Addiction among seniors is a growing problem. Unfortunately, this problem often slips under the public radar, and the government does not provide seniors the education, attention, and funding they deserve. This article looks at 10 barriers to age-appropriate treatment for seniors. The barriers come from all sources: families who are embarrassed by the problem or don’t want to acknowledge it, inadequate treatment and misdiagnosis by doctors, denial, loneliness, lack of senior support groups, and more.

St. Joseph Institute is aware of the senior addict or alcoholic’s unique needs and strives to reach out to older adults. While we are not a senior-specific facility, the average age of residents in our program is higher than most, and residents over 40 usually find the Institute environment comfortable as we typically have other residents of a similar age. In addition, our emphasis on sustaining a loving, welcoming community ensures that all residents, regardless of age, feel comfortable and supported while in treatment.

Research has identified 7 important factors for treating alcoholism and addiction in older adults:
• Be supportive and non-confrontational
• Link with other health and social services
• Focus on the social and psychological needs of older adults
• Focus on rebuilding social support networks
• Match teaching speed and content to an older audience
• Offer respect
• Individualize and be flexible with program duration

St. Joseph staff and faculty enjoy working with seniors. We understand that the causes of addiction for seniors are often different than those for younger people, and we are equipped to treat the loneliness, depression, grief, and loss that often lead seniors to alcohol or drugs.

We are aware that seniors often feel isolated from their families and might need more extensive after-care support for that reason. Through our alumni network, after-care program, and family program, we can help older adults find the support they need after they leave treatment.

While we require that our residents be ambulatory and without need for the constant medical care that would be found in a hospital setting, we make every effort to accommodate seniors who may need more time or space to transition between buildings and activities.

We encourage families to learn more about addiction in seniors and to understand that the difficulty you might face in confronting a senior family member’s addiction is worth the cost. Alcoholic or addicted seniors who get treatment experience the following*:

• increased cognitive and emotional health
• decreased physical health problems
• decreased risk of falls and injury
• increased independence

It’s never too late. Let’s take care of our seniors and respect their ability to achieve a rich, fulfilling, healthy life—at any age.

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85998682-6aa7-443e-abcd-f00214c09332---0-What does yoga have to do with recovery? Quite a lot, according to Google. Search “yoga for addiction,” and you will find countless articles from professional sources about the benefits of yoga in recovery. Yoga is not just for women, hippies, or the extremely flexible. It has been found to effectively regulate stress hormones that, when imbalanced, contribute to anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse.

St. Joseph Institute alumni know that a yoga practice is part of our schedule. Several mornings each week, our residents are led in a series of yoga poses. In addition to easing the symptoms of detox, yoga helps our residents surrender the desire to control their circumstances. It helps them connect to their body and their breath to reach a state of inner calm.

According to Jennifer Dewey, fitness manager at Betty Ford, “Addiction takes a person out of their body and prevents them from connecting to who they are physically and feeling what their body is telling them. Yoga is a great way to slowly reintroduce someone to physical sensation. It’s also very relaxing, so in terms of the anxiety, stress, and depression that arise from detox, it’s invaluable in helping people stay calm and grounded” (Yoga for Addiction Recovery).

The word ‘yoga’ comes from Sanskrit and is commonly interpreted today as ‘union.’ Fundamentally, yoga’s purpose is to unify body, mind, and spirit—and to unite all three with God. For this reason, meditation is the goal of an authentic yoga practice, and different types of yoga use different routines and poses (asanas) to develop strength and flexibility and to prepare the body for meditation.

Since many of us find it difficult to sit still to meditate, moving through a series of yoga poses can more easily bring us to a meditative state. At St. Joseph’s, we find that combining morning yoga with prayer and meditation helps residents connect with God and prepares their bodies, minds, and spirits for the day’s work.

Of course, it’s easy to get out of a yoga routine once rehab ends, so we encourage our alumni to continue making yoga part of their recovery. Yoga Journal offers a series of simple poses and affirmations designed particularly for those in recovery.

