Retirees and Alcohol Addiction

Retirees and Alcohol AddictionMany young people grow out of alcohol abuse as they take on the full family and career responsibilities of adult life. Unfortunately, some also develop alcohol addiction as children leave the home and they retire from their jobs. While retirees are supposed to be entering a time of leisure, retirement holds many potential threats of alcohol addiction.

An Established Relationship

By the time many people retire, they already have created a long history with alcohol. It is possible to maintain a practice of moderate drinking for many years that does not interfere with health, work, or family. But even though alcohol use had not become a problem before, does not mean an addiction will not develop.

Others may already be suffering from some degree of alcoholism when they retire. Many working people are able to keep up with minimum family and work obligations even when alcohol use is significantly depleting their energy, time, and health. When the daily routine of working no longer has to be accomplished, an opportunity arises for additional drinking and an escalation of the alcohol addiction.

A Challenging Transition

Retirement promises for many a relief from daily routines and an opportunity to pursue new or long-neglected interests. However, pitfalls may arise in the transition to retired life that introduce risks for alcohol addiction. Examples include:

  • Empty time – If new pursuits are not taken up, drinking may increase to fill idle time.
  • New environment – Retirees often move to new locations among other retired people. Drinking can take on new importance in new social circle.
  • Lost income – Hobbies and pastimes that had formerly occupied leisure time may not be affordable on retirement income. Alcohol may become a cheaper alternative to these unaffordable activities.

Reordering one’s life around new priorities and activities is not an effortless task.

Getting Older

The advancing age that accompanies retirement can also produce risk factors for alcohol addiction. Those might include:

  • Physical health – Pain from chronic conditions may be managed with alcohol.
  • Mental health – Mood disorders or dementia stemming from nervous system deterioration can lead to self-medication with alcohol.
  • Death of a spouse or friend – Older people are more likely to lose someone close to them who is of the same generation. Alcohol may be used to manage the stress.

The stress and crises of life do not abate when working ends.

Finding Help

Retirees have one problem younger people addicted to alcohol do not share: Medicare does not cover most addiction treatment programs. Unless the program is part of a hospital, retirees who rely on Medicare for their health insurance have to find some other way of paying for addiction treatment. Fortunately, there are many programs which are able to treat those in need through charitable contributions, sliding pay scales, or payment plans.

A larger challenge may come from trying to convince retirees to seek help. Many people feel unwilling to accept the idea of needing help at this stage in their lives. They also may feel the stigma of alcoholism more strongly than younger people. The encouragement of friends of the same age could be a crucial factor in convincing retirees to commit to treatment for alcohol addiction. The help of a professional addiction counselor or intervention specialist can also be very helpful.

Full-Time Help

If you or someone you know is having trouble with alcohol addiction after retirement, call our 24 hour helpline to learn more about how to help. The call is toll free.