This discussion topic about hitting rock bottom in sexual addiction is from one of our friends in recovery, Kevin. Thanks for contributing to the group discussion and for the time you put into collecting you thoughts on this topic. If anyone is interested in sharing a discussion topic, please reach out to me here.
I struggle with the oft stated sentiment that is something like, “An addict must hit rock bottom before he is ready to apply the principles of recovery.” In fact, the LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program manual states, “Remember that most of us had to “hit bottom” before we were ready to study and apply these principles.”
I think this is a misnomer. I did struggle getting ready to study and apply the principles of recovery, but I wouldn’t describe my “come to Jesus” moment as “hitting bottom.” I would describe it as having God open my eyes to the true state I was in.
I have met many people in ARP group meetings or as sponsees assigned me in the ARP Support program who have repeatedly hit rock bottom and been scrapped along through intense destruction of their lives and their loved ones lives. Often, that destruction is not enough to spur the willingness to do whatever is necessary. Yet, they certainly have “hit bottom”. Many divorces, excommunication from the church even, and yet that is not enough.
Others struggle believing they are ready to recover because they have not “hit bottom”.
The reality is, hitting bottom has nothing to do with it. It might help humble a person, but what is needed is a recognition of their state before God; a recognition that they cannot do it; a willingness to give up any conditions and do whatever it is God wants them to do to recover.
I think addicts looking to recover are inhibited in their recovery by thinking they have to hit bottom first, or by thinking that since they hit bottom they should be ready to recover. The connotations of what “hit bottom” means are so skewed and varied that the terminology gets in the way of looking for what is really needed. I think it is better to describe it as “having God open our understanding to the true state we are in.”
When my understanding was opened to the true state I was in, I knew I was damned until I recovered from this addiction and I knew that I was incapable of overcoming that damnation.
What are your thoughts? Does someone have to hit a “rock bottom” to start recovery?
I’ve always loved the phrase I picked up in a meeting, “you hit bottom when you stop digging.” I believe that “bottom” is different for everyone. How much pain and destruction do we need to experience to recognize our true state, our need to change, our need for help, and our powerlessness over it? For some, crushing their wife with the truth about their addiction may be sufficient, for others it may require loss of everything, jail time, etc before they become willing to see things in the true light.
I agree Clint. A good friend of mine who has a lot of time in recovery said it this way, “Raise your rock bottom!” You don’t have to hit the levels in addiction that destroy your life and marriage before you turn things around. Ultimately, DEATH is the rock bottom of all rock bottoms. If I have to die to realize that change needs to occur, that’s going to be a tough battle.
I like the thought you shared, as well, about STOP DIGGING!
I also agree with Clint. I believe that there are many opportunities for us to allow something to be our own personal “rock bottom.” I can’t quote it just now because I don’t have the book with me, but Philip A. Harrison talks about his experience in his book, “Clean Hands, Pure Heart” (I highly recommend it), and how that was the case for him. Nate’s comments connected something for me along with that book that I hadn’t quite put together in words: one can hit various rock bottoms without having their eyes opened by God to their true, damned (stopped in eternal progression) state. Kind of like one can be sober without really recovering. I really appreciate this discussion!
Thanks for the book recommendation – I’ll check that out. Thanks for your comment too.
I truly think ‘bottom’ is different for each of us, and depending on how far one has let addiction take over, the bottom-hitting must be harder to wake us up.
One of the sure signs that I was addicted was when I started putting my acting-out ahead of my well being, and the relationships in my life. That, if anything, is a sign that a) I was addicted for sure and b) I needed to hit bottom to shake things up. Just people talking to me, realizations, etc weren’t enough to break out of addiction, defined as ‘putting my behaviour ahead of my own health (read body, mind and soul) and my relationships.
I’ve done some writing, and put together a book available free for those of you on kindle unlimited. Would love your feedback!
Justin B says
I think that the phrase you wrote in there fairly defines rock bottom. ” …a recognition of their state before God; a recognition that they cannot do it; a willingness to give up any conditions and do whatever it is God wants them to do to recover.” When I realize this, I am then in a place that I know that I cannot do it on my own. I know that I am damned if things don’t change. And that knowledge is the very meaning of rock bottom to me. For some, that knowledge comes at a much less deep place than for others.
