Boozy to Butterfly

Rock Bottom

June 08, 2021 Episode 13
Boozy to Butterfly
Rock Bottom
Boozy to Butterfly
Rock Bottom
Jun 08, 2021 Episode 13

Do you have to hit "rock bottom" to finally achieve lasting change? What is "rock bottom" and why do people refer to it as the moment that can turn your life around? In this week's episode, Emily talks about what rock bottom means, why many believe it’s the pinnacle moment of lasting change, and why she believes waiting for rock bottom is a disaster in the making. 

Looking for more support on your stop overdrinking journey? Head over to to sign up for my free 10-day training course. 

If you're ready for private coaching, email me at [email protected]

Show Notes Transcript

Do you have to hit "rock bottom" to finally achieve lasting change? What is "rock bottom" and why do people refer to it as the moment that can turn your life around? In this week's episode, Emily talks about what rock bottom means, why many believe it’s the pinnacle moment of lasting change, and why she believes waiting for rock bottom is a disaster in the making. 

Looking for more support on your stop overdrinking journey? Head over to to sign up for my free 10-day training course. 

If you're ready for private coaching, email me at [email protected]

Episode 13: Rock Bottom

Hi everyone, we’re on lucky episode 13 this week and I want to talk about hitting rock bottom. I want to talk about what it means, why many believe it’s the pinnacle moment of lasting change, and why I believe waiting for rock bottom is a disaster in the making. 

I will tell you I personally had some low moments when I was an overdrinker but I wouldn’t say that I hit rock bottom when I decided to stop drinking. I definitely had a list of things I wish I hadn’t done or hadn’t said but I don’t carry shame or guilt around because of it. People make mistakes with or without alcohol. You have to let it go and remember alcohol is a psychoactive drug that alters your cognitive thinking and decision making so of course you’re going to make decisions and choices you wouldn’t normally make with a sober mind.

So what does it mean to hit rock bottom? You’ve probably heard the phrase before and you may have even heard people say things like “she hasn’t hit rock bottom yet” as if that’s really what it takes to change. Well, rock bottom is supposed to be your lowest point. It’s the point where things supposedly can’t get any worse. 

Rock bottom implies you have lost (or you’re about to lose) someone or something you can’t stand to live without – a loved one, a place to live, a career, a relationship. Something detrimental to your life or well-being. But I want to point out this is relative. It’s relative to the value you place on drinking versus the value you place on what you’ve lost. In addition, many overdrinkers are high-functioning and very productive. You may start to lose things along the way and your quality of life will start to deteriorate but overall, you’re getting shit done. 

What’s rock bottom for one person is not rock bottom for another. Getting arrested might be the lowest point for Susie but not for Stacy. And as humans we like to justify things in our head to lessen the negative impact. We work through that cognitive dissonance by justifying negative events to feel better about them. So if getting arrested was at one point the rock bottom, once you recover from that shocking incident, it may no longer be your low point.

I’m sure you’ve seen many public figures get arrested multiple times or get DUIs multiple times but that does little to change their behavior. So rock bottom is not only subjective but it’s a moving target. It’s not a destination, nor something to strive for. If you’re waiting for rock bottom, it’s a ticking time bomb with a road paved full of hurt, anguish, and destruction. It’s essentially playing Russian roulette with your life and the lives of others by asking yourself, “how much pain can I cause or bear before I start to see the benefits of living alcohol free.”

So why do so many people believe you have to hit rock bottom to finally seek change? Well, first of all, people often refer to it very dramatically when they explain their ah-ha moment of change. There’s a recent blog post I read stating 12 Reasons Why Hitting Rock Bottom is the Best Thing That Can Ever Happen to You. And I’ll share the 12 things but while I’m listing them, ask yourself if it really takes a rock bottom moment to takes these actions. So the 12 are reflection and realization, seeing your dysfunctional behavior, gaining a fresh perspective, self-awareness, trusting in life, humility, compassion, letting go, taking responsibility, the only way is up, trusting yourself, and gratitude.

It does not take rock bottom to start working on yourself. Because you’re overdrinking does not mean that you can’t also be trying to evolve and grow at the same time. In fact, that’s the best way to stop overdrinking before hitting a “rock bottom” moment, working on yourself now. There’s a lot of opportunity between where you are now and where you want to be. Small changes in the rudder can change the entire course. Learning to become an advocate for your well-being and prosperous future is a decision you can make now. If you’re struggling with overdrinking it doesn’t make you a bad person or a sub-species. You can choose to stop wallowing in the pain of wishing you were a “normal drinker” and move forward with figuring out how to start making changes today.

