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Do You Have to Hit Rock Bottom to Want to Go to Rehab?

Jennifer Cousineau MSCP, LPCI, NCC

Medically reviewed by

Jennifer Cousineau MSCP, LPCI, NCC

March 29, 2019

People often associate going to rehab with an individual hitting rock bottom. While everyone’s “rock bottom” is different, it is not a requirement to go to rehab. Individuals should attend rehab whenever they feel that they are ready to make a positive change in their life, and that is different for everybody.

What exactly is “rock bottom”? In movies and books, rock bottom is often depicted as a person who’s lost everything and everyone, as well as their health. They’re in trouble with the law, their family or all of the above. In real life, this is rock bottom for some individuals, but not everyone. The phrase “rock bottom” defines a state of mind, rather than a checklist of bad things that have happened to you as a result of substance abuse. It’s not necessary to wait until you reach rock bottom to go to rehab. An inpatient rehabilitation program can effectively help you recover from drug or alcohol abuse at any stage.

What is Rock Bottom?

The Cambridge University Dictionary defines rock bottom as being the most unhappy an individual has ever been in his or her whole life. Each individual is different; we have different personalities, morals, beliefs, standards for living, as well as benchmarks we use to define how we’re doing in life. One person might view failing a class as hitting rock bottom, while another might not feel at his unhappiest point until he’s lost everything.

Joanna Saisan, M.S.W. et al of says that it’s a myth that someone must hit rock bottom before they can begin to recover from substance abuse. The process of healing and rehabilitating can begin during any phase of abuse. In fact, the sooner a person enters rehab, the better off they are. Substance abuse that continues over a longer period of time has a greater stronghold over the individual and may require longer, more intensive treatment.

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Signs that Substance Abuse is Negatively Impacting Your Life

  • Inability to Fulfill Important Obligations. Substance abuse interferes with the ability to perform at work or school and effects the person’s role as a parent or partner.
  • Problems with the Law. Drug or alcohol abuse has led to arrest or even time spent in jail.
  • Potential Risks Have No Impact. The need to continue abusing drugs or alcohol is so great that potentially dangerous risks, such as injury or death, are not enough to stop, asserts the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • Continued Abuse Despite Consequences. Getting sick, losing a job or experiencing family stress is also not enough to lead the person to get help.
  • Physical Illness. Problems sleeping and eating, nausea, dizziness, headaches and many other physical symptoms occur as a result of drug or alcohol abuse. As the abuse grows and continues, the physical symptoms can worsen. This is especially common as the body begins to withdraw and needs more of the substance.
  • Increased Emotional Symptoms. Irritability, depression, anger and other strong emotions that are uncharacteristic of the person’s usual personality can become commonplace as abuse continues.
  • Socio-Economic Stress. The person abusing alcohol or drugs is not the only one impacted by them. An inability to work or uphold responsibilities at home often lead to family stress, domestic abuse, separation, and divorce.

Steps to Take toward Recovering from Substance Abuse

  • Be honest about the situation
  • Connect with a professional substance abuse counselor or rehabilitation center
  • Include medically supervised and assisted detoxification
  • Ensure the program is customized to the individual’s specific needs
  • Participate in group, individual and family counseling
  • Create an aftercare/maintenance plan
  • Continue benefiting from counseling and group support after recovery

Gain the Support and Assistance Needed

Whether you’re seeking support for yourself or a loved one who’s dealing with a drug or alcohol problem, speaking with a healthcare professional who specializes in substance abuse can provide tremendous help. If wishing and love were enough to heal, everything would be better. But drug and alcohol abuse don’t work that way. Reach out to a trained substance abuse counselor today to gain the support and understanding that will give you or the person you care about the chance to become healthy again.

View Infographic Do You Have To Hit Rock Bottom To Want To Go To Rehab

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