Senior Citizens and Alcohol

 

How to beat the drinking game with natural highs


 

 Hello. My name is Carl, age 76, and a recovering alcoholic. I took my last drink twenty-nine years ago, I want to share with you the positive, proven method I use to beat the senior drinking game. I call it "Natural Highs".

 Alcoholic problems of seniors differ from those of younger people. Our families are grown, we have few or no job responsibilities, have a little money in our pockets, and time on our hands. Some of us live all or part-time in a retirement community. Life is great, or life is lonely. Let's have a party. Unfortunately, that often includes too much alcohol. If we can have a glass of wine, or the drink of our choice, before dinner, we can probably enjoy it the rest of our life. But if one drink leads to two, or two leads to four or six, we probably have a problem, and need help. I did, and I figured it out myself. Some of my drinking buddies were not so lucky. They have been dead for ten or fifteen years. If you have a problem, quit! Now! Today! Tomorrow, next week, or next month may be too late. Dig out the old record, "Happy Days Are Here Again." You will soon be playing it every day - sober.

 

HERE ARE SOME STEPS YOU CAN TAKE FOR RECOVERY:

A: MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FOR A COMPLETE PHYSICAL CHECKUP.


 Tell him or her your plan, and ask for medical and phychological advice.

B: TELL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS YOU ARE GOING TO QUIT DRINKING.

 The more people you tell, the less likely you are to break your word to yourself and others. If anyone says, "You don't have a problem. Let's go have a beer," eliminate that person from your future plans.

 Are you worried about attending a social function where alcohol is served? Go and enjoy it. Pick up a cocktail or champagne glass. Fill it with punch, soft drink, or even water. Circulate, communicate, listen, and tell funny stories. No one will notice that you are not drinking. If someone does, just say, "No, thank you." It is as simple as that. If you become uncomfortable, leave the party, and have a sober, safe trip home. The next day, while some of your friends are asking for no noise and more aspirin, you will have a clear head, clear eyes, and sing, "Oh, what a beautiful morning, Oh, what a beautiful day." More important, you will feel good about yourself. That is a natural high. If you stay sober, and keep busy, healthy, and productive, you will not need alcohol highs.

C: TAKE REPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR LIFE.

 Know your choices, plan for them, and take steps while you are healthy to grow older on your own terms. Relearn optimism. Rewire your brain for thinking in new, more positive ways. Optimism does not come easily. That is why it takes practice. Count your blessings every day, especially if you feel peevish. Smile! Optimism will creep into your brain cells, sending you new signals about life. I believe in expressing anger, sadness, or delight as situations warrant. Hiding your fellings invites illness and stress. Many of us tend to grow pessimistic as we age. After sixty or seventy years, we may become cranky and not much fun to be with. The mother of a friend of mine moved out of her retirement community because so many of the residents did nothing but complain. Many of the most blessed were also the most negative.

D: JOIN A RECOVERY GROUP.

 Alcoholics Anonymous has done more for recovery than any other organization. Ask your doctor to recommend a convenient treatment center, or look in the yellow pages of your telephone book under Alcoholism.

E: FORM YOUR OWN SOBER GROUP.

 In 1972, when I decided to quit, I found six friends to join me: a mechanic, two salesmen, two businessmen, and a pastor. We met once a month, more often if necessary, to encourage each other, and to descuss our problems and successes.We stopped drinking, put on our biggest smile, and thanked God for spouses, family, and friends who loved us enough to stick by us, even through some unpleasant times. Some of you are saying. "I don't have a problem. I never abused anyone." I said that once. whom was I kidding? I was abusing myself, if no one else. I saw it one day in my mirror! That was when I quit. Our group realized at once we needed a positive replacement for the time we had spent drinking. We needed some Natural Highs. We made lists of what they might be, and in doing so, became closely-knit, and supportive. We were filled with joy and excitement, maintained our sobriety, and completely changed our view of life. Not all of us, I'm sorry to say. One member relapsed, and died within seven years of alchohol-related liver and heart disease.

You can bring joy and peace into your life with natural highs. Most of them cost little or nothing, and they are all around us. Here are a few of the easiest and closest at hand:

 

  • Wake up in the morning with a clear head, and no hangover.
  • Watch a beautiful sunrise, or, in the evening - the sunset.
  • Sit by a crackling fire in the fireplace.
  • Walk outside on a cold, snowy night.
  • Revel in the beauty and thrill of the change of seasons.
  • Look up at a squawking flight of Canadian Geese.
  • Feel the warmth of a child's smile.
  • Go to church. Thank your Lord for your sobriety.

 

 Some of my greatest highs come from sharing the beauty of nature with my wife and family: a hike in the mountains, along a beach, in the desert, or just in our neighborhood.

F: SHARE YOUR TALENTS WITH YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS, AND COMMUNITY.


 Each of us has special skills he can share with others. Volunteer in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, boy's and girl's clubs. Build a doghouse for a pet. You will not need any plans.You have probably been in the doghouse many times.

 I have had many wonderful experiences in nursing homes, listening to fascinating stories of the residents, then giving them a smile and a hug. I spent delicious hour with a spunky ninety-four-year-old lady from Midwest. I stood by her wheelchair as she told me in loving detail of happy times long gone. She stopped, looked up, and said, "Son, see that chair over there? Bring it over and sit down. I am tired of looking up at you and I have a lot more to tell you." What a dear!

 If you are restricted in your physical strength, you can do telephone work. Many charitable organizations would appreciate your help. A friend of mine in Illinois, from his chair at home, sold hundreds of tickets each year for a local stage group. He was their star performer.

G: GET YOUR BODY IN SHAPE.

 But first check with your doctor for approval, and advice on an exercise program. You may wish to join a commercial fitness center. The professional staff will help and encourage you, make sure you do the exercises properly. When weather permits, get outside. Ask a family member or a freind to join you. Start with a walk around the block, and build up to a couple of miles a day. My wife and I walk two to four miles, four or five days a week. This is a great source of physical and mental fitness. Be sure to take time slong the way to smell the roses.

 Your greatest Natural High will come from sharing your experience of recovery with family members and friends. Tell them of your new-found joy and peace in your sober life. If there is an alcoholc in their lives, be available for counsel,but leave intervention to a professional.

 You may believe that you are the first to walk down the rocky road to alcoholism. Many of us have made the same journey. We are now here (in writing) to help you travel up the path to recovery. Join us! It will be one of the best decisions of your life.

 We do not know how many this Natural High Recovery Program has helped, but we do know a great number of spouses, family members, and friends now have their loved ones returned. All of us are grateful for the opportunity to share our program with you.

 

 If you wish to share your comments or for additional copies at 10 each (to cover mailing expenses), please write to:

NATURAL HIGHS
Box 325
9594 First Ave., N.E.
Seattle, WA 98115-2028



 All funds received by the author, or any other contributions inspired by this article may be sent to:


BETTY FORD
ALCOHOL TREATMENT CENTER
39000 Bob Hope Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270-3297
(760) 773-4100

 

 My deepest thanks to my dear wife and family for
their love, patience, understanding and encouragment.

And to all the volunteers who have assisted in this program.

Any comments positive, or negative you can e-mail me at:
singingpines_1@msn.com

 All Rights Reserved

 





1