People believe rock bottom is a magic resolution to problems. As if, losing everything you love and value sets you up for future success. I mean how asinine does that sound? It’s like saying the best way to get rich is to go broke first. Or the best way to get a fit, buff body is to gain a bunch of weight first. Spiraling toward rock bottom is a miserable, alienating path of destruction. 

I really think what people are saying when referring to the need to hit rock bottom is they just haven’t lost enough yet. They haven’t lost that thing that is so hurtful it will make them wake up to the pain overdrinking is causing. But what people don’t realize is alcohol is a coping tool. So the more pain you’re in, the more you’re going to want to drink. Alcohol is causing your problem but it’s also the solution to your mental anguish. 

Alcohol becomes a very intimate, personal support system for overdrinkers, especially when the negative outcomes begin to grow. You’re not going to want to equate your negative circumstances with overdrinking. You’re not going to want to link the two behaviors because you’re afraid you’ll have to give it up. You’re afraid you’ll have to quit drinking and accept a life of AA or 12-steps and that sounds worse than anything you can imagine right now.

Rock bottom doesn’t make someone suddenly see that alcohol is causing their problems…it just leaves them disempowered, helpless, and scared. They reach a point where they have to rely on something or someone else because they no longer have the means or strength to continue to fight the fight. They feel broken, alone, and likely full of shame which is an awful place to be. 

Change can happen here because you’re a shell of a person and you feel like life beat you up. This is where you might start to think there’s something wrong about you in a bad way and you’re different and you succumb to the resources popularized by the addiction treatment industry. And these work for some but not for everyone and something most of them have in common, including AA, is building on that fear that you already have. They continue to hammer home that you have a disease and you need to avoid being around alcohol and people drinking, you need to limit your interactions, and you need to find God or some higher power to help you because you’re helpless. 

I never subscribed to this disempowering step program but it does work for some people. In fact, it’s usually the first place people look when they hit rock bottom and it’s also the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place they return to when these programs don’t work the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd time. 

But I digress. I just believe it’s vital to understand there’s more than one way to overcome overdrinking and the way in which you overcome overdrinking significantly impacts what your life looks like and feels like after the fact. AA and 12-steps are not the only solutions and I find the view of self after those programs is fragile and less than versus programs rich with empowerment and education like my coaching and courses and those of many others.

But believing there is a “rock bottom” only delays seeking guidance on how to stop overdrinking. It gives you a false sense that there’s a low point at which you point you should seek assistance or even share what you’re going through with others. 

I want to share a comment from my Stop Overdrinking course that really touched my heart. Let me read it. “Hi Emily. I have been seeking help for my alcohol dependance for well over 10 years. I have tried AA multiple times, smart recovery, multiple outpatient treatments, residential treatment which you refer to as rehab along with many medications including disulfiram and naltrexone to name a few. I came into your course after attending your free workshop and after completing the second lesson I feel like I am becoming a person again. Someone who has potential and hope. I tucked my children in last night and read them a book for the first time in years. I can't wait to keep learning more. Thank you.”

Your best tool is education and empowerment. Rock bottom is not a place of empowerment, it’s the place where you feel exhausted. You’re drained of resources, drained of friends, drained of life. And each time something bad happens, you correct your drinking for a little while, if you have any willpower left, and then a few weeks or months later, something bad happens again. It’s a cycle.

I was thinking about how to describe this cycle and I came up with four phases of overdrinking that align with most of my coaching students. I’m going to share them and while I do, think about when it’s the best time to start making changes in your life.

These overdrinking phases are off the cuff so don’t think of these phases as clinical or evidence-based. 

So phase 1 could be something as simple as drinking more often than socially or drinking more than a moderate amount when you drink. This could continue for years with little disturbance to your life. You might have more than a few unpleasant circumstances in this phase like a few arguments, a fall breaking something, or throwing up from too much alcohol or perhaps a few bad choices like drinking and driving. For many people, this is their limit. They throw up from drinking too much and that’s the bottom for them. Or they drink and drive and thankfully didn’t injure someone and that’s it. They put their overdrinking in check right here in phase 1 and take a break from drinking or perhaps they put a hard limit on the quantity when they do imbibe. But many people don’t see this as a sign to drink less and they eventually move into phase 2.

Phase 2 includes increasing the quantity with which you’re drinking. You may start having pre-event cocktails more often. You may start drinking alone more frequently. You may start conjuring up reasons to get together and drink with friends more often. But overall, you’re drinking more than you were in phase 1. You’re starting to align regular activities to become drinking activities. When you cook, clean, or attend a non-alcoholic birthday party you may start drinking. You pour yourself more alcohol when you get home from an event because you’re not intoxicated enough. Rather than drinking one bottle of wine, you’re opening a second.

