Why You Should Forget About Rock Bottom

Why You Should Forget About Rock Bottom

If you’ve been thinking about stopping drinking, then the chances are you’ve heard about ‘hitting rock bottom’.  

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Perhaps you’ve read about other people’s experiences; that time they woke up in hospital, with no memory of how they got there. Or the moment they got arrested for drink driving, or lost a job, or ruined a relationship.

Some people believe you need to have a ‘rock bottom moment’ before you stop drinking … that you have to reach breaking point before you decide to put down the glass.

That is nonsense.

I think rock bottom is a bit of a myth. It’s an unhelpful idea that’s so widely received as true wisdom, we’ve accepted it as fact.

None of us need to be anywhere near ‘rock bottom’ in order to decide that we’ll stop hurting ourselves.

Here’s why: 

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There’s no quantifiable ‘rock bottom’

Think about it. What exactly is rock bottom? Is it losing your job? Being caught drink driving? Who knows. The impact of being banned from the road varies from person to person. The same goes for being fired; some people will hit financial crisis a lot quicker than others.

You could argue that rock bottom is all about how we feel. Maybe it’s got more to do with our levels of shame, embarrassment and guilt. But again, this varies hugely from person to person. We all have different personalities and what might be awful for you may not bother me.

It’s almost impossible to define what rock bottom is, other than to say it’s a pretty bad place – the kind of place we shouldn’t be aiming for.

 

Rock bottom stops people changing their behaviour

In every other area of life, we’re very quick to take action if there’s a problem. If we gain a few pounds, we try and lose them. If we’ve got toothache, we visit the dentist – even if we hate going. We understand that nipping the problem in the bud is easier than letting things get out of control.

With alcohol, it’s different. Culturally, we have this idea that you need to be falling down and losing everything before you can address your relationship with booze. We view alcohol abuse in very black and white terms – it’s all or nothing. You’re either a ‘normal’ drinker or a raging alcoholic.

We seem reluctant to acknowledge that a) there are people who fall between those two extremes, and b) you can stop drinking in the grey zone! You do not have to wait until things get really, really bad.

 

Rock bottom reinforces the idea that sobriety is a last resort

Here’s what kept me stuck for ages: the idea that sobriety was going to be utterly miserable. It felt like some kind of punishment for not being able to drink ‘normally’. And who could blame me for thinking that way? From a young age we’re told that alcohol is cool and sobriety is boring.

(As it happens, deciding to stop drinking was one of the best decisions I ever made. It has been truly life changing and I’ve written about that a lot, including here and here.)

 

So how do you know if you should stop drinking?

It’s pretty simple, really – you don’t need to wait until your life is in chaos or you’re falling to pieces. That is not the only way to measure an alcohol problem.

If you’re frequently drinking more than you intend to, and it’s making you miserable, that’s something to pay attention to. Or if you feel worried about your drinking – and you suspect it’s holding you back from living your best life – then that’s more than enough. 

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54 Comments

    • I’m like many on this comment board. I think this website’s approach is rare, and needed by a demographic that doesn’t get acknowledged. The ones that are holding jobs where they succeed, being good parents, nurturing relationships. Some of us have that, but are doing it drenched in guilt, familiar with exhaustion, and deep in a routine that is engrained to the point of automation. “Going through a funk”. I’m getting fed up with said funk, and haven’t been sober for a time. Where do I begin?

      – Pränce

      Reply
  1. About 39 days ago after many mobths of thinking about quitting..i decided “on saturday i will not drink!”. And i didnt. And havent since. And i feel great! Clear…some minor withdrawal but it became and exciting and proud moment.

    Reply
    • Congratulations – that’s a brilliant achievement! What a great feeling. Keep going 🙂

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  2. Kate I am really relating to your blogs. I totally agree that reaching your rock bottom is a myth because the despair that awaits you if you return to drinking may keep you wallowing at “rock bottom” rather than reaching up for the light.