Either way, it can and should be that person’s rock bottom.
Thanks for your comment Justin. I agree that I can’t do this on my own. In the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions it says, “It was a statistical fact that alcoholics almost never recovered on their own resources.”
Jon J. says
I think the phrase “hitting rock bottom” is something that is different for almost everyone in recovery. I feel it’s mostly described as a negative experience like someone losing their job or having their wife leave them because of their addiction and infidelities. However, I might also add that hitting rock bottom can often be paired along with very positive spiritual experiences. For example in ‘the 12 steps to change’ video series in the step 1 video, Dave describes a very spiritual experience while he was taking a shower and listening to music. The lyrics of the song (one of my favorites as well) said, “…lights will guide you home and ignite your bones and I will try to fix you.” He describes the experience as the spirit just ‘hitting him’ and helping him realize he could get help if he started to focus on honesty. Instead of lying to cover up his double life, he felt that God was telling him that if he could turn to him and start focusing on honesty and getting help that he could make him a better man and change him. I also feel it’s important to note that, on the subject of ‘hitting rock bottom’, this is where the dangers of comparison can easily come into play. In recovery its very common for us as addicts to compare ourselves to others. I’ve heard it said, “You don’t need focus on developing a bottom that looks like someone else’s bottom.” (pun intended?) But however we end up defining this experience, whether it’s ‘rock bottom’ or ‘coming to Jesus’, the principle of it still rings true. Step 1 seems to happens one of two ways: 1) The individual experiences some sort of trauma or experience that snaps them into a reality of the situation that they are in and their need to recover. 2) The individual is so closed off and in denial of the situation they are in, that they need to work a step 1 inventory, go to a few meetings, talk to a few people just like them, and start to honestly admit the reality of the situation until it ‘hits them’ that they have or are hitting rock bottom. So in a way I guess I’m saying that everyone has to work step 1 in order to begin recovery. I know I’ve had to and still need to through every bump in the road I encounter. It’s just that now, my rock bottoms don’t have to be these crushing devastating experiences. The tools and connections I make in my working recovery with a sponsor/group has helped me to more easily identify when I need to apply some honesty and humility to avoid falling back into the consequences I already know so well.
Thanks Jon. I appreciate your experience and comment.
Kevin B says
Thanks Jon. It is so tempting to compare to somebody else and that gets in the way. I can compare myself to somebody I think is worse off than me and say, “Look! I’m not that bad off.” Or, I can compare myself to somebody I think has had “that” experience that leads them to improvement and say I haven’t had that, but I am different and my experience will be different. Comparison is almost always, if not always, pride.
Hope and Healing Admin says
At Hope and Healing, we do see a lot of rock bottoms before husbands have changed. But many things can bring that about, including a wife seeking recovery and drawing boundaries (not that making a rock bottom happen should be the motivation for boundaries but that it can be a side effect).
That said, I have a belief that perhaps we can all help people feel and know that the joy on the other side of recovery is worth the effort. When the pain of change becomes less than the pin of staying the same — or when the potential joy of change becomes more desired than staying the same, willingness to change can be born.
I think it is human nature to often be compelled to learn by experience what we don’t want. So I think that is often what rock bottoms are about. People reach a point where they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. And they have enough experience within them to know what they don’t want.
But I agree with you. I have great hope that we can help people see that recovery work isn’t just for those whose lives have fallen apart so severely that they have lost jobs, a spouse and kids, health and church membership. ALL are fallen. All of us! We all need Christ and it is a JOY to discover how much He wants to help us if we will but be willing to let Him. 12-step work can change anyone’s life. I feel sad when people think it is only for “those people”. We are all those people because we all need Christ.
Thanks for the comment! I’m grateful that my wife’s seeking of her own recovery from the trauma I’d caused was part of my rock bottom and got me into REAL recovery and healing. I’m grateful that, today, my wife and I are able to speak the same language of recovery and emotional connection.
Boundaries, to me, are so essential. My wife set boundaries, both positive boundaries that shared how I could start to gain back some level of trust in the relationship, and negative boundaries that said, frankly, if these things keep happening, we are done. Period.
