While on vacation recently I had time to relax on the beach and reflect about our family’s situation. There was no great epiphany. However, one thing weighed on my mind concerning the language of addiction.
For many years through this journey, people have counseled my wife and I that nothing will actually change until our addict hits bottom. It was always said with sympathy and understanding in a way that I am sure was intended well. As a parent trying to deal with a drug-addicted child, however, just the thought of hitting bottom was frightening. What is bottom? How do we recognize bottom when we see it? How long will it take? And what damage is my son likely to experience on his way to bottom?
The answers from people experienced in drug and alcohol addiction were always vague and indeterminate. All the while we kept looking for that elusive bottom. And with each terrible experience we assumed, surely we had arrived there: losing his car, losing his license, losing his home, put in jail, nearly losing his life, and then, entering prison. What exactly is bottom, again?
I have been told by people and loved ones struggling with addiction that bottom is different depending on the person. For some, it’s losing one’s family or home, even incarceration, while for others it’s the thought of losing the respect of loved ones.
The one thing I found out for sure is that there is no determining what bottom is for another person. That is what is so frightening for a parent about this whole bottom concept. Is death considered bottom?
With all of these examples of bottom and none of them actually defining the experience, I would like to propose a different term. I suggest we call it a “profound experience.”
A profound experience is something that anyone in any situation can encounter. Large or small, this event or series of events has the impact to change a life. Following a profound experience, a person is able to gain “profound knowledge” concerning his or her life and the impact this experience has on the future. With this new knowledge, a person struggling with addiction or a friend is able to put in place the necessary steps to change his or her life.
To me, a profound experience more accurately describes what an addict must experience before it is possible for him or her to begin a process of change. It is the inspiration that causes someone addicted to wake up to the fact that drug or alcohol addiction can no longer be a part of his or her life.
For me, my vocabulary concerning drug and alcohol addiction is ever-changing.