Addiction recovery for older people has its own challenges but Peter is proof that long-term addiction recovery is possible, recently celebrating being clean for one year following his treatment for alcohol addiction.
I’m 376 days clean today! And I’m about to celebrate my 67th birthday. I thought it was time to check in and let you all know how I am going.
Last time we spoke, I was living in Yeppoon and doing some volunteer work – and my family and friends were very supportive of the journey I had undertaken.
Of course, every journey is full of ups and downs – and I did have a few issues after leaving that I had to work through with a psychologist.
I had trouble with thoughts of other clients at the clinic. You see, I was brought up with a set of standards and the need to do things correctly, especially in the realms of personal conduct, etiquette and manners.
I guess, being a bit ‘old school’, I was appalled at the behaviours of some of the other addicts I had run into. Before my time in rehab, I’d never met a drug addict before. Neither had I met another alcoholic. I knew that many of them were good people – I’d had many chats with them one to one. I just had trouble reconciling that they could behave so horribly sometimes in a group situation.
Seeing a psychologist here at the local hospital every week really helped me to resolve those feelings and help me understand that we’re all on our own journeys – and all of us have different sets of circumstances that lead us towards recovery.
I also did a course on alcohol and drugs for six weeks at the hospital.
My doctor calls me to check in and see how I’m going. She’s fantastic – we had our first online consult the other day.
I did try AA here for a while, but found I didn’t quite fit into the branch here which has a bit of a ‘small town atmosphere’. I mean, nobody asked me my name or showed any interest in me – in short, they just weren’t “my people”. Which was a shame. However, I knew that I needed to find others in the same situation.
I have been able to ‘find my tribe’ – I went on the ‘hunt’ so to speak. I asked people in my morning walking group for help, telling them about my story and now I’ve been contacted by people who have been on a similar path and have recovered. Which is great.
Navigating life post rehab with friends was always going to be hard and I was worried about what my friends were going to say – but not one of them has been in touch since I got into recovery, so I guess that fixed itself.
I lined up my own sponsors too – I have a friend who owns a car yard up the road and my doctor who check in with me once a week to see how I’m going. The police pulled in yesterday and congratulated me on my 376 days – they knew. Also, the paramedics from the hospital – they’ve known about my journey too. It’s nice to have that support.
Since I left, I’ve done a lot of work on myself using the “HALTS” method – am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired? Am I stressed?
The good news is that a lot of these symptoms have started going away – I don’t feel sick anymore, nor am I lonely. I still get tired sometimes though.
What I’ve learned from speaking to the psychologist, that when I feel triggered, if I go and lie down and meditate, that the thought dissipates. At first it was hard doing this as I’ve always been such a worker. As I progress though, these thoughts are becoming weaker and weaker.
The journey of self-improvement never ends.
My wife gave me back access to my debit card and the first thing I bought for her was a breathalyser. I have that hanging on the wall. It’s as much for me as for her – a reminder that I never want to go back.
Life with my wife and family is great. I’m very much a “routine” person. I get up, always make my bed, have breakfast, meditate. I have a new TV with access to bootcamp, so I can do that at home instead of going to the PCYC. I’m also continuing with my book and step work.
Unfortunately, my wife isn’t too well at the moment. Today I hung out my first load of washing. Two pegs on every bit of clothing! I think she was pretty happy about that. An old dog CAN learn new tricks!
I do a lot of cooking and walking and do a fair bit of exercise. There’s never anyone on the beach. I’ve taken up bike riding as well, up to 20km a day.
If I could share any tips to keep making rehab work, it is to look back at the past. And also remember what I was taught in rehab.
I look back at my diary entries and realise every day that there’s no way I want to go back to my old life.
When I went to rehab, I understood that the Hader Clinic Queensland was there to HELP me, not FIX me. I had to do that myself. You need to realise that you get professional help so that you can learn to help yourself.
Committing to furthering my education about alcohol and drugs with the hospital course I did taught me the value of discipline and simply showing up. Half the battle in staying clean requires consistency, discipline and working your program.
I also wanted to share that psychology students were presenting parts of the program and I thought it would be helpful to them if they knew my story. Nobody understands addicts until you actually meet and work with them. In a small way, it’s a “give back” to help them in the future.
I’m more determined than ever to stay clean and sober. My doctor gave me the statistics that for someone of my age, 98% fail at sobriety. I am going to get a 2% tattoo to remind me of my success on my arm.
As a result of my addiction, I’ve made friends, simply by reaching out for help.
Six months ago, I was by myself, up in town and I had my debit card with me. I was filled with the thought of, “I have my card, I can go and drink”.
I realised that I was in such trouble, so I pulled a woman walking past aside and told her my struggle and she stayed with me, brought me a glass of water and called my wife to come and pick me up.
I didn’t ask for my debit card for quite awhile after that. There are all sorts of strange triggers from times past – for example, sometimes I can be triggered by a celebration or something as small as mowing the lawn – there used to be alcohol at the end of it – but I go through some meditation and controlled breathing and I’m good. My doctor is a great help.
I’m lucky that I love making new friends. I’m a bit of a social butterfly really. I’ve made friends with a lot of the people I walk along the beach with.
When I hit one year sober, I painted “365” (days clean) on my shirt. It was nice to see them all give me a high five as I walked past. I think with all these public commitments to sobriety I’d be too scared to drink again.
I’m in the process of buying an apartment on the beach. My wife and I are really looking forward to it.
Part of the reason for my move is that the neighbours get on the grog every afternoon – I can hear them. While it may have been funny years ago, it sure isn’t now.
Rather than being miserable about other people’s behaviour, I am taking action so I can live my best life. Living closer to the beach means that I’ll be able to do more fishing and perhaps a bit of diving. Life is good!
I will be forever grateful to all the help the Hader Clinic Queensland has given me.