Watching someone deep in the throws of addiction can be a deeply painful process, especially if you are in the recovery process yourself. You may want desperately to do whatever you can to pull them out of a pit of self-destruction.
However, the truth is that people can only get help for change if they recognize the need for it themselves. The intensive commitment needed for such a radical transformation as sobriety requires that the alcoholic truly makes a commitment, and that must come from within.
The hard truth is that, often, this time of self-realization can only come after hitting rock bottom, or a time when the perceived consequences of drinking get so severe that the alcoholic finally realizes his or her problem and need for recovery. While it can be hard to watch someone unknowingly sink into their rock bottom, in the long run, that is what is going to give them the motivation and power to truly pursue recovery. Here are a few reasons why hitting the bottom is necessary for an alcoholic to get help.
1) For a true alcoholic, cutting back and controlling drinking is not an option
Not everyone who engages in risky behavior or excessive drinking is a real alcoholic. Alcoholism is a disease with contributing genetic factors that cause your life to be defined around your next drink. Drinking because an all-consuming end in itself, so that you are unable to function without alcohol.
For that reason, any attempts to simply "cut back" or control drinking to moderate, responsible levels is going to end in failure and create a sense of hopelessness. When drinking truly becomes out of your own control, you need help from someone else, a counselor and a support group, to achieve sobriety. Hitting your bottom, deciding you have had enough, is the first step toward getting help.
2) No matter how bad things get, an alcoholic will always be trying to get back to the time when drinking was truly "fun"
Alcoholism is a progressive disease; it gets worse and worse as you continue to live an addictive lifestyle. Large amounts of alcohol flood the brain with chemicals that cause pleasurable feelings, but over time, the brain looses its ability to receive those signals, and so the feelings become muted, and you must drink heavier amounts to compensate.
This in turn can wreck havoc on your body, your social relationships, and your mental health. But in the throws of alcohol dependence, you will not be aware of the great harm you are doing to yourself. All you will care about is getting back to those initial, happy days when drinking gave you such a pleasurable buzz.
3) Alcohol dependence is sustained by denial
Denial, or an entrenched belief that either the problem of addiction is not so bad, or that change isn't possible, is one of the most powerful things keeping people from seeking sobriety. Your mind can create endless justifications for your behavior, preventing you from seeing the truth.
4) Addiction may be painful, but it is predictable and comfortable
Many addicts may feel ambivalent about sobriety, even if they realize that quitting substance abuse may be good for them. They are afraid of loosing something that gives them pleasure, afraid of changing to a radically different lifestyle, or afraid of confronting the traumas or negative feelings they are trying to self-medicate away.
Sobriety may feel really scary, or like a prison that involves giving up too much. It is easy for people to get comfortable in whatever lifestyle they are in, simply because the repetition of living a certain way creates habits and a sense of comfort. Change can be a scary thing, and many people simply choose to sick with "the devil you know." Only by hitting a bottom, by seeing the truth of how destructive their life is, can people be ready to make the hard decision to change.
5) Social networks can either sustain or confront addictive behavior, so recovery is going to need new social circles
Many people are encouraged to drink by their networks of social support. They may have developed feelings of deepcamaraderie with people who encourage their heavy drinking. These dysfunctional support networks end up encouraging destructive lifestyles.
To counteract this, a person in recovery is going to need lots of new friends and support networks, that can encourage a life of sobriety. It is not enough merely to try to stop drinking. True recovery demands more far-reaching changes. Hitting a bottom allows you to come to that realization, and it is only then that you will make the kind of commitment that will help you stick with your recovery.