Rock Bottom, Raising the Bottom
or Tough Love?
After speaking to and emailing hundreds of parents, spouses and other family members, I know this is a lot easier said, than done. Raising the bottom is especially difficult for mothers and is one of the reasons I wrote the book Why Don’t They JUST QUIT? — to get the message to as many as possible.
Exactly what do I mean by “raising the bottom”? This whole idea of “hitting bottom” is out of date. Some people will wait years–even decades–for their friend to reach this mythical point in their alcohol and drug use. But why wait for them to “hit bottom”? Why not help them by raising their bottom? There are ways to encourage someone to reach for help much earlier. In doing so, we can avoid a lot of unnecessary pain and heartache and maybe even save their life. For some people, hitting bottom will be six feet underground.
So does everyone have to hit rock bottom? I would say no. Tough love can prevent a substance abuser from prolonging their usage. There are loving ways to refuse to rescue someone that in the long run will help him or her to choose recovery. Loving means doing the right thing to help. This can take all of our strength and energy at times. “We all hate to see someone suffer even when the suffering is a consequence of their bad choices. This approach, or some form of it, is something you might consider: Raise the bottom. Whether it is a teenage son or daughter, a spouse, boyfriend, aunt or uncle, the same principles can apply. A few nights in jail could be the best thing that ever happens to them. The next time this person you care about appeals to you to get them out of a bind (loan them money, pay their electric bill, buy them gas, pay for a lawyer), think twice. You just might be prolonging their disease and robbing them of the natural consequences that they need to experience in order to seek help and begin to connect the dots.
I receive a lot of mail from family members who are searching for “Al-anon type” answers and information. Here’s a typical email and my response (I’ve changed the name and some of the details to protect the identity of this woman).
I have just ordered Why Don’t They JUST QUIT? as my last resort to get off the emotional roller coaster my alcoholic husband has put me on! He has been an alcoholic since he was a teenager. It’s like living with Jekyl & Hyde! The physical & emotional roller coaster is killing me. He has been incarcerated about 4 times and was in many different programs for alcohol, at least 5 or 6. He drives while drinking, and gambles when he drinks. I could go on forever. I constantly walk on eggshells and don’t know how much more I can handle. This book is my last resort before I suffer a mental breakdown.
Thanks for your email. Sorry to hear about your current struggle. Your life does not have to be this way! The book will definitely help and give you some insights on the addiction problem. The difficult part will be sticking with the tough love that is necessary to motivate your husband to begin recovery. You can do it and so can he.
I don’t know your entire situation, but the number one issue must be dealt with, and that is HIS alcohol and or drug use.
Keep that in mind. You didn’t cause this problem and you can’t control or cure it. What you can do is confront it and perhaps give ultimatums. You can force him to see the light or feel the heat.
At some point he needs to choose which relationship is the most important–his relationship with you or his relationship with alcohol. Let him know there is a high cost to continue his current way of living. The pain of consequences is often the best teacher.
Hang in there.
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Rock Bottom Raising the Bottom Tough Love Rock Bottom Raising the Bottom Tough Love