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Drink Problems - What does ‘rock bottom’ mean?

Published 26/02/2008

What is ‘rock bottom' and how can you tell if you've reached it?

It's a complex question. Broadly speaking, ‘rock bottom' is the moment when a problem drinker is forced to face the devastating consequences of continued alcohol abuse and take an agonising decision: to continue on the path of self-destruction or to make a commitment to sobriety and change.

That said, the process of reaching rock bottom is unique to each individual. There is no single roadmap that fits all cases.

The moment of realisation could be triggered by an embarrassing display at an office party, a trip to Casualty, or a conviction for drink driving. It might follow the break-up of a marriage and the loss of one's children, a night spent sleeping rough, or a drunken bout of physical violence.

In some cases, it can take a long time - and plenty of personal disasters -- for ‘rock bottom' to be reached. One of the most debilitating aspects of alcohol addiction is denial, the inability or refusal of a sufferer to recognise the impact that drinking is having on their life and relationships, says Sue Allchurch, director of Linwood Manor Group.

For that reason, she says, the trauma associated with hitting rock bottom must be of sufficient magnitude to act as a real ‘wake-up' call.

But there's good news, too. Often, she says, an alcoholic in recovery is able to look back on their ‘rock bottom' moment and recognise it as the point at which their life began to move in a positive direction.

By seeking help for their problem, via a respected alcohol clinic or alcohol treatment programme, anyone suffering from alcohol abuse has the potential to make that change. For some, it may not be necessary to reach rock bottom in order to honestly face up to the damage that alcohol abuse causes - but many others will have to hit that low point before they can start the upwards climb to recovery.


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