Rock Bottom, Detox, and No Longer Justifying Your Addiction

bench in park in fall

Contributor: Belmont Behavioral Hospital clinical content team member Ryan Poling, M.A.

There is an important principle in Alcoholics Anonymous known as “bottoming out” or “hitting rock bottom.” When a person hits rock bottom, he or she has experienced the worst of the worst. Maybe a person’s marriage is on the rocks as a result of repeated substance abuse and the individual has found himself or herself alone.

For another person, rock bottom may look like a promising career that has been cut short because of drugs. For other people, rock bottom may look like loss of friendships, joblessness, homelessness, a near-fatal overdose, or a combination of all of these. Regardless of the details, hitting rock bottom forces a person to take a new look at his or her life.

Hitting Rock Bottom

girl sitting in ball cryingBut what is so important about this new perspective? When a person is in the midst of an addiction, his or her world is skewed. Drugs become the person’s primary motivator and primary reward. This warp in a person’s worldview is powerful and not easily corrected.

For many people, the only way to correct the warp is have an experience that shakes him or her to the core. If the person is to begin taking a different path, he or she must often experience a taste of where the path of addiction leads.

One of the reasons this adjustment in perspective is so important is because addictions tend to be self-sustaining. A person struggling with an addiction has an acute ability to rationalize his or her addictive behavior, but hitting rock bottom forces a person to take an honest look at his or her life and the effect that addiction is having on it.

Detox and the Withdrawal Process

Once a person begins to see the corrosive effects that drugs have on his or her life, he or she may want to begin working towards sobriety, and the first step is both simple and quite complicated: Stop using drugs.

Man walking in the parkThe human body is remarkably adaptive, so when a person has been using a drug for an extended period of time, his or her body actually slightly alters how it operates to account for the presence of the drug.

If that person then stops using the drug, his or her body loses its chemical balance and must readjust itself so that it can operate without the drug present. This readjustment process is known as withdrawal, and it can be extremely uncomfortable.

Symptoms of withdrawal differ depending on the substance a person has been using, but often include:

  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Intense cravings for the drug a person had been using
  • A host of other symptoms

Perhaps the most insidious part of the withdrawal process is that the symptoms of withdrawal tend to dissipate fairly rapidly once a person takes another hit of the drug he or she had been using. As a result, the temptation to relapse during withdrawal can be enormous.


If a person wishes to give himself or herself the best possible chance of succeeding in sobriety, detoxification, or detox program is often the best option. While in detox, a person will live at a treatment center under the watchful eye of a clinical treatment team.

man in detox is laying on ground with catBeing in a detox program provides the advantage of not only allowing a person to withdraw safely from substances of abuse but also keeps the person in a drug-free environment so he or she is not tempted to relapse during the especially difficult initial few days of detox.

There is nothing easy about hitting rock bottom, taking an honest look at one’s life, and deciding to complete a detox program. However, with the help of a dedicated treatment team and a healthy dose of courage, it is possible to reclaim one’s life from addiction and begin one’s journey towards lifelong sobriety.

About the site: Belmont Behavioral Hospital is one of the largest mental healthcare providers in the Philadelphia, PA, area. For over 75 years, Belmont has offered comprehensive and compassionate care for people struggling with substance abuse and mental health concerns. Belmont’s inpatient, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs are offered at multiple facilities in the Belmont network.

About the author: “Rock Bottom, Detox, and No Longer Justifying Your Addiction” was written by Belmont Behavioral Hospital clinical content team member Ryan Poling, M.A. Ryan has experience working clinically with a wide range of populations and presenting concerns. He is a clinical psychology doctoral candidate and has also earned Master’s degrees in psychology and theology. He was an adjunct professor of psychology at Azusa Pacific University from 2012 to 2015.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on December 14, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 4, 2021
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.