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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not so golden...

I'm doing my happy dance... I was very excited to open my e-mail and find that I have been listed in the Top 44 Best DUI and Alcohol Safety Resources website! You can visit this website at http://www.totaldui.com/blog/dealing-with-dui-44-best-dui-alcohol-and-driver-safety-resources/ There is a lot of good information. Please make sure to check out this terrific resource.


I have read that there are more alcoholics that are senior citizens now than ever before. That makes sense to me since a higher percentage of the population is now reaching their senior years. Baby boomers are now in their 50’s-60’s and preparing for retirement, if they haven’t yet retired. When combined with the fact that humans are enjoying a longer life span, due to medical breakthroughs and a high effort being put on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it stands to reason that there are more seniors in our midst.

These seniors may have been social drinkers in their earlier years and alcohol may not have been a problem. But, when retirement approached, these same seniors had more time on their hands and that means more time to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle. The martini after work became the Mimosa at the breakfast buffet. And the brandy before bed turned into Margaritas at the pool and the poolside party started at 11 AM EVERY day instead of just Sundays after church. More time to enjoy, more reason to socialize, more alcohol to consume. Instead of seeing the lifetime alcoholic, we see a new breed – the Leisure Alcoholic.

I’m sure that some would say, “Hey seniors have earned the right to a bit of irresponsibility.” A bit of irresponsibility occasionally isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the Leisure Alcoholic that gets caught up in the cycle, because, as we all know, alcoholic can grab you when you least expect it.

Being forced into retirement earlier last month has left me a little dazed and confused. I’ve had a job since I was 14 years old. I always knew what was expected of me each and every day. I knew where I had to be and when I had to be there and for how long. Large chunks of my day were pre-destined. When the lay-off happened, I often woke up in the morning and wondered what I was supposed to do that day. I could do anything I wanted, but I felt that if I did what I wanted, I must be ignoring something that I was SUPPOSED to do. The job loss left me angry. I was an excellent employee and was always considered to be a “company girl.” It felt unfair that they would put me out to pasture now. Fortunately, I already had a full plate of projects. I just had to learn to not feel guilty that I was working on them rather than working for an employer.

I would imagine that some seniors don’t have the same “project quota” that I have. Many of them simply went to work, had a few outside social activities, and went home. It would seem to me that the initial shock, no matter how welcomed, might throw some into a depression. If you mix depression with an increased level of alcohol consumption, you have a recipe for disaster.

Just as a hypothetical, let’s say a senior has been retired for ten years and is now drinking alcoholicly every single day. The children have left home and there is just the elderly husband and wife left in the house. No one really notices that alcohol has become an issue because it’s just the two of them. When the kids visit, who have never seen either of their parents drunk except on a rare occasion, they see a couple who are just enjoying their life. The alcoholism can go unnoticed for quite a while.

What happens if the non-alcoholic part of the couple becomes ill or takes a fall and now needs assistance on a daily basis. No one thinks much about it because the partner is there with the ailing senior. What no one sees or realizes is that the non-alcoholic is now in even more trouble because the partner is now an alcoholic.

Imagine if you were sick, unable to cook your own meals or do your own laundry and you were totally dependent on an alcoholic to do those things for you. I could not imagine eating anything Riley ever cooked for me even though he was one an excellent cook. And I’d rather buy new clothes than to let him do my laundry.

I don’t know how often that happens. It just seems to me that if it happens even once – it’s one time too many. Anyone who has been reading my blog on a regular basis knows that I’m really big on being prepared for the worst. But, what if the worst snuck up on you and takes you by surprise? By that time, you could be in a situation that could be deadly.

If you have the ability to do so, I recommend preparing for your golden years so that they will still be golden no matter what. I’m not sure how to do that if no one really knows that your mate has become an alcoholic at 60 years old. Maybe we, as a society, should be on the look out for our elder citizens and help them ask for help when they may not be comfortable doing it for themselves. Maybe we should be aware at Bingo when someone consistently has a few too many before the games even being.  Or when a group of gentlemen hang out at poolside from Friday night to Sunday night continuously, maybe someone should go check on the wives.

I’m not sure of the answer and I hate the question.

11 comments:

Jennifer said...

Being the caregiver of an alcoholic seems, to me, so much like being the caregiver of someone suffering from Alzheimer's -- the hurtful outbursts, irrationality, and dangerous close calls only the caregiver remembers or recognizes. Stress over the task can lead to heart conditions or stroke in addition to numerous other dibilitating conditions anyone might encounter.
You certainly do raise a pertinent question not only concerning alcoholism but any degenerative disease couples might try to keep private. So often, we want to protect our children or extended family from the burden; but, ultimately, they are often the ones responsible for us in the end. At some point, a life-partner's support breaks.

