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Older Women – Is It Ever Too Late for Recovery?

Older Women – Is It Ever Too Late for Recovery?

Older Women – Is It Ever Too Late for Recovery?

I’ll say it – one of the most vilified demographics is the older woman. Especially if she dares to be sexual, current or aggressive in business. I recently read a blog by a 20 something who admonished women over the age of 40 for wearing hoop earrings. Seriously? We aren’t allowed to wear hoop earrings? Why do people care what we do?


The Older Woman Cliché…

I am an “older woman” and I don’t wear house dresses or lace up brogues. I do not act like the stereotypical woman past her prime. In fact, on a good day, I feel at the top of my game. But I am guilty of shuddering from a YouTube video of a granny dancing erotically. I have been known to say, “Madonna should lose that stupid grill.” There are certain things, as women age gracefully, that are just not done.


Like Getting sloppy drunk for example.


One of the most influential comments anyone ever said to me when I was drinking was, “You know, after a certain age, women look really sad when they’re drunk…” (thank you Dee). Because it’s true – the stereotype of the aging, female barfly is about as bad as the 80 year old dirty dancing at a wedding reception. We’ve come a long way baby, but making a fool of oneself is never “cute” or liberating.


When Your Addiction Starts Late in Life…

I got divorced at 49 years old and that is when a lifetime of overdrinking turned into addiction. There is something embarrassing about admitting that. I spent a lot of time in The Bahamas after my divorce, proving the adage “there is no fool like an old fool.” And disproving the one about “not being able to teach old dogs new tricks”…


There are photos. Talk about shuddering – even though my addiction was the reason I was draped suggestively over the shoulders of strangers, forgetting to suck in my stomach for the camera…


Older Women and Addiction Treatment

And for older women, there’s more to the problem of drinking than embarrassing selfies. Post menopausal women who  misuse alcohol are at a much greater risk for certain cancers. Old age compounds the negative health effects of alcohol and as we age we lose our resiliency to the damage alcohol can cause.


In the past, stigma has been sited as the main reason older women do not seek treatment for substance use disorders. But the factors that exacerbate addiction are prevalent in the lives of older women. Divorce, death of a spouse, retirement, empty nest syndrome, the perceived loss of looks and social invisibility are all factors in addiction late in a woman’s life.


The Good News?

Statistics show there is a rise in the number of older women seeking addiction treatment. My friend Christine Walkons, who is the Clinical Director at Sanford House Addiction Treatment Centers (and an avid keeper of data) has written an excellent article on the reasons for this phenomenon and the differences between early onset and late onset drinking in women.


The bottom line? It is never too late to get help for a substance use disorder. Recovery is in style at any age… Older women – read this article while wearing hoop earrings…


The Rise of Older Women Seeking Addiction Treatment

As the Clinical Director of Sanford House, one of my duties is to collect data and put it together in an annual Performance Management Report. Age ranges of the persons served are among the statistics collected. I have found it interesting to note the increasing number of older women entering addiction treatment.   The Older Woman [read more]


Today I’m not drinking because at my age, it’s not cute or liberating…


How come you’re not drinking?


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Comments (11)

  1. Avatar
    Mar 24, 2017

    I love this! Thank you my dear for posting this. As a fellow ‘older woman’, the mention of perceived loss of looks and social invisibility hit home. It’s tough to face those aspects of the mature life, but over drinking and dependency on alcohol doesn’t make it any easier. You’re spot on & today, I too am not drinking because it’s neither cute nor liberating!

  2. Avatar
    Rose-Marie Jaeger
    Mar 24, 2017

    Today’s thoughts are so relevant for me. Thank you! You have articulated exactly where I am at. I was divorced at 50 and went down the same path. Alcohol filled a void, it was a place to escape to. I can’t find the quote right now, but Annie Lennox, one of my heroes, made a comment about how our society is very cruel to aging women. Like you, I refuse to be invisible. I am healthy and vibrant. I wear fishnet stockings, have a lover, and look great (and not just for my age). Is life hard? Yes. Is it what I expected? Absolutely not! AND, I am fighting against my alcohol addiction that has helped me hide from being myself. It is painful to “grow into” being a mature woman in this world. I am working on my hoop earrings and my sobriety. I am so please to have found this blog. THANKS!!

  3. Avatar
    Mar 26, 2017

    How come you're not drinking?
    Oh. Ummm, I answered this above. 😉
    I love this! I fell into drinking (more) heavily after my divorce at 57. A year later now, and I am free. It is NOT an easy path. That said, I go out at night when I want to, No more hiding at home with a bottle, I love how I feel and look…..and yes, I still wear hoop earrings, lol. I found Waking The Ghost when I was at the height of suffering, wanting to stop drinking but failing miserably over and over and over. It makes me smile, it gives me hope, It speaks to me. Thank you!

