Addiction: What is rock bottom?

Everyone tells you that tough love is the way to go with those with substance abuse disorder (aka addiction).  What no one tells you is when to help your addict.


No one defines “rock bottom” or when it might be time to actually help your addict.

Everyone’s bottom is different. But everyone concentrates so much on the boundaries, which you need to do, few consider when they might reach in and help their addict get into recovery.

What might that cry for help sound like?

What would make a cry for help different than the multiple calls you’ve gotten before? How do you know it’s real?

The truth is it doesn’t always sound like, “Mom, Dad, I need some help. Can you provide that please?” For someone to reach rock bottom, they feel like crap. They are coming from a place of very low self esteem, misery and despair.

They are likely hungry, sleep deprived, desperate and in absolute misery. So it’s not going to sound pretty all wrapped in a bow. It might very well be very ugly, argumentative, desperate and alarming.

This is where I made my mistake

I didn’t recognize the cry for help.

It wasn’t obvious but I had a feeling that he needed help. And my gut was screaming while my brain was confused and overwhelmed. I thought I’d have a half day to think over what he was saying and figure out where to take him first. But that was not the case. He killed himself within hours after our call.

Charles was going through withdrawal and he was in a severe depressive state which is why the phone call was so confusing. I didn’t know all this of course. But I felt something I had not felt before. And I was paralyzed by my own confusion.

I couldn’t possibly have figured out he would hang himself. It was a complete and utter shock. And I have to forgive myself for missing the clues.

If your loved one with addiction is out there,  all I’m saying is ask some other people in recovery what their cry for help was. There are many open AA and NA meetings. Go to one. Get as educated as you can. Have this conversation.

Find out stories from others about what that “cry” sounded like. When and if it happens, it will most likely not sound like what you think it will. It will be like the ride has been all along, confusing and bumpy with extreme ups and downs which is why your brain feels so scrambled. But preparation can help during those times.

Figure out next step before it happens. Where do you think you might send your love one right away? Detox? Rehab? Long term care? Where can you find out who takes your insurance? Can you get your addict on Medicaid? Having some general idea or even a person to call to ask for advice is helpful.

  • Have a plan of what you’d do if your loved one asked for help. Where would you take him/her? Does your insurance cover it and how would you pay for it if it’s not free?
  • So familiarize yourself with what those suicide phrases sound like (resource)
  • If you have an opiate addict, make sure you are trained in naloxone and know CPR.
  • If you know your addict’s drug of choice, figure out if withdrawal is deadly

Addiction is a complicated, deadly illness. Depression is a complicated, deadly illness. You have to snatch opportunities and go with your gut.

I am not blaming myself for his death. But I do have to learn to live with the pain of having missed what seems so obvious in hindsight.

Any request for help could be your addict’s saving grace

We can’t save everyone. But having a conversation about what “rock bottom” sounds and looks like will give you some perspective that you might need at a crucial moment when your emotions are in overdrive.

Please add your comments if I missed something.

Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

2 thoughts on “Addiction: What is rock bottom?”

  1. I so appreciate your candid honesty.
    This is well said and a great question with great suggestions on how to educate and help those who are living the nightmare.
    The person with an illness is in a constant struggle and most likely ridden as well while the parents live with a constant fear of “what if”.
    Although, for our story, we reached out early and tried all kinds of things, the science wasn’t available, we were told “He’s just fine” or “he’s such a nice boy but just doesn’t work to his potential”. Our sons journey TO addiction could have been caught with what we know now. I’m not blaming anyone and in the end Josh didn’t either.
    I feel everyone who works with children should be more aware and conscious about brain disorders. Depression that hides so well, ADD, anxiety disorders. We know so much more now but it’s still a stigma that has to change. Teachers, counselors, people in the medical field as well as the parents have to be educated and aware.
    I knew in my heart Josh needed help but I thought he could make it to the next day. The day I felt he was going to say, I can’t do this on my own. The situation with how he died answered that for me. Should I have gone to his house the night before we were to meet? He would not have wanted that but that could have saved his life. That’s what I have to live with.

  2. Anne Moss, you are saving lives. So painful but awesome and inspiring. Such a beautiful legacy coming out of the death of your beloved boy. I pray you are encouraged in your mission and that thousands of lives are touched by it…

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