Do You Have to Hit Rock Bottom to Get Sober?

Do You Have to Hit Rock Bottom to Get Sober?

Many people get help for addiction after losing everything, but that’s not always the case.

If you’ve been in the rooms before or you’ve watched movies that depict a character that struggles with addiction, you may have heard the phrase “hit rock bottom.” It usually describes someone who  reaches their lowest point before going to rehab or getting help for their addiction. Unfortunately, this phrase is very misleading. It assumes that treatment is only successful if a person loses everything and has reached the very end of their rope. But this isn’t true at all.

Here’s what you need to know about the phrase “hitting rock bottom”, why this type of thinking is dangerous, and how you can get help for addiction, right here, right now, if you need it.

Related post: How to Get Insurance to Pay for Drug Detox

What Does the Phrase “Hit Rock Bottom” Mean?

The phrase “hitting rock bottom” comes from the idea that you have to lose everything and reach your lowest point before you’re ready to get treatment to overcome your addiction. Although many people who go to rehab are motivated to do so because they have lost everything, this isn’t always the case.

How Waiting Until You Hit Rock Bottom Is Dangerous

The idea of waiting until you hit rock bottom to get help for your addiction is very dangerous because it assumes that you can’t get help any sooner. In truth, you don’t have to lose everything and reach your lowest point before you get sober. You can get help as soon as you realize your substance abuse is a problem before you lose your job, home, family and other things that are important to you.

Waiting until you hit rock bottom to get help is a dangerous way of thinking because it unnecessarily delays treatment that’s often life-saving. Instead of needlessly suffering for months or years longer, you could get individualized treatment now and overcome your addiction before your relationships suffer or you develop physical health problems often associated with addiction, like:

  • Organ damage
  • Heart attack or heart disease
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV
  • Overdose 

When Is the Best Time to Seek Addiction Treatment?

The best time to get help for addiction is at any point during the addiction. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to hit rock bottom to go to detox and rehab. Instead, if you realize that you’re struggling with substance abuse or that a loved one is gradually getting more and more dependent on drugs and alcohol, you should get help or talk to them about going to treatment right away.

Medical detox and rehab programs aren’t just for people who have been addicted for years. They’re for anyone who is struggling with alcohol or drug dependence and recognizes the damage it’s causing in their life. Research shows early intervention for addiction reduces the harm associated with substance abuse, improves health and social function, and prevents the progression of addiction (as well as the need for more specialized addiction treatment services).1

Simply put, the longer you wait to get help for your addiction, the more difficult it will be to get sober and sustain a life of recovery.

What Motivates People to Get Sober?

There are many reasons why someone may choose to seek help for their addiction, other than just hitting rock bottom. For instance, these circumstances are common motivators that push people to get help:

  • Mental health problems: Many people who misuse drugs and alcohol experience mental health problems. Often, they were pre-existing and worsened with substance abuse or they developed as a result of the substance abuse. Regardless, suffering from severe mental health problems like depression, anxiety, or PTSD can sometimes be enough to motivate a person to get help for their substance abuse problems.
  • Major life changes: Big life changes like losing a job or a home, having a child, experiencing major health problems, or getting a divorce can often be turning events that push a person to make changes in their life.
  • Recognizing the harm and damage the addiction has caused others: Sometimes it’s difficult to see how our drug or alcohol abuse is harming others. We may feel that our addiction only hurts us, but no one else. However, this is rarely true. Instead, when family members or loved ones show us how our substance abuse has harmed the people around us, we may be motivated to change. Often, this can be accomplished with a carefully planned intervention.
  • Therapy: Sometimes, therapy or counseling can also reveal the truth about substance abuse issues and motivate a person to seek treatment.
  • Supportive loved ones: When you have supportive and caring loved ones who want the best for you, they’ll typically encourage you to get all the help you need and be there with you through the process. This can be highly motivating and often gives people the courage they need to step out of their comfort zone and get treatment at a detox center or rehab program.

As you can see, hitting rock bottom isn’t the only reason people get help for addiction. Although it can be a strong motivator, you don’t have to lose everything before you seek out treatment for a substance abuse problem.

What to Do When You’re Ready to Get Help for Addiction

Do you dream about living a life you can be proud of? One that doesn’t involve spending all your time getting your next fix? Or maybe you’re just sick of waking up with a hangover and suffering through your workday just so you can make it to your next drink. These are all signs that you’re likely ready to help for your addiction.

