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What is a “Bottom”: The Point When you Realize You Have a Problem

The “bottom” is a saying for when the consequences of drinking or using cause you to seek help. It is different for everyone in severity. The bottom could be a missed appointment for one person, while it could mean the loss of home and family for another.

Many addicts do not reach a sufficient bottom before they seek help, and they end up dead or permanently insane due to drinking or using drugs. The bottom is sometimes called a “moment of clarity” when you see that you have a problem. Before this moment, despite warnings from friends and doctors, you may have been in complete denial of your problem drinking.

Let’s look at what a bottom looks like and the results of reaching one.

The Bottom May Not Be the Worst Point in Your drinking

It’s easy to think that your bottom has to be the worst of the worst in terms of consequences. In other words, it’s easy to think of a bottom as linear: You have to reach the most severe state before recovery takes hold.

However, that’s not always the case. In many instances, a past situation may have been worse than the final bottom you reach that brings you to recovery.

For example, you might have gotten a DUI but continued drinking afterward. The following situation might be you looking in the mirror and not recognizing who you are anymore, and that’s when you seek out recovery options. Even though the DUI looks worse in terms of financial loss, the experience in the mirror is the one that wakes you up to a problem.

The Bottom Looks Different for Each Person

Many people believe that alcoholics live under a bridge and live only to drink. However, the bottom is different for everyone.

You can seek recovery while you still have a job, a home, and a family, even though many of those comforts might be in jeopardy if you continue drinking. You don’t have to lose everything before getting help.

The severity of your bottom might not be as bad as other people you meet. But that doesn’t mean you’re any less alcoholic than them. It’s dangerous to believe you might not have a problem because you’ve met people who are much worse off.

You Can Stop and See the Truth at Any Time

Continuing with the point above, you don’t have to keep drinking to qualify as an alcoholic. You can get off the Ferris wheel at any time, and the bottom is merely a sufficient wake-up call for you to suspect that you have a problem with drinking or using.

Not all people are fortunate enough to reach their bottom. They continue drinking until insanity or death. So it’s essential to seize the chance you get. The consequences and losses only worsen as you keep drinking.

The Bottom Usually Gets Worse if You Don’t Act the First Time (Elevator Analogy)

Just because you get banged up during a drinking binge doesn’t mean you will have the clarity to reach out for help. Pain can sober us up for a little while, usually due to fear. The fear of what drinking causes in our lives doesn’t keep us sober forever, however.

As a result, we usually go back to drinking again for whatever reason. The reason is insufficient in light of what happens when we drink. And the consequences get worse in terms of pain, financial hardship, relationship destruction, and career ambitions.

An alcoholic’s story always entails things getting worse until they recover. Never do we regain control and dial back the suffering that our drinking causes. It’s like an elevator going down floor after floor, and we can get off at the 10th floor or the basement.

Use It To Look for Options to RecoveR

While it’s not always the case that we can get off the highest floor, it’s crucial to get that first clue that we’re in bad shape. Once the idea of hopelessness sprouts up in our minds, we can start the process of looking for ways to sober up.

Whether that’s through a 12-step program or other means doesn’t matter. The main goal is that we’ve started to scratch the surface of what’s available and that there are options to find a way out.

In other words, start the process early, and you have a better chance of getting off the elevator on a higher floor while you still have all of your stuff.

For Real Alcoholics, the Bottom Has to Get Bad, but They Do RecoveR

A hallmark feature of alcoholics is belligerent denial. They are usually the last to suspect that they’re out of control, while everyone around them has known it for years and even told them so. Alcoholics have a strong aversion to the idea that they are different than ordinary people and mentally ill.

As a result, most alcoholics have to be badly mangled before getting help. Their stories are full of harsh scenarios that should have been prime opportunities to sober up, but they continued without so much as a concern for the consequences. They pile up year after year of frightful stories caused by drinking, where they were lucky even to be alive.

The denial keeps a lot of alcoholics sick for a long time, even while their life crumbles down around them. They gradually lose relationships, career standing, and financial security over a long enough time frame but remain oblivious to the root cause — uncontrollable drinking.

Fear Doesn’t Keep Us Sober for Long

 Lastly, we may believe that the issues caused by our last binge struck enough fear in us to keep us sober forever. The repercussions were so painful that we thought there was no way we could see ourselves drinking again.

 Many alcoholics have reached this point. The fear of more pain keeps them sober for weeks or months. However, they succumb. They forget the pain from the last bout and find an easy reason to drink again.

 Fear isn’t a permanent fix, and it must be followed up by action. In this case, that means finding ways to recover. The alcoholic rarely finds the strength to stay sober on their willpower — that’s why they usually have to find outside resources that can help them live each day sober.

For many, that’s the 12 steps, and for others, it’s church and therapy. But when you’ve tried everything to stay sober and fail, it’s a good indication to find outside help. Channel the suffering of your “bottom” to admitting defeat and seeking another way.


The bottom is a state of mind where you see the repercussions of your drinking for what they are — alcoholism — and where you begin to look for recovery.

The bottom is the last place that brings you to permanent sobriety. It can change if you continue drinking or relapse. If you’re a real alcoholic, the bottom invariably gets worse until you recover for good.

The most challenging concept for alcoholics to accept is that they cannot drink like ordinary people. They will pursue this line of thinking so much that they will drink themselves into poverty, insanity, or death.

That’s why it’s essential to keep an open mind and seize any moment of clarity that your bottom brings you. Not everyone gets the break of being shaken to the point of honest reflection — a reflection that hopefully makes you find a way to recover.

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