Alcohol overuse among older adults is a largely hidden story – for example, National Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week (March 22-28, 2021) is targeting teens. However, research suggests that a third of older drinkers develop dependence later in life and that was before Covid-related stress and isolation.
How much to drink is too much? What can you do about it? One of our contributors had a frank (and anonymous) discussion with an older woman about her alcohol problems – which developed late in her life – and how she handled them; this story is verbatum, as told to May Linton:
I lay on my back on the floor. I hadn̵
“How did it ever come to this?”
‘My parents didn’t drink. My mother hated the taste; my dad just wasn’t interested. I wasn’t interested either until I was in my early thirties. Even then, I only drank to relieve the pain of a medical condition. Like my mom, I didn’t like the taste.
But gradually things changed. When I was forty, I liked the buzz. When I was in my 50s, I liked the taste too … and in my mid-60s, there were periods when I drank too much. Since I live alone, no one knew how much I was drinking. But I knew. And I started looking for help.
“Since I live alone, nobody really knew how much I was drinking.”
Looking for help
“The first stop was Alcoholic Anonymous (AA). While it makes a difference to many, it didn’t work for me. The people “in the rooms” were either abstinence or struggled to be. I was not an alcoholic and I didn’t want to quit; I just wanted to drink less.
“The desire to moderate led me to a weekly Women’s Moderation Management (MM) meeting (https://moderation.org). I enjoyed MM’s responsibility focus (‘Did you have two drinks at that party?”), The camaraderie and the fact that I could drink – albeit with a view to moderation. In fact I have did Reduce.
“Then the lockdown hit …”
“Personal MM meetings were replaced by less satisfying Zoom meetings. Even worse, the topic always seemed to be how we moderate under lockdown. The truth? It was not me does it all right – that’s why I found myself on the floor at 3 am staring wistfully at the half-empty whiskey bottle.
Could this approach work?
“Somehow I came across the website www.ThisNakedMind.com. Annie Grace, the inventor, drank two bottles of wine a day every day. By examining how the brain works, she developed a neuroscience program that, if followed, promises to interrupt a person’s habits around alcohol.
“I’ve been reading Grace’s emails for almost two years. Knowing that alcohol consumption is constantly being amplified by advertising, socializing, and customs surrounding it, I was finally willing to sign up for Grace’s 30 Days Alcohol Experiment. I paid $ 47 but didn’t have to: there is one free version (https://learn.thisnakedmind.com/the-alcohol-experiment-registration).
“A first assignment: write two lists: things I liked and things I didn’t like about drinking. I came up with just two things I liked – the buzz and the fun – and more than ten things I didn’t like. Eye opening!
“At first I missed drinking.”
“A short video arrived each day along with occasional short bonus presentations plus a daily question-and-answer session (recorded for later listening if needed). The program helped me step by step to create different – healthy – neural pathways related to alcohol and led me to patterns for dealing with social situations.
‘At first I missed drinking. But by retraining my subconscious mind, alcohol started to lose its grip. Much to my surprise, I didn’t want to moderate by the end of the fourth week: I didn’t want to drink at all!
“I did the 30-day Alcohol Experiment in November 2020 during lockdown. I have since drunk wine in social situations four times (from mid-March), but otherwise I am substantially alcohol-free.
“I’m enjoying all my alcohol-free gains …”
“Two Bonuses: I saved over $ 250 a month (alcohol is expensive!) ad Lost 7 pounds without trying.
“I enjoy all my alcohol-free gains by sleeping better, waking up without hangovers and enjoying energy all day long. Because my brain is clearer, sharper, and more alive, I am productive in ways I haven’t been in decades.
‘Am I missing alcohol? I will answer with another question: what is there to miss? “
Here is a link to a study with more information; a tipsheet with practical advice and information can be found here. Visit here for general information on aging and alcohol consumption.
This article provided by Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions about a medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 right away.
Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash