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Getting Sober in Your Senior Years: 6 Ways It’s Different

A junior in college, John admits he spent the first three years of his education learning how to drink. He’s come to terms with his addiction and is starting on the path to recovery.

A junior executive, Jim’s nearing his retirement years. He admits spending most of his career inside a bottle and, like John, has come to terms with his substance abuse and is working toward recovery.

The Golden Years…

Entering sobriety in his senior years, Jim faces unique challenges that John will not. But he may also have a few advantages over young John. Let’s look at those differences:

  • “You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks”
    While this isn’t actually true, change often gets harder as we age. Our habits are more ingrained. Our routines are set. We have years of tradition backing each action, giving it more weight. It makes the tide harder to turn.If Jim has relied on drinking as a way to cope through every stage of his life up to this point, it might be more difficult to develop new habits. Stuck in decades-long patterns, it’s harder for Jim to quit drinking.


  • Wisdom Accompanies Age
    seniors in sobrietyNot always, but often. We at least know ourselves and our environments better. We have a better understanding of what makes us tick, what sets us off, what tempts us, and what our limitations are.How often do we wish we could tell our younger selves a nugget of wisdom we’ve mined in our later years? The knowledge we have gained can help us set the boundaries we need to stay sober. Jim’s extra years may offer more wisdom than John’s shorter life experience.


  • Responsibilities Pile Up
    Attending addiction treatment and support group meetings might be more difficult for older people like Jim. Compared to John, his list of responsibilities is long. Work duties, paying a mortgage, and being a husband, father, and grandfather make things more complicated.


  • Environmental Factors
    In our early years, it’s common for our environments to change. Friendships fade, jobs change, and families are still being established. By the time we retire, our social settings are typically more stable.It’s likely Jim has been drinking with the same friends or family members for years, which can make it more challenging to break off those relationships in an effort to stay sober.


  • The “I’ve Made it This Far” Mentality
    Jim has been drinking for decades, yet no tragedy has disrupted his life. Sure, there have been consequences, but he’s still alive and kicking. He’s managed to muddle through. This can make motivation to change later in life difficult to muster. “It’s just part of my life and always has been. Why change now?”


  • FOMO Fades
    At Jim’s stage of life, FOMO – or fear of missing out – is less of a factor. After years of drinking, he’s not too worried about missing the party scene. He’s been there, done that and then some.Like Jim, when we choose sobriety later in life, we don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything great. We can walk away from that life already knowing exactly what it has to offer.

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