The Jellinek Curve – Addiction to Sobriety

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We have all heard the term ‘Rock Bottom” when it comes to addiction to drugs and alcohol. This can be a dangerous way of thinking about any problem, why wait until you bottom out to make a correction? Any time you start heading up again, you left the “bottom” behind, right?

“Waiting for someone to hit rock bottom is a dangerous concept,” says author David Sheff . “Experts advise parents of it, but the reality is that studies show people who are coerced into treatment by way of their parents or even the legal system have an equal chance of doing well as those who ‘choose’ to be there.”

Although this post is not about “Rock Bottom”, I do want to utilize the visualization of the bottom to introduce the Jellinek Curve.

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As you can see in the chart below, the curve is a very straight forward path from social use, into the “crucial phase”, to the “chronic phase” or hitting bottom, moving on to rehabilitation.

For many family members and loved ones who can not connect with, or do not understand what an addict is going through, this chart can be a very helpful guide.

I would like to point out some of the more important phases on the downward path that may be recognizable to outsiders:

  • Occasional relief drinking
  • Constant relief drinking
  • Onset of memory blackouts
  • Memory Blackouts Increase
  • Decreased ability to stop drinking when other do
  • Onset of lengthy intoxication
  • Obsessive drinking continues in vicious circles
  • At this point, the user has “Hit Bottom”, let’s look at the up swing now:
  • Learns alcoholism is an illness
  • Onset of new hope
  • Return of self esteem
  • Family and friends appreciate efforts
  • Increase of emotional control
  • First steps toward economic control
  • Life opens up with road ahead