“She goes from one addiction to another. All are ways for her to not feel her feelings” – Ellen Burstyn
Might as well admit it, I’m addicted to… fill in the blank. At various times throughout my life, I’ve struggled with alcohol, mindless eating, sugar, shopping, tv binge watching, Facebook addiction, you name it. I have an addictive personality. Always have, and I fear I always will.
Sugar’s siren call
If you have suffered through the same obnoxious affinity for escapism, can you please tell me how you went about freeing yourself from endlessly attaching to one bad habit after another?
Because I have been struggling with addiction lately. Or lack thereof. By that I mean, I have let go of two primary addictions; alcohol and sugar. I’ve also stopped eating flour, as the food plan I am on calls for it.
I really don’t think that is a big addiction for me though. Ditto for caffeine. I drink my coffee black, and have a couple of cups a day. I can live with that. But I am fighting a sugar craving lately. Visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Not good.
People think that because you’ve reached a certain age, you’ve matured to the point where you don’t have addiction issues anymore. Like you’re beyond all that nonsense. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Many experts believe we Boomers are experiencing a harder time with addiction than previous generations because we played it so loose and free with drugs and alcohol from our teenage years and beyond.
When life gets hard, as it always does, we return to our own various personal crutches, which might include anything from gambling and shopping to eating, alcohol, and drugs.
While most of us have let go of the illicit variety, many of our generation are now addicted to prescription drugs. As we’ve been reading in the news lately, opioid abuse has risen to a level of national crises, and Baby Boomers are high on the list of abusers.
We’re at an age where chronic ailments such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sleep problems are more prevalent. These conditions raise injury risks, and the use of physician prescribed medications to treat them, such as the highly addictive drugs Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin. Accidental addiction may be the end result.
Particularly worrisome is the fact that our aging bodies are more susceptible to addiction because our metabolisms have slowed down and are no longer as capable of breaking down drugs. So, overdosing can happen much more easily.
Yikes! I am thankful I have never been addicted to drugs, illegal or legal. But I have empathy and sympathy for those who do. It is very easy to fall into addiction and very hard to break free of it.
Emotionally vulnerable too
Can we just say upfront that retirement and aging aren’t always a bed of roses? Sure, it is nice to be free of that old 9 to 5 treadmill we spent so many years on, but we have some new things going on at this stage of life that can just plain make us sad.
Like losing our parents, our partners, or our friends. Our children have moved out and left our nests empty. And the workplace, which was so often the source of our complaints, but also a huge a part of our lives for so long, doesn’t seem to need or want us anymore.
So, we turn to outside sources to help us get through the emotional pain.
Many of us Boomers have dealt with life’s challenges through escape, numbing and drowning out problems. And we have a natural tendency to go there now as much as we ever did.
So, now what?
If you have a serious drug or alcohol addiction, of course, you should seek professional help. But if you are simply letting go of old unhealthy habits, how do you deal with sadness or loneliness or frustration or even extreme happiness?
There were times throughout my life that I turned to shopping for clothes. Not only was it fun, but it motivated me to stick with my diet because I looked better in my clothes when I was slender.
These days, however, I simply have no extra money for clothes binges. And I’m not working and don’t have a very active social life, so I have no place to show off new clothes. I no longer have the fashionista body, and never will again, no matter how trim I am. And, I just don’t care that much about clothes anymore.
Most of all, I don’t want to simply replace one bad habit with another.
So what do I do to comfort myself or celebrate when I can’t eat fun things, or go shopping? I could call a friend, but I am a bit of an introvert so this can often lead to as much anxiety as just sitting with my emotions.
As I mentioned in previous posts, I want to meditate and exercise. But for reasons I don’t understand, I am resisting. I keep waiting for conditions to be just perfect before I start to exercise. For instance, we have been inundated with smoke from forest fires in our area. So, we haven’t been walking the dogs as planned. But I could do my exercise DVDs. Why am I not doing the very things that will help me?
I know I should just take a page from our old friend Nike and their recommendation to “Just do it.” Now if I could just get my addled, addiction-prone brain on board.
If you have any suggestions for me and others in a similar predicament, would love to hear them in the comments below.