If you have concerns about your own drug or alcohol use, or such use by another, you will find information on this site that will, hopefully, help you.

First, here is a short explanation that may aid you in deciding whether you (or someone you care about) need help for a problem with drugs or alcohol: Does your use cause significant problems in important areas of your life (legal problems, relationship problems, problems involving your work, or medical problems), have you become aware of the adverse consequences of your use in one or more of these areas, and are you continuing to use drugs or alcohol anyway. In other words, have you continued to use drugs or alcohol in the face of a pattern of adverse consequences traceable to that use?

  Seniors and Drug or Alcohol Use

For this discussion, the terms “seniors” or “elderly” refer to individuals 60 years of age or older. However, bear in mind that some of the adverse effects of drugs or alcohol that begin to manifest with increasing age, can do so at age 50 or younger.

The information here applies generally to seniors’ use of alcohol and drugs, particularly, drugs prescribed by doctors for sedation and pain relief, for example, anxiety reducing drugs (benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan) and sleeping pills, (like Ambien, Lunesta, and some antidepressants), and pain killers (opiates, like oxycodone, Oxycontin, codeine, Tramadol, Demerol),and, of course, to “recreational” or street drugs (like heroin, oxycontin, anxiety and sleeping pills, and marijuana).  The same changes with age apply generally to stimulant drugs (uppers), like amphetamines (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta), cocaine, meth).

As humans age, their bodies become less efficient in many aspects, especially in regard to toleration of alcohol or other drugs. 

Aging lessens the ability of seniors to tolerate (ability to “hold” your liquor or handle drugs) alcohol or drugs, resulting in dangers of overdose, disabling intoxication, with susceptibility to injury from falls, and inability to safely perform routine tasks (driving, walking). Chronic use of alcohol and other drugs can, in some cases cause, and worsen many of the common physical and medical issues normally associated with advancing age, including, memory problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and stroke problems, liver and kidney problems, osteoporosis, mental health (depression, anxiety, insomnia), dehydration, and, of course, alcohol and drug use disorders (addiction).

Here is a resource for a good summary of basic information about the reasons for the need for seniors to be cautious about drug or alcohol use put together by the National Council for Aging Care: http://www.aging.com.


Keep Coming Back

“Keep Coming Back” (KCB) is a slogan often uttered at self-help meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. As an individual coming up on 43 years of continuous sobriety, 82 years of life, and experiencing the incredible impact of a pandemic, the words, keep coming back, seem particularly significant.

I have always considered the commonly used words, KCB, to be perhaps the most profound ones used in recovery circles. whether directed at a newcomer or an “old timer” like myself. Here are a few examples. A newcomer to 12 Step meetings will have many crises happening daily, from a broken shoelace, to not being able to find a cell phone or car keys, to loss of a job or a relationship. Voicing concern about any of these issues, be they truly minor or major, to an old timer will likely trigger a calm response, “just keep coming back“, followed usually with, “just don’t pick up a drink or a drug”, with no explanation as to how “keep coming back” or not drinking or using will help address the crisis of the moment. Over time, the newcomer in the process (trust in the process) of getting clean or sober will discover that attending meetings and abstaining from use of alcohol or other drugs does result in survival of minor and major crises and acquisition of profoundly useful tools for living.

Being an old timer in recovery and life, while living in a pandemic is challenging, with many crises seemingly monumental and incapable of resolution. Crises include having to wear a mask at the store while suffering from shortness of breath and a copiously dripping nose, inability to see my new grandchild, and listening to the idiot leaders of our nation (D and R) ceaselessly posturing and bloviating.

It took a while (KCB, Jan) for me to realize that the crises one experiences as an octogenarian in long term recovery during a pandemic can be addressed by use of the very tools described in the preceding paragraph for the newcomer to recovery. By attending virtual meetings and not picking up a drink or a drug, it became apparent to me that the recovery tools that have worked for almost 43 years to get me through serious losses, illnesses, retirement, and the like, apply perfectly well to my current life circumstances. Back to The Basics is the underlying tool that suggests that basic recovery principles such as, living one day at a time, accepting what one cannot change, and turning over to God (Higher Power) matters one is powerless over, will quite nicely resolve all crises.

The Dungeon of Self

“We are all serving a life sentence in the dungeon of self.” Attributed to Cyril Connolly, a British author (1903-1974). I read the quote in one of the daily readings I do in support of a semblance of sane recovery, from a self help book called “In God’s Care” Hazelden 1991.

I focused on the term, life sentence, having recognized that long term recovery and advanced age do not seem to cure one of the basic aspects of addiction. “Dungeon of self” is a clever way of phrasing the well known hallmark of addiction, self-centeredness. The remedy over the long term for reducing self-centeredness in recovery from addiction is to attain and maintain an ongoing relationship with a spiritual source of strength (Higher Power, God as you understand God, etc.). The best way out of an attack of one of the many forms of self centeredness (for example, self-pity, fear of the unknown, such as death) is to help another person in recovery.
The reflection from the self help book I referenced above, states:

”Those of us who feel a Guiding Hand [HP, God] in our life know that we escape ourselves by getting involved with others. The bars of self crumble as we become honest and share our fears and weaknesses, hopes and strengths with each other (entry for November 30).”

So, the basic tools of recovery apply whether one is young or old in age and/or length of sobriety or clean time. Jan Edward Williams, 11/30/2019.

Helping A Loved one with Drug or Alcohol Problem

I Love an Alcoholic or Addict: How Do I Help Him or Her? The answer to this question involves issues pertaining to the one with the disease of addiction as well as those in relationship with that person. I’ll just comment on some of the ways the loved one can help the addicted person. Often the best way to help an addict or alcoholic is to stop trying to help the addicted person and to allow him/her to experience the pain and consequences that naturally flow from the irresponsible, negative behaviors of out-of-control drug or alcohol use. The focus for the loved one of the addicted person needs to shift from obsessing about the alcoholic or addict and how to fix or rescue him/her, to changing things over which the loved one does have control, namely, his/her own reactions to the alcoholic or addict. The 12 Step Programs for loved ones of an addicted person, Al-Anon, Nar- Anon, or Families Anonymous, have for many years taught the “Three C’s”: I didn’t Cause the addiction; I can’t Control the addiction; and I can’t Cure the addiction. In other words the loved one will work toward internalizing the truth of the matter: “I am powerless over the addiction of the person I love”, and, “I will work on me and how I react to the alcoholic or addict.” By ceasing to enable the alcoholic or addict to continue to drink or drug without experiencing the natural consequences of such use, the addicted person will be helped, for no addict or alcoholic begins to see the need to change without pain and consequences. So, I encourage loved ones of an addict or alcoholic to get help through therapy and/or the 12 Step Programs that focuses on change that the loved one can accomplish, thereby helping the alcoholic or addict. I invite comments on this important topic. Jan Williams, 11/21/2019.