I appreciate your perspective and agree that the statement of “those people,” which I sense too many saying in my LDS ARP meeting, just makes me sad. Unfortunately, I, at one time, thought that other tools were only for “those people” too and that cost me a lot of trust with my wife and those closest to me.
Thanks again for your comment.
Kevin B says
Thanks for your comment. I agree that 12-step work would be beneficial for everybody. We all need the Atonement, and that is all the 12-step work does, is bring me closer to the Atonement.
I just read a perfect statement in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions that answers the question about “hitting a rock bottom” directly based on the experiences of A.A in it’s infancy:
“…the first edition of the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous,’ published when our membership was small, dealt with low-bottom cases only. Many less desperate alcoholics tried A.A., but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness…in the following years this changed.
It was obviously necessary to raise the bottom the rest of us had hit to the point where it would hit them. (p.23, bold added for emphasis)
THIS, to me, is the answer. One doesn’t have to hit the “rock bottom” that the writer of the White Book hit in order to start to recovery from the addiction to lust. Instead, I have to really, truly practice and believe in Step 1, that my life has become unmanageable, that I am powerless over lust.
Until I believe that and practice the surrender process to my Higher Power and to others in recovery, I will continue to go back and forth, in and out of white-knuckle sobriety. Unfortunately, I write this having gone through this exact experience for about 6 years before I hit a “rock bottom” that nearly cost me everything most important to me (wife, family, beliefs).
I’m grateful for the fellows who have put these books together and who speak our language of recovery.
Thanks for all the comments thus far too. I’m glad we are “addicts helping addicts,” for that is the only way recovery really works.
For me, I have hit rock bottom a couple times. I’ve also felt the love of my God that helped me to realize that I needed to change. The two happened at different times. I needed both before I was ready to be honest about my addiction to myself and my wife. I do think it’s different for everyone but I consider a rock bottom to be when you’re ready to truthfully start your recovery, whatever that may mean.
Absolutely brilliant, thank you for sharing Nate. I’ve felt similar feelings before. For me, “hitting bottom” was also the moment where God opened my eyes to see how much the addiction had damaged me and how it could potentially continue forward in blocking my path to true happiness and eternal life. Thank you for your post brother, and best of luck in the future.
Kevin B says
Thanks to everybody who has added to this discussion. I didn’t expect this much discussion to come from my thoughts.
I love what everyone has said. my therapist put it one way that really stuck with me. We make change when our live becomes unmanageable. I think “Rock Bottom”, in my mind, is the moment we realize that unmanageability. However, one question or thought that remains in my mind is that just Rock Bottom is not enough. If you define recovery as I say I am in recovery and am doing somethings, because of a rock bottom experience, lots of men I’ve met don’t actually progress or use the Atonement.
In my experience and a theme I have seen in the men I look up to in recovery who really have healed is a rock bottom knowledge and moment(s) plus the hope (gospel hope, not wishful thinking) that causes access to the Atonement. I came forward with my addiction, I was not caught. I think if I only had the rock bottom moment the shame would still have me. I think it was a combination of my rock bottom moment and my true hope in Christ and made me start moving. I think men who have rock bottom moments again and again are missing some hope of belief that Christ can meet them where they are.
Kevin B says
I agree that hitting Rock Bottom is not enough. In fact, I think that is really just a term for being humbled. It is when we become humble and recognize our own nothingness and inability and are then willing to let God change us that is what really gets us started.
I agree. I think with ourselves and other in this community we need to hammer home the hope of the Gospel. Because if you believe it works for everyone but YOU, because YOU have made BIG mistakes. I spent a lot of time thinking that way before I got in recovery. Kevin, you are spot on on the humbling comment.