    • Marilyn
      Mar 30, 2017

      Divorce, death of a spouse, retirement even perceived loss of looks can be a foreshadowing of addiction. I am so glad you have hope and hoops!

  4. Avatar
    Mar 26, 2017

    How come you're not drinking?
    See above!
    Already sent!

  5. Avatar
    Mar 28, 2017

    How come you're not drinking?
    Alcohol is a tool by which the Enemy seeks to destroy us. Hope we all have the strength and hope to overcome.
    I refuse to give up my hoops. :D.

  6. Avatar
    Jun 5, 2017

    Recently I have been worrying more and more about my own mom, and this article caught my eye and hit me “in the feels” as they say. My mom is in her early 60s, single (divorced for 15 years from my dad), and has made a decade’s worth of horrible financial decisions to the point where she could no longer afford to live on her own and had to move in with her alcoholic boyfriend.

    Over the last year or two (or three?!) years, I have noticed that, while I have always known her to drink wine in a quasi responsible manner, that she is getting more emotionally unstable after *very quickly* drinking a few glasses of wine. She has hurt me emotionally, flipping personalities during the course of a dinner, leaving me at restaurants with her friends at a moment’s notice because a small thing hurt her feelings, saying horrible things with no regard for others’ feelings, driving when she shouldn’t be, and worst of all, either actually not remembering it all the next day, or choosing to not apologize for her behavior and actions the next day. Out of pride? I don’t know. Some people just hate to say they are sorry and admit that they did something hurtful or wrong. I am a huge proponent of admitting when you are wrong and saying sorry, so I just don’t get it.

    I am in my late 20s and almost one month sober from alcohol (so as you can see I am no angel either), and it hurts that whenever I call her to say “hello” these days, that she is already at least one glass deep when our conversation even starts. Maybe it only bothers me now that I am removed from the mentally clouding effects of alcohol. She is normally hard headed (sober or drinking), and doesn’t see any fault in what she does, so I don’t even know where to begin with her in expressing my concern for her health and emotional well being. I worry so much about her, and thus why I originally clicked on the link to this particular article. I have read from Kelly Fitzgerald’s blog posts that there are two types of drunks: high level drunks and low level drunks, and I think my mom is the latter, needing to completely hit rock bottom before making a change.

    I am not sure that I am looking for advice here, but wanted to give the perspective of a concerned 20-something daughter of whom I consider an alcoholic. While she isn’t living on the streets drinking boxed wine from a paper bag yet, I am scared sh*tless that is going to be what it takes for her to make a change for the better, She (like I did before getting sober) has made wine her identity, and surrounds herself with people and situations where the wine glass always floweth over, if you will. I have tried to talk to her about my concerns, but she won’t listen to me- changes the subject- or makes up an excuse to quickly get off of the phone.

    I guess one reason for me posting this is if you have a child/adult child who has mentioned their concern about your drinking, take their concern and multiply it by at least 50, because they are trying to tell you in the least offensive way possible. Odds are they have spent hours, if not days or weeks, rehearsing and gathering up the courage to bring this painful topic up with you. They are (for lack of a better word) diluting their concern out of respect for your feelings so that you don’t take it the “wrong way”. Listen to your children, no matter how painful it may be! They don’t want to talk to you about this any more than you want to hear about it.

    For anyone who is on their sober journey already, take it one day at a time, and remember…you are doing a GREAT job! Don’t forget to love yourself, and to thank your family and friends who are there to support you along the way. The ones who do not lift you up only drag you down, <3

    • Marilyn
      Jun 5, 2017

      Wow this is fantastic and thought provoking. The first few paragraphs of your comment felt a little too close to home. You and my daughter might have a lot to talk about. This is excellent advice and for me, the thing that resonates is your comment at the end. Because it is so hard to confront a parent or a loved one and so disheartening to feel like you haven’t been heard. I think I will use your advice for a longer blog post on why family members tiptoe into conversations about addiction. Thank you for the excellent food for thought.

      Now here’s a little advice for you. Be completely honest with your mother. Sit her down when she is not drunk and tell her what you’ve told me. Even if she doesn’t take it well, you can know you have gotten it off your chest and that you have done the right thing. The fact is, she has to recognize and solve this problem herself. Congratulations on your sobriety and please know I feel your pain.

  7. Avatar
    Jun 6, 2017

    Hi Marilyn, thank you for your reply! I apologize I didn’t mean for that comment to be SO long! I will try to put your advice into action. We live in two different states so our interactions are mostly over the phone, and I feel awkward bringing up such a topic when I am visiting for two days, because it might be seen as being too “aggressive” when we are trying to enjoy each other’s presence, if that makes sense. It needs to happen regardless, so it’s just a matter of when!

    Thank you for all that you do. While I am going through my first steps of sobriety, I am devouring these different “sober blogs” as a means of inspiring me to continue on with this path. Have a great week!

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