  9. Less destructive and more effective methods are available to set the stage for recovery? Well, what are they. This sounds like something out of a Stanton Peele article.

    Yes, I suppose it happens that an alcoholic could seek sobriety before he encounters any pain or suffering. It's also true that some alcoholics are capable of recovery without any form of treatment program; they do it by will power alone.

    I've just never met any of these folks. The alcoholics I've dealt with in AA, myself included, encountered significant pain and suffering before they were willing to seek sobriety. You don't become willing to go to any lengths to get sober if your life is all happy, happy, joy, joy.

    The point that a person hasn't hit bottom is being used as an excuse for treatment failure may be true in many cases, though. Whether it's the treatment or the client that fails, however, is up for debate. There are a lot of people in treatment programs who don't want to be there, and their failure is a foregone conclusion.

    The article goes through great lengths to invalidate the concept of hitting bottom, but nowhere can I find a definition of it. I'll stick with what I said previously, and still consider Vaillant's definition to be the best I've found.

  10. My point is this; hitting bottom doesn't mean fucking shit... unless of course, you are dead. If you are dead, you will get sober. I just know there's a bunch of dead fuck-heads running around right now... wondering where in Hell they're gonna get a drink.

    I didn't come to A.A... or in my case, get sent to A.A. because I needed more activity. I got sent to A.A. because I was a fuck-up. At first, my circumstances were confusing and not too bad.

    Each successive trip started to really suck.

    So tell me this; if quicksand stretches out before me in all directions, can I THEN get sober?

    Or do I just need a fucking 1st Step?

  11. This is just a article that challenges the thinking that hitting bottom is necessary. Basically in AA when we hear you have to hit bottom it is always tragic.
    All I was thinking was I have met AA'ers that had not taken the elevator to the floor, they did not have to. Does this mean they did not experience loss and pain, of course they did.
    But so much more pain and loss was avoided.

  12. You're right. Hitting bottom in itself doesn't mean shit. We all "hit bottom", not all of get sober. When I speak of hitting bottom I speak of arriving at a point of emotional devastation coupled with a moment of mental clarity.

    I can take advantage of that moment of clarity or not. If I don't, then I end up with the dead fuck-heads running around right now...wondering where I'm going to get a drink. I probably have my name on the waiting list of a wet house.

    If I do take advantage of that moment of clarity, then I take the first step.

    The point is that as alcoholics we all arrive at a point in our lives where we either shit or get off the pot. That can be a turning point in our lives or not.

    Do you need to be surrounded by quicksand to get sober? Maybe. It's up to you. But until you have that moment of clarity, until your acceptance of your powerlessness over alcohol breaks through your system of denial, you won't take that 1st step.

    At some point in your life you made the decision to take that first step, Patrick. How bad it was doesn't mean shit. Yeah, you fucked up again and again, but at some point you fucked up for the last time. That was your bottom.

  13. I suppose.

    I hear Gary say, "Your bottom has a trap door in it."

    They said I came in without any resolve to fight anymore, but I also wanted something.

    We've seen guys who have a piece of crap life, are in deep shit, and they act like they don't give a damn. They describe their shitty life as if they're talking about somebody else. It's spooky.

  14. Maybe this blog has hit bottom. What happened to Recent Comments, Recent Posts, and Followers? Did we forget to pay the bill or something? Maybe when Patrick gets back from speaking to the Rapture Folks he can tell us....

  15. I'd tell you if I could get a fucking post in myself.

    I did forget to pay the fucking bill. Where was that damned money slot again?