Rock bottom is one of those concepts that always seems to come up when people are talking about drug addiction. Rock bottom, the point when an addict just can’t do it any more, the turning point of a hopeless life. For those of us who love an addict, the idea that he or she could reach rock bottom might be desired, but feared; the outcome could turn into heaven or hell. And that’s the point, rock bottom could go either way: recovery or the unthinkable.
In his book ‘Who Says I’m an Addict?’, David Smallwood says “the circumstances of every addict’s rock bottom are different, but the common factor is that it occurs when the pain caused by the addiction becomes so intense that they can no longer function as a human being”. As an expert in such matters, his words are poignant. But for me the most memorable description of rock bottom came during a documentary interview with a recovered drug addict. When asked what made him get clean, he thought for a while then said it was when the “pain of change became less than the pain of staying the same”. I still get emotional when I think of his words and what he had achieved. But who on earth in their right mind would want a loved-one to reach that state? Actually, I would.
The circumstances for Ryan to hit his rock bottom were there, the first time he was released from prison. Having been behind bars for several weeks, he was released in a freezing February. He lost the ‘sofa’ he’d rented, he refused a place in a hostel because it was known to be full of drug addicts and he had no access to the family home. He had nothing. But, terrified by his situation, once again I came to the rescue by taking him in, finding him a decent room, paying the rent and so on. Looking back, even though I was distraught about everything, I made the wrong call. Just months later, and despite a lot of family support, he lost the room, lost both the jobs he’d found and ended up homeless. I knew then that I wouldn’t be rescuing him again. Lesson learned: you can’t save someone from themselves.
So even though rock bottom sounds like the worse place a human being could be, I do believe that if Ryan never reaches it, he’ll never quit the drugs. He’ll never have a normal life, a family life. And I’ll never get my son back. Maybe one day it will happen and he’ll come out the other end a happy, drug-free person. I live in hope. Has your addict ever been close to rock bottom? If so, I’d really like to hear about it.