Going through drug treatment at any age is an arduous task, no matter what age you are and whatever your station in life. You’re not only quitting a life-threatening illness and beloved bad habits, you’re re-addressing your life; where you’ve been, what it is…and where it’s going. But to do all of this at middle-age is a whole other kettle of fish. You’ve had more time to become the person you are, as well as develop longer term relationships that usually need to be reconciled in sobriety. So much to do…and perhaps less time to do it in.
One of the most difficult aspects of treatment when you are in this situation is relating to all of the young people that you’re thrown together with. You’re eating/sleeping/recovering with people whom you have little in common with…or so it seems. Ethos, personalities and communication need to re-addressed, and in many cases, re-learned when dealing with a large group of young people. Another factor is that in general, addiction is such an anti-social beast. You probably hadn’t spent a lot of time socializing with anyone by the time you get through the door of rehab. Your past relationships with younger drug dealers don’t mean a hell of a lot here.
I myself have been in this situation myself. It’s been a great learning and growing experience developing some sense of patience and tolerance. This is probably the key to surviving treatment at middle age. It’s definitely easier said than done, but taking the time to observe and hopefully not become too judgmental can be extremely rewarding and undoubtedly helpful in your own recovery. You’re also given a rare opportunity: even if young people outwardly appear not to want to listen to ‘the old guy’, they are deep down inside instinctively seeking mentors to help them show the way in life, and through recovery. The trick is to allow young people to come to you, and eventually, many will.
Another helpful tool is time management. Everyone in treatment needs some alone time, and perhaps those in middle age need this a little more. Most treatment centers will help with this, and it’s not a bad idea to broach this subject early in your treatment, or perhaps even before you enter the facility of your choice. In addition to this I found that I was more comfortable going through treatment when I found a local 12-step meeting that was grouped with a majority of folks my age. This is easy to do, as most meeting directories will have several meetings clearly named for adults.
I spoke with Sarah P., a 52-year old woman on her second go round of treatment for alcohol addiction. Developing a few relationships with young people in treatment helped her to repair a damaged relationship with her own son. “I slowly learned where young people were coming from,” she commented “and through talking with them in the treatment atmosphere, I learned a lot about my son and the world he comes from. And like a lot of parents, I thought I knew everything about my children. Boy, was I wrong! It was subtle, though…it took time to really get to know these kids…I didn’t have much choice! But it was definitely a valuable tool, and I have an understanding and empathy now with my son that I didn’t have a few months ago.”
Going through treatment in middle age is certainly a challenge, but by developing some patience and tolerance, one can help others with their struggle and enhance their own recovery in immeasurable ways.