Jennifer said...

Oh, and... congratulations on receiving official recognition for what all of us who visit your site already know -- thanks for being such a great resource to so many.

Syd said...

I saw the opposite with my father and C's dad. Both of them quit drinking as they got older. But I suppose that there are those who just keep on having happy hour earlier and earlier. What concerns me are the young people who drink so heavily now. There will be chairs for them in the rooms one day if they are lucky enough to decide on recovery.

SP said...

when I first moved to France I was astonished by the number of people all quietly drinking themselves to death.

You're absolutely right, they were all retired and had little else to occupy their time.

Congratulations re getting on the list!

SP

jo said...

congrats on the recognition! as jennifer said, we all already know what a huge support and great person you are, and how finally someone is talking about this issue truthfully. validation for us and you/. yay!

what if the tables were turned and we had to depend on them? God help us. ironic karma, wouldnt it be? my wish is always that every alcoholic is subjected to a place after death that everyone is end stage and they are sober. stay until it sinks in to them what they did. (if it ever would)

but anyways. today is obviously one of those days for me..lol. angry.

thanks for being you linda! keep telling it.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Ditto the praise for this blog! Keep it going! Congrats well deserved.

It's quite scary to think that I might become dependent on my alcoholic.

Dealing with retirement is a whole other issue. For me - not a problem. But I see empty time as a burden for those who need structure.

hickorywindranch said...

Hello ,

I am an internet marketing manager for Hickory Wind Ranch, a sober living environment in Austin, TX. I am contacting you about the opportunity for a guest post on your site. We've got some great articles about sober living and addiction recovery. We would also be open to posting some of your content on our blog as well.

http://www.hickorywindranch.com/blog

I would have emailed you but was unable to find any contact info on your blog, so I thought I might try this approach. Feel free to email me back if you are interested.

Keep up the writing!

Thanks,

Chris Galis
Hickory Wind Ranch

Jenny Woolf said...

Congratulations on the plaudit for your site, it is well deserved.

I'm not sure whether my message on Twitter reached you but you need unfortunately to look at that becuase it's sending out spam saying "I found a weird picture of you, click this link" etc. I did send you a DM but it might have gone through to the spammers I suppose

Beth said...

Congrats Linda!!!!! You deserve it so much. The information you provide has been such a comfort to me.

Now, depending on my alcoholic is out of the question...OMG, I don't knwo what I'd do under those circumstances. I haven't been able to depend on him for anything for such a long time and now he's 10 times worse than he ever was.

Keep up the good work, you are an inspiration!

MAKAR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My husband and I live with my alcoholic elderly mother-in-law. She has been a full time drinker since my husband was in college so for 20 years now. But she probably had a problem before then. 

Her alcoholism became apparent when terrible things happened to her. She found out her second husband and love of her life (my husband's father) had been cheating on her with the same woman for years, then she lost her legal job so she went to live in their vacation home on MV and drank to blackout, spent her pension in a year living as a full-time painter. She was in her mid-50s then. She has never worked a steady job since.

She ended up moving back to NYC with her estranged husband because he didn't want to leave their apt and the neighborhood. She was worried about losing their MV house if they got divorced. Her husband contracted lung cancer 7 years later and she took care of him, chain smoking  in the next room when he had an oxygen tank in the bedroom. And still drinking. When she had to bring him to hospice care, he asked my sister-in-law to call the woman he'd been having an affair with. So my mother-in-law had to put up with this woman showing up when she visited him in hospice care, this woman who didn't take care of him. He didn't sign over his pension to my mother-in-law. He didn't even want to sign a will. She would have lost the only asset she has - this rent stabilized apartment. 

So I feel the senior citizen drinking is not just retirement but a learned way of coping with emotional trauma. I don't know.

In her circle of friends, it was normal to drink alone, to have a few at home. It's funny my husband and I, even before we moved in with her, rarely ever had alcohol in the house. Now I can count on one hand that we ever have a beer or a glass of wine at home. Drinking has always been a social thing for us, like you go out to a nice dinner and have a glass or two of wine or you bring a bottle of wine to a friend's. 

As much sympathy as I have for my mother-in-law, my husband and I can't take being hostages to her drunken moods and craziness anymore and after close to four years are moving out.  Andrea