Thanks for the article and all the comments. I agree that it is not necessary to hit rock bottom to recover, and the level should be raised so more will start recovery sooner. However, I was one of those that hit rock bottom very hard and very low. I did things I never thought I would. Because of my addiction to pornography, I committed worse acts. My wife realized the void between us, and the guilt and shame that was in side of me was too much to bear, and I knew my life had become unmanageable, so I confessed to my Bishop, and my wife shortly after. This was a year ago, and now I am truly trying to work recovery. It has been a slow process because of what I did, but I can see a big difference in my life compared to a little over a year ago. I have a brother who is in a similar situation, but has not sought real recovery, despite me trying to convince him he needs to do more. I realized we all have different levels of rock bottom, and some still choose not to be humble. It’s like the scripture in Alma 32, that says it is good to be humble even if compelled, but those that choose to be humble without being compelled are more blessed. I’ve seen that in several brothers in my group that chose recovery on their own without being caught, before they hit a rock bottom. They are usually more successful as well. But there is always the hand of God in all cases of those that choose recovery, no matter the circumstances, and no matter the level of their rock bottom.
Thanks Doug. I’ve realized that too – 8 years ago, when I first went to an LDS ARP meeting, I would have never considered that I was a sex addict or a lust addict, that was those “other people,” not me.
But, thankfully, today, I recognize who I am a little more clearly and am able to talk about feelings and recovery in a whole new way. I feel God has revealed tools to help me recover as I’ve been ready for them, and unfortunately, some of these tools came because of hitting a pretty tough rock bottom.
Doug thanks for sharing. my addiction and several men I know went way beyond just pornography. I went through only one round of church discipline, but I know a couple of guys who went through several before catching on to what you described. One friend was Ex’d 3 times. I sadly, also know several guys from disfellowshipped to Ex’d and they didn’t seem to find the humility to start the journey of real recovery. Do you have any suggestions on how to love these guys into recovery better? It still is somewhat of a mystery to me and I’d be curious about your (and anyone else’s) experience.
Kevin B says
I try to follow what it says in the “Support in Recovery” document. It says to “Don’t give advice or try to fix them in any way. Simply inform them of the
program and the spiritual principles that have blessed your life”. I testify of the principles of recovery, share my experience, respect their agency.
Anoni Mouse says
I believe in the phrase, “the addict will not change until the fear of the problem becomes worse than the fear of the solution.” from the ARP guide. I also believe in what the author of Boundaries about addicts. “The only way an addict will change is through pain and loss.”
I know it’s been true of me. I was so wrapped up in my lust and fantasy that I did not recognize reality. I thought my fantasy was reality, and whenever reality didn’t go according to fantasy, I got angry and blamed others.
So yes, the author of the article is right when he says we have to open our eyes to God, but that does not happen until we’ve reached enough pain and loss to knock us off our feet. But is this pain and loss the answer? No. It just clears the fantasy for a limited amount of time. We either turn to God or we deny him. Just like the Nephites did as they were about to be destroyed. They did not sorrow unto repentance. They sorrowed unto damnation.
Personal experience. I was kicked out of my house for 9 months. It sucked. It was soooo painful. One day it was my birthday, and because I couldn’t come home and my wife didn’t want to have anything to do with me, (for good reason) I picked up my kids and took them to the park, where we had cake. We then played around for awhile and soon they wanted to go home.
We got back to the house and they all waved me goodbye, and without a backward glance they walked inside.
I was devastated. I was left alone. I was watching them go, eager to go home and to the comfort of their mother. And it reminded me of what it might look like after all this is said and done. It was as if they had come to visit their dad and then left to go back to their more exalted sphere, and I had to stay behind because of my choices.
It was terrible. But it was the best thing that could have happened. It cleared the fog of my fantasy and addiction and lust long enough for me to recognize that where I was, I did not want to be.
So does everyone have to have a “rock bottom” experience? I believe addicts do. Are they all the same? No. Anyone who’s read all the testimonials in the “Blue Bible” (the AA book) knows this isn’t the case. Some decide to give up a lot sooner than others. (God bless them!) Some get to have rock bottom after rock bottom, as if God is giving them chances time and again to get up while the fog of addiction has lifted.
I believe those too caught up on the question, “Have I hit my rock bottom? Was it enough?” (I was one of them) aren’t focusing on what needs to be focused on. I know for myself that these very questions were a sign that I was unwilling to give up control. I still feared the solution more than the fear of the solution. It’s enough if it’s enough.