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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.

What Does Hitting Bottom Mean?

Dear Dr. Steve:

A friend of mine has tried to convince me that my son has a drug problem. She goes to Al-Anon meetings so I trust that she knows what she’s talking about. But she isn’t much help beyond telling me that he has a problem. When I ask her what I should do about it, she just shakes her head and grabs my arm and says, “There’s nothing you can do about it. He has to want to change himself and until he hits bottom, then all you can do is stand by and watch.” Do you have any suggestions for me?

For those who have a problem with drugs and alcohol, it seems that there is little that you can do because things must get worse before things get better. That is what your friend meant when she said that your son must hit bottom. Until the pain from the consequences of his using becomes unbearable, he is likely to continue to drink and drug.

Your son will continue to use right now because his decision to continue drinking and drugging is being fortified by his denial system. He has different ways of explaining away any problems he may be experiencing as a result of his drug and alcohol use. He can blame others. He can make up excuses. He can minimize the severity of his use and his problems.

But the one thing that we can say for sure is, that if your son does have a problem with drugs and alcohol, it will get progressively worse rather than level off and/or get better without any intervention. That’s the nature of the disease of chemical dependency. It’s chronic and progressive.

So what is your son’s bottom? Nobody can say for sure. It varies from person to person. Some people go on for many years denying their downward spiral into physical, behavioral, interpersonal, emotional, psychological, financial, and spiritual decline. But rest assured, your son does have a bottom to hit and when he does, then he might be more responsive to the wake-up that hitting one’s bottom can be.

Until then, the best thing you can do is take care of yourself. Go with your friend to an Al-Anon meeting. Learn from others how best to cope with the helplessness and powerlessness that you’re currently experiencing. Learn about the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction. Learn how the disease affects family members. The more you learn today, the better able you will be there for your son when he hits bottom and truly needs you!

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist

1.) For a person with a drug and alcohol problem, things have to get worse before things can get better.

2.) Hitting bottom is the expression used to identify the point in time when the consequences of one’s using overwhelms the user’s denial system to the point that the user can admit their powerlessness and the unmanageability of what their life has become.

3.) Friends and loved ones must get support for what their going through. It is critical that friends and loved ones learn to cope with their own feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.

4.) Friends and loved ones need to learn as much as they can about the disease of chemical dependency so that they can most effectively help their loved one who is using.



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