5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Hit Rock Bottom

By Beth Leipholtz 10/05/18

When you're at your lowest point, it's easy to feel like there is no hope, like you are completely alone, like your life will never be full again.

Woman holding coffee mug and resting chin on arms on a balcony; looks sad.
I had never been alone, I had just convinced myself that was the case.

Rock bottom is such a common term in the world of recovery. And while everyone has a rock bottom, no one has the same one. When you're at your lowest point, it's easy to feel like there is no hope, like you are completely alone, like your life will never be full again. I certainly felt all those things and more a little over five years ago when I hit my bottom.

But they say hindsight is 20/20, and in looking back, there are a few things I wish I had been able to reach out and grasp from my bottom. In hopes that they might help someone else, here they are:

1. There Is Always a Light at the End of the Tunnel

When I think back to the first few days and weeks following my rock bottom, I remember an all-encompassing feeling of utter hopelessness. I felt there was literally no way life would ever get better, that things would only get worse as time went on. I didn’t think there was any way out of the hole I had found myself in. I was really, truly incapable of envisioning a life in which I was happy without alcohol. I know I’m not alone in those feelings. Those emotions and struggles are true of many people when they hit their lowest of lows. It is called rock bottom for a reason — that reason being that you cannot go any lower. The only direction to go is up. But in the midst of it all, it’s so hard to see that. At rock bottom, I wish I had been able to reach out and grasp that little bit of hope that everything would be OK, rather than fixating on how my life was falling apart at the seams. Seeing that light at the end of the tunnel is something that would have been helpful. But what matters is that the light eventually made its way to me, and when it did, I kept walking toward it. Some days, I still am.

2. Even in Your Loneliest Moments, You Are Not Alone

In addition to feeling utterly hopeless early on, I also felt completely, wholly alone — more alone than I have ever felt in my life. I couldn’t imagine that anyone in the world was going through what I was going through. And maybe that’s true, to an extent. But it’s also true that there were people going through similar things; I just hadn’t crossed paths with them yet. I also felt alone in the sense that I was scared to talk to the people closest to me about what I was feeling and thinking. Instead, I kept it all bottled inside, isolating myself even more. It was only when I began to let my guard down that I realized I had had people beside me all along. I had never been alone, I had just convinced myself that was the case.

3. The People Who Matter Will Remain by Your Side

As my life was falling apart five and a half years ago, one of my main concerns was what would happen to my relationships. I was so scared of losing the people who I thought were important to me. And the truth is that not all of my relationships would survive the coming weeks and months. There were some friends who I came to find were really just drinking buddies. Those were the ones who slowly faded away. But at my lowest point, the people who really cared about me as a person came forward and made it known. So many of my relationships became stronger in the months following my rock bottom, to the point that I barely noticed the relationships that hadn’t pulled through. When everything is changing without your permission, it’s easy to feel as if it’s for the worst. But just remember that’s not always the case.

4. People Won’t Judge You as Harshly as You Think They Will

This was one of my biggest fears at my rock bottom and is what kept me from moving forward in my recovery for some time. I was so terrified that when people found out what had happened in my life, they would pass judgement and jump to conclusions. I was afraid that they would look at me differently or tell me I was overreacting. And sure, some people did. But the majority of people commended me for realizing that my life was spiraling out of control and for taking the steps to better it. Most people were and are beyond supportive of the decision I made five years ago, and I wish I’d known that would be the case when I made that decision. One thing I’ve learned is that people will always surprise you — you just have to give them the opportunity to do so.

5. Rock Bottom Is an Opportunity to Recreate Your Life

Before I hit my rock bottom, I thought the life I was living was pretty good. I didn’t realize that I was disappointed in my behavior, unhappy with my physical appearance, frustrated with the way I was becoming a person I didn’t respect. But rock bottom gave me the clarity to see all those things. And while that wasn’t fun at first, it eventually gave me the chance to start doing my life the right way. I got back on track, whether it was with my morals, my workout regimen, my diet, my relationships. Getting sober gave me the time to focus on what I really wanted my life to look like and figure out how to get to that point.

As I said before, rock bottom is different for everyone. But the common factor is that it’s a point that is the lowest of lows and it can be difficult to image anything getting better. So if you remember one thing in the depths of your rock bottom, just hold onto the fact that it really can only get better — as long as that is what you truly want for yourself.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.