7 Challenges When Starting Recovery Later In Life

Categories: Articles

When people looked at me, they didn’t have any idea that I was in recovery. They saw a mother, a grandmother, a widow, and I am all of those things, but they didn’t see the addict inside me.

It’s ironic, because at 66 years old, you would think people would just do the math. I was a teenager in the 60s for crying out loud. However, it doesn’t stop with the baby boomer generation. Many seniors struggle with addiction as well.

According to John Hopkins Medical School, the number of Americans over age 50 abusing prescription drugs is going to rise to 2.7 million in the year 2020. That’s an increase of a whopping 190% since 2001.

Those of us beginning the recovery process at this stage of our lives are faced with a unique set of challenges. All of these must be addressed as part of a successful treatment program:

1. A Longer History of Substance Abuse

Since many of us began abusing drugs and alcohol at such a young age, we never developed healthy coping skills. It quickly becomes a pattern that whenever we felt overwhelmed, we reached for our substance of choice. We continued to function for years, however, as spouses, parents, employees, and as those years added up, it became the only way we knew how to live. It takes courage to walk away from that, and it is imperative that our support system is designed to help us develop that courage.

2. Dealing with Chronic Pain

One of the most common addictions we seniors develop is to prescription pain medication. Getting sober means that we have to learn a whole new way to treat that pain, which involves more than a few lifestyle changes. Recovery is a lot of work; recovery while dealing with chronic pain can be so taxing. It is much easier to pop a pill and feel like superwoman than it is to commit to a whole new routine of various therapies.

3. Case Management Services

Many seniors do not have the social network available to act as a support system after we get out of rehab. Family and friends move, they die, or they have simply gotten tired of our crap. Relapse becomes a huge danger if we are out there on our own. Referrals to social, medical, and psychiatric services must be part of our discharge plan.

4. The Learning Curve

As we age, we don’t assimilate new information as quickly as we used to. Learning recovery skills and putting them into practice takes more time. If we enter a program that is not tailored for seniors, we can become overwhelmed.


5. The Big Four

Loss, Depression, Loneliness, and Grief. The longer we’ve been in this life, the greater the chance that we are facing any number of these simultaneously. Not only do these emotional elements lead to addiction, they can also stand in the way of recovery.

6. Nutritional Deficiencies

While everyone is susceptible to experiencing nutritional imbalances during active addiction, those of us who are older are less likely to bounce back without intervention during recovery. Malnutrition is yet another barrier to recovery.

7. Detox

The standard approach can be more than some of us seniors can handle. Our bodies are a little frail in comparison to our younger counterparts, and many of us have underlying conditions. Nursing and medical services must be available around the clock.

I relapsed over and over again with conventional treatment. It wasn’t until I went through a detox, recovery, and aftercare program customized for my specific needs did I achieve long-term sobriety. Now people see the recovery inside me.

If you are looking for a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California, feel free to contact Anaheim Lighthouse today , we’re here to help.

(Visited 384 times, 1 visits today)