Everyone who enters recovery is doing so because they’ve reached a point at which they’ve had enough. Their lives have been feeling out of control or painful for a while, to the point that it becomes clear to them a change is necessary. This is the point that addicts refer to as the “bottom,” where a life of addiction feels so “low” and disappointing that he or she is finally ready to make the shift to sobriety.
Each individual’s narrative of addiction may be different and shaped by a wide variety of factors. That means that different people’s bottoms may look different. Some people with particularly strong denial may not seek recovery or even realize addiction is a problem until a dramatic low-bottom, in which a user experiences a huge loss or damaging experience through uncontrolled substance abuse.
However, for other people, the bottom may be much higher, to the point that an outside observer might not even realize there’s a problem. These high bottoms quit their addictions while still being “high-functioning” in others’ eyes, and they are no less real than a more dramatic bottom, the important thing is that it’s enough to inspire a changed life. Here are some ways that high-bottom recovery can have its own challenges, and ways to work past them on your own journey to recovery.
Taking your story seriously
Our culture has many stereotypes about what addicts are like, usually imagining something like an impoverished elderly person who has lost all possessions and relationships because of addiction. A superficial look at some recovery groups may validate this, as people finally safe to tell their truth recount examples of losing everything or of a moment in which their life was in danger.
The temptation is to compare yourself to others, and question your commitment to recovery or feel like you don’t belong in a support group. Your life may have still looked manageable to someone else, but the truth is that life wasn’t what you wanted it to be, and getting sober was the only way to change. Hold on to that. Your progress in recovery and your past in addiction is yours alone, and everyone else’s story is going to be different. Focus on your own growth, rather than comparing your journey to someone else’s.
Listen to yourself
A life that is commonly viewed as “successful” is usually one with a lot of commitments, work, and busyness. If you are doing well in a job, school, or social environment, it can lead to a life consumed by doing tasks for other people, rather than thinking about what your needs are. However, working on recovery means taking time to pay attention to what your own needs are, realizing when you need a break to care for yourself in your body, mind, and spirit.
Self-care activities such as exercise, journaling, therapy, and conversations with supportive friends may sometimes feel unproductive, but they are in fact very important parts of working on your recovery. Taking time to think about your real feelings and how you react to stresses and building healthy coping mechanisms is necessary to sustain sobriety, and this means sometimes getting away from the hamster wheel of a life centered around the affirmation of others.
Addiction can be compared to an elevator, one that is always going downward. When you get off and start working towards a better life, is up to you. Some people may not get off until reaching the ultimate bottom, which is death. Deciding you had enough before losing everything was a very wise decision, though definitely not one that makes you better than anyone else. There is no advantage to hitting a lower bottom, it just gives you more to climb back from.
It may be important for you to realize that you are not any better, stronger, or less addicted than the people who have lost more than you. You simply were able to start the healing process sooner. Being grateful for that and realistic about your own vulnerabilities can help you realize that recovery is both necessary and possible.