The Dark Night of the Soul: Things to Remember When Addiction Recovery Feels as Bad as Rock Bottom


Sober Recovery Expert Author

The “dark night of the soul” is a phrase used to describe a process in our lives that forces us to face our shadow self, a dark period that forces us to grow. During this time, we sit with our pain and make friends with it, rather than run from or avoid it. As a seed germinates in darkness—stretching outside the comfort zone and pushing through the darkness and toward the light—so does our soul; the essence of our being.

Many say real addiction recovery involves a lot of reflection, reliving, and realization. For some, it can seem a lot like rock bottom actually—just as scary and lonely. However, it is important to know the difference between the dark pit of rock bottom and the dark night of the soul that eventually makes way to light.

Just as rock bottom becomes a catalyst for recovery, the dark night of the soul is part of our personal evolution and is nothing to be feared.

Growing vs. Dying Pains

When you hit rock bottom, the pain of the experience is usually too much to bear. It brings up a desire to do anything and everything needed in order to never go through it again. Either that or a drastic and potentially deadly attempt to further numb the pain. The latter leads to an even lower rock bottom, sometimes as low as six feet under.

In the same way, when you experience the dark night of the soul in recovery—a reality that results from facing the demons of your past and revisiting the traumas that haunt you—you are also going through some real pain. Though this can feel equally as uncomfortable, it is more akin to the painful healing process that follows an invasive surgical procedure. What is really happening is you’re cleaning out old wounds and allowing your holistic self to thoroughly recover and heal.

Breeching the Comfort Zone

Though rock bottom is obviously a difficult place to be, there isn’t much that humans can’t adapt to. For this reason, many people who are actively addicted will stagnate in rock bottom. Why? Because even though the experience is uncomfortable, it is familiar. Even the use of the substances to attempt to relieve it (which only further perpetuates it) is a comfortable familiarity.

Choosing to breach that comfort zone is uncomfortable and downright frightening. The thought of facing all the scary monsters and ghosts of the past and present—the same which have been avoided by use of substances—and doing so sober can be almost too much to fathom. However, compared to the toxicity of rock bottom, it is the exact opposite of wallowing in stagnation. It is progress.

No Longer a Victim

In the dark night of the soul, you are evolving and beginning to realize there is no force that has power over your life or choices. You always have a choice, and you are becoming aware that heaven and hell coexist in the same space. It’s up to you which space you decide to reside in, and it’s all about perspective.

Instead of playing the victim that so often occurs during rock bottom, doing the difficult work that is involved in real recovery allows you to be accountable. In other words, you’ve taken the responsibility to change the one person you can change—yourself.

Though the differences may sometimes seem like fine lines, there is a guaranteed bright light at the end of the dark tunnel. Just as rock bottom was a catalyst for recovery, the dark night of the soul is part of our personal evolution and is nothing to be feared. It is, however, necessary for recovering individuals to be aware that it is part of the process to betterment and to not stay stuck there. After all, no one said holistic, successful recovery would be easy. They just said it would be worth it. And as low as the depths can get, recovering from that truly is worth it.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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