You may drink a little during the week but now you’re drinking more and your weekends are now filled with binge drinking…from Friday night to Sunday night. You start harassing your friends who aren’t interested in getting drunk on a Sunday afternoon and gravitate to those people who are interested in getting drunk. You start to create an identity synonymous with drinking and build a world around you that includes more alcohol.

Phase 2 is you doubling-down on your drinking identity and pulling away from people who have started to raise an eyebrow at how much and how often you’re drinking. You hang out with these friends less often and you’re overdrinking friends more often. You justify your overdrinking in your head as okay because you have this other group who is doing it too. When you drink at home by yourself you say it’s because you’re bored or because there’s nothing better to do. You still are very functional in your life, you’re working or taking care of the family but you’re finding alcohol more and more important to your life although you may not recognize it yet.  

So then comes Phase 3 where you start sneaking and lying about drinking. You’re putting wine in coffee mugs and taking them to kids’ soccer games or non-alcoholic get togethers. You take roadie’s with you nearly everywhere you go. This a new term that has popped up with the younger crowd, roadie. It’s just a to-go drink. When you come home from being out, you lie about how much you drank and pour yourself a drink. You hide the empty bottles and throw them away discreetly so your family doesn’t see that you polished off another bottle of wine or vodka. 

But regardless of how much you’re lying and sneaking, they notice because alcohol does affect your cognition, even after one glass. So you’re slurring your words more often, you’re logic is flawed and scattered, you’ve become more confrontational, and you’ve withdrawn even more. More people might start asking you if there’s something wrong or questioning your behavior and this is where you start to protect your drinking as if it’s a part of you. Your identity and alcohol are so intertwined it feels so personal when someone discusses how drunk you were or maybe that you should take a break from drinking. 

You become angry, dismissive, or both during these conversations. You try to build in some dry days or you try moderation and you find you’re unable to do it. Which leads to phase 4.

Phase 4 is where the rock bottom moments occur, over and over again. Your health is definitely taking a toll whether it’s increased liver enzymes or constant hangovers. Your liver might actually hurt. Your performance at work or at home is suffering and you feel stuck. You keep trying to cut back or build in dry days but it’s too difficult. You’ve created this whole life around alcohol and it seems impossible to stop. And because it seems impossible to stop overdrinking, you are really feeling low. You’re feeling scared and wondering why you can’t overcome your overdrinking. You still don’t seek guidance or assistance and you’re still not discussing it with anyone. You feel alone and helpless. 

And since you’re feeling so bad about yourself, what do you want? You want alcohol. You want your coping tool. Alcohol can numb away negative feelings and pain but as you can see, alcohol also robs you of joy. But you keep drinking because the negative feelings are so overwhelming. You want to drink all the time because you feel awful. So you might start drinking while working, drinking and driving more often, getting in accidents, getting arrested, and definitely alienating loved ones. All of these things could be rock bottom moments for anyone. 

Do you want to wait for rock bottom to get a handle on overdrinking? They say it’s a slippery slope for a reason. Check out my podcasts #2 and #8 to learn why it’s so easy to become alcohol dependent and why it’s so hard to quit drinking. The brain is all about building associations and tracking habitual behaviors and routines…food and drink included. The more often you’re choosing alcohol and drinking as a behavior and overdrinking, the stronger association you will build in your brain. But it’s reversible. 

So, if you’re in phase 1, 2, or 3 of overdrinking, look at every embarrassing moment as rock bottom. Don’t justify the overdrinking, it’s easier to get overdrinking in check the earlier you are in the phases. And again, these phases are not clinical or research-based, they’re just phases I created from my own experience and those of my coaching students. 

Know that as you slide down this slope, rock bottom will come, no doubt. It’s the nature of the beast of alcohol and the brain’s response to it. Yes, overdrinking is a habit but with a strong dopamine kick and comfort factor. Alcohol starts to feel like an intimate relationship and you protect it. But I want you to look at it like an abusive relationship full of lies and betrayal. 

Use awareness as your first step to overcome overdrinking. See that your preference to alcohol is creating divisions and unpleasant circumstances. If it’s just one or two dramatic events now, more will surely come. You can get through anything without using alcohol as a crutch. I know it sounds scary because it’s what you know but so much better is waiting for you when you learn to stop overdrinking. You can do hard things. And the sooner you seek guidance or true support the easier it is to break this habit.