    Reply
  3. This blog is totally what I needed right now. I have been alcohol free for 17months now, no major rock bottom…as people would think. But internally I was a wreck…condtant worry and guilt about everything…and drinking to continue being the fun loving girl all my friends knew. Cutting down was never going to be an option for me and my mindset. I’m so much more content with my life without alcohol on it. Sure I have had doubts if I have done the right thing, nearly talked myself into “Just the one” on a few occasions.. ..but never did it..thankfully! I quite often think that people must assume I had hit the rock bottom we all assume…but I didn’t and I’m so pleased to finally read about the grey area where a majority of people I know (used to know) are drinking. Programmes should be made on these people (me) rather than the alcoholics shown on tv which perpetuates the belief that rock bottom is somewhere different to where I was.

    Wow…i clearly needed to write all that.

    Xxx

    Reply
  4. 8 days sober. Never hit rock bottom but wanted to not drink so that I can be in good health to bring up my toddler – single mum needs to stay healthy.

    Reply
    • Well done Kate! The first few days are the hardest but you’re flying through them. Looking after your health is really important – what a great reason to do this 🙂

      Reply
  5. This is a really good post. 2 years ago when I was regularly going to AA and had 5 months of sobriety, I drank again one night. My sponsor at the time said that she didn’t think I had hit my rock bottom (and another AA member agreed with her when I shared this comment). I was really puzzled and annoyed by this comment at the time. I wasn’t sure what she was suggesting by it… that I should carry on drinking until I have hit it? And what is ‘it’ anyway? As you say, it’s difficult to quantify. The truth is I feel like I’ve hit emotional ‘rock bottoms’ many, many times.

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  6. So many shades of grey here (sorry for any references to said film)
    It really is about our own perception of shame, guilt and attitude to health.
    Rock bottom? Maybe it does exist but in many guises!!
    Keep blogging Kate. Always uplifting xx

    Reply
  7. Yes!! Totally agree! This idea of ‘rock bottom’ is dated and unhelpful. I experienced what many would consider to be ‘rock bottom’ quite a few times before I actually decided to stop 3.5 years ago. In the end it was just a decision, enough was enough – the best one I ever made and one that could be made by anyone who’s drinking makes them miserable. If anyone reading this is struggling to give the booze up, don’t lose hope. It is possible and you will gain SO much. Keep up the good work these posts are so refreshing xx

    Reply
    • Wow, congratulations on your 3.5 years! Sounds like it was a brilliant decision 🙂

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  8. Yes yes all kinds of yes! Thank you for the spot on blog, once again 🙂

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    • Thanks Erin 🙂

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  9. I’m nine weeks in and feel great. First 6 weeks or so felt very fatigued with a big sugar craving. But now feeling benefits. Good luck all x

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    • Well done Valerie 🙂 It can take a little while to get used to not having the sugar from alcohol in your body, but things will just keep getting better now!

      Reply
  10. Spot on again! For me it was a conversation with a friend who I admire and who did just what you described. I guess it made me feel now is as good of a time as ever to quit and I did. So, so happy with the decision. Thanks for this blog. I look forward to reading it every week!

    Reply
  11. Hi

    I’m on day 65 🙂 & I have never posted on any site before but this really resonated. I feel so much better without the constant internal battle of saying I won’t drink tonight or I’ll just have a couple and then beating myself up about it when I fail. I don’t know what the future holds but at the moment I’m planning on 100 days…. thanks for this blog. V helpful

    Reply
    • 100 days is an excellent goal – a lot of stuff clicks into place around that point. Well done on your 65 days! 🙂

      Reply
  12. Thank you! There was no rock bottom for me, at least as far as I could tell. All I know was that the time had come for me and alcohol to say farewell – forever. Over 7 months sober now and I feel great. Thanks again Kate for a great blog.

