If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 1,000 times. “I know they need help,” cue up a slight shrug of the shoulders and a sad face, “but until they hit bottom there is nothing we can do.”
So not true.
According to the Hazelden Foundation’s statistics, 77% of sober alcoholics report that they got sober because a friend or relative intervened (p.9 “No More Letting Go”). This intuitively makes sense, right? If alcoholism is an organic brain disease, then the brain isn’t working so great. Why would we think that an impaired person would have the capacity and clarity of thought to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get sober?
One counter-argument that also has the ring of validity is this: addiction is a self-diagnosed disease. In other words, someone has to own their need for recovery. This is true. BUT – and I cannot emphasize this enough – most folks need consequences, education, willingness and a LOT of crucial conversations to self-diagnose. When folks talk about “self-diagnosis” what I believe they mean is that eventually if we suffer from a Substance Use Disorder (or any other problem for that matter) we are going to have to accept reality and take responsibility for working a recovery program. Eventually. But in the meantime, those who love them have work they can do to create an environment that makes this willingness more likely.
Last night I was in the ER with a precious young man who had OD’d. He BEGGED me for help. He was totally on board with owning his addiction until I found him a place to go that very night for treatment. He ultimately rejected the offer for help. But if you could’ve seen him, you would have known, as I did, that he needed encouragement and support to get from his awareness to right action. A hijacked brain cannot be expected to make wise choices, handle the details and the red tape of getting into treatment and sustain willingness long enough to actually move from an ER into a treatment facility. Examples like this support the need for not only willingness but acceptance of the need for help AND a team who will “raise the bottom.”
“Raising the bottom” is a better way to talk about “hitting bottom” – it involves families and loved ones learning some new skills to help make that happen.
To be continued….