Once you’ve decided to go to addiction treatment, there are a few vital steps you should take to ensure your success.

Tell your close loved ones that you’re committing to sobriety and ask for their support.

The best way to start your journey to addiction recovery is to get honest with yourself and your closest loved ones. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help and accountability, either. In fact, getting support right away is the perfect way to start your recovery journey. Your loved ones may be willing to help you get into detox and rehab or offer support in other ways.

Explore your addiction treatment options.

Once you admit that you need help to kick your addiction, you’ll want to explore your options for treatment. There are several different types of addiction treatment programs, many of which encompass behavioral counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and long-term aftercare, to help you stay on track. They include:

  • Medical detox: Detox is typically the first step to addiction recovery. It helps you safely detox from drugs and/or alcohol and provides medication-assisted treatment for uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Once you’re physically stable, you can start getting treatment for  your psychological addiction with a rehab program.
  • Residential rehab: In this type of rehab program, clients live on-site at the rehab center for the extent of their program. They attend therapy sessions, process groups, complete recovery-related activities with their peers, and maintain a regular schedule while they’re in treatment. They are regularly drug tested and must adhere to the rules of the facility to continue living there and complete their program.
  • Outpatient rehab: In an intensive outpatient program or IOP, clients attend group treatment sessions at a secure clinical location. Sessions are held several times a week and scheduling is flexible so clients can continue working, going to school, or maintaining other family responsibilities if they need to.
  • Sober living: A sober living program provides safe, sober housing for men and women who are recovering from addiction. The facilities are typically gender-specific and include furniture, bedding, full kitchens, washing machines and dryers, TVs, etc. to ensure that residents are comfortable. Many sober living programs also provide recovery support services including regular drug testing, individualized recovery programming, 12-Step support groups, regular house meetings, employment assistance, educational planning, and volunteer placement.
  • Aftercare: After a client has completed detox, rehab, and/or sober living, he or she may choose to continue receiving ongoing recovery support. This might include certified peer recovery support, individual therapy, family counseling, and  group recovery meeting attendance.

To determine what type of addiction treatment program might be best for you, you can talk with a therapist, doctor, or addiction treatment specialist. They will be able to provide professional recommendations based on the severity of your addiction, your financial ability, your preferences, and your treatment needs. You should also seek treatment for any medical and psychological issues you’re experiencing. Treatment for these conditions should occur simultaneously for the best results.2

Commit and follow through.

After you explore your options and get a better idea of what type of treatment might be best for you, the next step is to commit to treatment and follow through. No single program will be best for everyone, so it’s important that you find a program that’s customized to your unique needs. It should feel right to you.

Although following through and going to treatment can be very challenging, try to remember that you’re taking the necessary steps to heal and recover so you can create a better life for yourself. It won’t be easy, but it’s worth all the time and work you’ll put in.

Get support for addiction recovery.

The best way to establish a meaningful drug and alcohol-free life is to build a strong support system in recovery. This will not only protect you from relapse, but iwill also give you a sense of purpose in life that makes drug and alcohol abuse less appealing.

You can find support for your recovery by doing the following things:

  • Rely on supportive friends and family.
  • Establish a sober social network.
  • Get a sponsor.
  • Move into a sober living home if you don’t have stable or supportive housing.
  • Attend recovery meetings regularly.
  • Learn how to cope with stress without using drugs or alcohol.
  • Identify your triggers and develop healthy ways to deal with them.
  • Find fun and meaningful ways to fill your free time.
  • Ask for help if you need it.
  • Be honest with your support network if you relapse and get back on track right away.

Related post: How to Prepare for Detox

The Professionals at Briarwood Detox Are Available to Help You

Ready for a fresh start? The compassionate medical detox professionals at Briarwood Detox Center are here to help. We offer individualized drug and alcohol rehab programs that ensure your comfort and safety during withdrawal. We use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and evidence-based treatment methods to help you overcome your physical dependence on addictive substances and prepare your mind and body for ongoing treatment in rehab.

Please call (512) 262-4426 today or contact us online to get started.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424859/ 
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/what-are-treatments-comorbid-substance-use-disorder-mental-health-conditions 

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