    Reply
    • Sometimes you just know that it’s over – time to go your separate ways! Congratulations on your 7 months! 🙂

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  13. I’m 7 days sober, feeling better about myself, enjoying not waking up feeling like crap but on the other side of the coin I do feel I reached, ‘my’ rock bottom. Trying to take things one day at a time but keep looking too far forward and panicking about holidays and social functions

    Reply
    • Keep going Joanne! Just stay focused on short term goals and the amazing benefits of your new, alcohol-free lifestyle 🙂

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  14. Thank you! I am in that gray area and for me, the benefits of not drinking are (finally) outpacing the so-called joys of drinking. Love that I am sleeping better and wake up feeling clear headed. I’m not yet 100% AF, but have gone from a bottle of wine every night to one drink once a week. And that one night/drink? Yep, don’t sleep well and wake up with a headache. But I am making progress. Plus I’ve lost about 20 pounds!!

    Reply
    • Well done Jo, that’s a big improvement and you’re obviously feeling the benefits! All that sober time counts – I’m sure you’ll be completely alcohol free soon 🙂

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  15. So, so true Kate. If I waited til rock bottom, I’d be missing teeth, limbs or quite likely, my life. Why wait until you’ve lost everything? It really took the realization that things were not going to get better, I wouldn’t be able to go back to drinking with impunity as it seemed in my early 20s. It took me a lot of time + pain to truly understand this – that consequences were going to get graver and graver. Thanks for your post. : )

    Reply
    • Absolutely – drinking puts you on a very slippery slope. It’s not good. But you can choose to step off at any time … as you’ve discovered 🙂

      Reply
  16. I’ve been sober just over nine months now and I can’t imagine where I’d be right now if I hadn’t quit when I did. I had a string of several bad nights for about a month, including two injuries one week apart from each other. Nothing too traumatic but enough for me to make the decision to quit once and for all. I used to compare my “rock bottom” story with others and think I was being ridiculous. But now I know that the severity of the reason for quitting doesn’t matter. All that matters is bettering yourself for you, and only you.

    Love your blog. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  17. How do you stop contiuesly thinking of having a drink….I mean. Say you have stopped drinking for a couple of weeks. Then you get to the stage that all you do is relaxing with a glass of wine. How do you block that thought when your will power is at its low. Kind regards. X

    Reply
  18. Apologies for all the typo errors. I just want to know how do you get rid of the mind torment. That is when I keep failing. I get over the first few days full of enthusiasm. Then bang out of no where the mind torture….Please help.

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    • Hi Lorna, it sounds as if you could do with some support to understand exactly what alcohol does and doesn’t do for you. Once you get clear on what’s real and what’s an illusion it’s so much easier not to drink (and you don’t have to rely on willpower all the time, which can be exhausting). If you want some coaching in this area, you might like to consider joining my next course – we go deep into all those topics, and more. You can join the waitlist here: http://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
  19. Kate, this is the part of your class that resonated the most with me. It’s almost an excuse to continue drinking – “until you’ve hit rock bottom.” Nonsense is right! I’ve just passed 11 months, and while I don’t want to jinx it by saying it’s been easy, it honestly hasn’t been the white knuckle ride that some, sadly, feel. Thanks to you, Kate, I stopped poisoning myself and am happier, healthier and much more present and productive! #april2016class

    Reply
    • Thank you Lisa, I love feedback like this! Huge congratulations on your 11 months alcohol free – you’ll be celebrating one year before you know it! 🙂

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  20. I’m so comforted that I am not on my own, I would like to thank you Kate, and everyone who contributes, your page is REALLY helping me. When I feel like I’m struggling I visit your page, it’s almost like a warm hug x

    Reply
  21. I can really connect with the language and philosophy.

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  22. I also decided to quit before I hit rock bottom. One can only be lucky for so long before something terrible happens. I wanted to prevent getting to that point.

    Reply
  23. Thanks for this blog, I’m “grey”.

