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November 28, 2017

Waiting for a Loved One to Hit Bottom – Fact or Fiction

Woman struggling with clean eating

Contributed by Jerry L. Law, D. Min., MDAAC, CIP

Having attended thousands of twelve-step meetings in my life, I could not even begin to count the number of times I have heard individuals talk about “hitting bottom.” For some, hitting bottom may have involved a loss of job or important relationship.

For others, it may have been a DUI, a traffic accident and perhaps time in jail or prison. For yet others, hitting bottom may have been a hospitalization for dehydration, malnutrition or cardiac damage attributed to disordered eating behaviors.

It seems to me that the descriptions of hitting bottom are as diverse as the men and women claiming that they have or have not achieved such a milestone.

While I certainly understand the “value” of hitting bottom. It happened to me. I do, however, continue to struggle when I hear people use the oft repeated phrase, “Well, we will just have to wait until he hits bottom before he will accept help” or “Once she hits bottom, I’m sure she will accept the help we all want her to receive. We just have to wait.”

The Dirty Four Letter Word – WAIT

Again, I do appreciate the power of hitting bottom. My objection is to the dirty four letter word, W A I T.

If my loved one is truly in the grips of a deadly disease and in denial about the presence of the disease or determined that he or she can manage the disorder despite all indications to the contrary, just what am I waiting for?

I’m fearful of what can happen during the “wait.” As a wise man once said, “When do you reach the bottom of a hole?” and the answer is “When you stop digging!” If my loved one is digging himself or herself to death, wouldn’t it be proper and humane to step in and stop the digging?

At the website www.drugabuse.com, we read, “The problem of the “rock bottom” myth is that it leads to many dangerous outcomes that would never be suggested in other fields. An oncologist would not suggest waiting until the cancer has metastasized before beginning treatment, so why would someone with an addiction wait until “rock bottom” to receive treatment?” (https://drugabuse.com/library/hitting-rock-bottom-myth)

The same could certainly be said about an individual in the grips of an Eating Disorder. Good friends, Jeff and Debra Jay respond to an inquiry from a reader on their website, www.lovefirst.net, this way.

“Dear Worried, Why not raise the bottom to right now? You don’t have to wait for a drunk driving or a medical problem or an accident with the children. You don’t have to wait for something terrible to happen. You can take action right now, without waiting for her to hit bottom (whatever that means).”

Again, my issue is not whether or not there is any value in hitting bottom.

Rather, my contention is that if a loved one is in the death-spiral of addiction or an eating disorder, it is abhorrent to wait.

Strong words I know, however, these are words based on years of experience watching the ongoing suffering and in some cases, preventable death of men, women, and children ensnared in these deadly diseases and disorders.

In Dr. Vernon Johnson’s classic book on Intervention, the author states:

If you are like most people, you may believe that there is nothing you can do except wait for the person to “hit bottom” and then try to pick up the pieces. For more than 25 years, our task at the Johnson Institute has been to prove that just the opposite is true.

Taking Action to Help

Waiting is too dangerous. It is also cruel. It allows an already bad situation to be worse. If a friend wanted to jump off a bridge, would you let him do it before you reached out a hand to stop him?

Woman sad and holding lights

Of course not; and neither must you stand by and watch the person plumb the depths of suffering and despair before doing something about it. You don’t have to bide your time until your family breaks up, or the person is fired from his or her job – or kills someone in a car accident. You can reach out now. Vernon Johnson, Intervention – a Step-by-Step Guide for Families and Friends of Chemically Dependent Persons (Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden, 1986), viii.

In the words of the Big Book, “There is a solution.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 17). In this case, the solution lies in taking the bold and often frightening steps necessary to speak the truth in love to an afflicted friend or family member.

That truth has several components. The truth is, “We love you” AND the truth is, “We will support wellness and recovery,” AND the truth is, “We believe you need help,” AND the truth is, “We are here to offer specific help that we will support,” AND “We love you enough for you to be very unhappy with us while getting the help you need rather than happy with us because we are willing to continue with you in this disease,” AND “We will not support anything else.”

Wow, what a sentence. Atrocious grammar – powerful truth.

I hope you noticed that I did not use the word “but” anywhere in that sentence. Too often, the word “but” is construed as a threat. As you may have already experienced, threats generally don’t move anyone forward who is in the throes of an eating disorder.

Rather, those individuals may become even more entrenched in the disease than before! This approach is not about threats; it is about choices and consequences, not choices and punishment.

One of the most loving acts you may ever perform is to let a friend or family member know that you loved them enough to give them back the consequences of their choices.

Here is the good news. You are not alone! Help is readily available. Several terrific books on the intervention process are available, including Dr. Johnson’s book cited above and the wonderful book, Love First by Jeff and Debra Jay.

For those of you who believe professional help may be needed, I encourage you to visit www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org or www.independentinterventionists.com where you will find a listing of professional, certified Interventionists ready to assist you in presenting an offer of help to your friend or family member.

While there is nothing simple or easy about any of this, you do not have to continue to live in fear and isolation. Reach out for help today.


Jerry Law

Jerry L. Law, D. Min., MDAAC, CIP is a veteran of 25 years in the corporate world, and his strong leadership and organizational skills lend themselves naturally to the intervention process. Dr. Law is a Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor, a Board Certified Intervention Professional and a Master Certified Drug Alcohol and Addictions Counselor. Jerry brings compassion and a first-hand understanding about how critical it is to break the cycle of addiction in the professional world as well as within the family.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on November 28, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 28, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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