    Reply
  24. Great Post Kate. I am new to your Blog and I love it! I look forward to it each week. I am 58 days alcohol Free today Woohoo! ,after about 30 years of drinking wine(lots of it) on a daily basis. I have never felt better and my sobriety is far exceeding my expectations. I feel like me again for the first time in so many years. I had “thought”about quitting and tried cutting back sooooo many times , but I was unsuccessful. My “Rock Bottom ” Hit with these words spoken to me by my 29 year old daughter in a very casual conversation.She said very simply, ” Mom, you are such a great person and so much fun, but you turn into someone completely different when you drink”
    It wasn’t news to me at all, and I was not surprised to hear it. I already knew that and she was right. Hearing it from my Daughter that day was a wake up call, even though I had those same thoughts so many times before. But, Strangely enough something clicked for me that day and I decided I was done. I have good days and bad days and some in between, but I am thankful for each day without the company of a bottle (or2) of wine.

    Reply
    • Dawn, thank you for your openness and honesty (as to everyone here). It helps me especially to hear from someone older who’s been drinking for a long time – I am and have. I need to know it’s not too late. Silly to say that, of course – it will be too late if I don’t stop now. Thank you, as ever, Kate for your work and encouragement. And thank you to everyone here.

      Reply
      • Nicola you can do this! It’s never to late to start a new.

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    • Well done on your 58 days, that’s brilliant news. I’m pleased to hear sobriety is exceeding your expectations!

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      • Thank You Kate

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  25. I am new to this blog, so I’m just trying to reach out I guess and be involved. Make it part of my day. I have lost jobs, gotten DIS, and lost relationships. But before all that happened, I knew inside my drinking made me feel horrible….less than, anxiety causing. I still manage to be extremely productive in my professional field, but I fear it is a matter of time to loose that too if I do not quit. I look forward to making this sober school a daily part of my life and recovery. It is scary as I have relied on my drinking for a well deserved relax.. despite all that has happened, I still hold on to “my right” to have a damn drink after a hard day. It is never one…I look forward to being part of this community. This is now where I go instead of having the after work drink. I look forward to the feed back of this community. Yep, day ONE today! And work a drinking school, and finding care for my two lovely dogs!! Aaagghh! Thank you all for your support. Yeah, just day one…

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    • Good luck Dorothy 🙂

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      • Yeah, thanks. Hope to hear more response from you all. Looking forward to the journey. Thank you.

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  26. I do believe there are some spelling errors in my first post. Things will get better.

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  27. Kate I love your blog and find it so helpful, I can relate to every thing you say and look forward to it every week. I’m now 30 days in to a challenge I set myself of 90 days. I’m proud to say I have been out socially and not drank yet still had a good time. I feel healthier and more full of life now that I’m not putting poison into my body on a daily basis. I’m determined to do this and will keep on going after the 90 days as life is too good to contaminate with alcohol which is just a toxic poison which takes away all joy and happiness in my opinion

    Reply
    • Congratulations on your 30 days! I think 90 days is a great goal to work towards – you’ll nail it I’m sure 🙂

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  28. When I realised that alcohol was taking up to much time in my life ie thinking when I was going to have my next drink, manipulating the situation so I end up at a shop to buy Alcohol. So I felt that I Was only living to drink and I wanted to get my life back.Also having four grandchildren wanted to be able to enjoy them and be there for them.

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    • Thank you for this, Dianne. That kind of behaviour/manipulation has been mine for far too long.

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  29. Wow, i just stumbled upon this today… my second day of deciding I want to stop for pretty much the exact same reasons as you stated. I’m almost afraid to tell people that I’m not drinking anymore since I don’t think anybody thinks I have a problem, only myself in that the thoughts of “wine o’clock” are starting to consume me and that bothers me a lot! So thank you for this and I look forward to reading a lot more by you as I start a new direction in life!

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  30. Excellent work with the rock bottom I deal. I think most of the 12 step work began because people hit that place. But it’s by no means a place people have to hit.

    Reply

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