Or, you may decide to sign up for a yoga class. If so, consider these guidelines, adapted from
• A yoga class should make you feel safe and comfortable. If you feel like you don’t fit in, don’t force yourself to stay. Keep trying different classes until you find one that makes you feel good.
• A yoga class should push you to move beyond your physical limitations, but very gently. If you feel pressured to complete a pose or routine that is too difficult for you, find another class.
• A yoga class that incorporates meditation and holistic health will probably be more helpful for you in the long run than one that focuses mainly on yoga as exercise.
• Even if you are physically fit, sign up for a beginner’s class. Yoga is different than running, biking, or weight-lifting. Allow your body to adjust to its demands slowly and comfortably.
• Think of yoga as your own practice; call it “my yoga practice” to remind yourself that your progress is your own and that you don’t have to compete with anyone else.
• Be honest with your yoga instructor about any physical limitations or other concerns you might have.
• When possible, choose a yoga class that is conveniently located and not too expensive. It’s hard enough to get ourselves out of the house, so limit possible excuses to skip class.

As you continue to practice your recovery, consider yoga as a way to nurture your body and spirit and to help mitigate the anxiety, stress, and physical pain that can lead to relapse.

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head-heartGuilt. Resentment. Anxiety. Exhaustion. If you have an alcoholic or addict in your life and feel one or more of these feelings consistently, you are probably engaging in enabling behavior. What is enabling? Enabling is the illusion of help, the illusion of love. Enabling is what we do when we want to control outcomes, when we want to avoid confrontation, when we want to maintain the status quo.

What is the effect of enabling? Continued addiction. Trying to protect an addict or alcoholic from his choices simply encourage his addiction. Wait, you might say. When someone I love is hurting herself, isn’t it my responsibility to do everything I can to protect her? If she hurts herself on my watch, won’t it be my fault?

It’s certainly difficult, especially as a parent or spouse, to watch your loved one experience pain. But it’s also all too easy to confuse feelings of protection with feelings of love. To better understand enabling, consider the difference between love and attachment.

Attachment is the desire to protect and the desire to control. These desires are based in fear. We might fear that our loved one will leave us (or at least dislike us) if we don’t help them; we might fear that we will be punished in some way if we don’t help; ultimately, we might fear that our loved one will die if we don’t help—and we fear the pain of that loss.

When a parent waits in dread for a child to return safely home, that dread is attachment. When a girlfriend repeatedly returns to an abusive boyfriend, that need is attachment. When a husband can no longer bear his wife’s pain and steals or buys prescription pills for her, that pity is attachment.

When love is warped by fear, leading us to cling, grasp, grab, and never want to let go, we have become attached. Attachment feels urgent. Love feels secure. Attachment is often accompanied by guilt. Love is guilt-free. Attachment is anxious. Love is trusting. Attachment fears that love will end. Love knows that love is eternal and ever-present regardless of circumstance.

In short: any action that is driven by fear or worry, even if it seems like the loving thing to do, will ultimately lead to breakdown. In this way, enabling is the opposite of love. The sheer effort it takes to enable an addict can foster resentment and anger and even cause us to finally abandon the very person we’ve tried so hard to protect.

Love trusts that the addict is on a path of his or her own choosing, and love knows that allowing this person his or her experiences—and their consequences—is the most supportive action to take. Love knows that compromising one’s own health or well-being to help the addict will only make the journey longer and harder for everyone.

To help yourself know whether you are acting out of love or falling prey to attachment behaviors, ask yourself your motivation before you take any action. Is this action coming from a place of love and trust or of fear and worry?

The following is a list of true helping behaviors—ways to support the addicts that we love and help them overcome addiction:

  • Allow them their experiences and the consequences.
  • Reinforce their positive actions.
  • If they ask for your feedback, be honest.
  • If (and only if!) you have established an agreement with the addict to do so, lovingly make them aware of their destructive patterns.
  • Take care of yourself. If you know that you tend to enable, seek a therapist who can help you understand your motivations and help you value yourself. Consider a group like Al-Anon, where you can learn from relatives and friends of addicts.

Finally, remember that addiction is a family disease, and the conditions in the family and in your self have made the addiction possible. This is not a case for blame. In fact, it’s the opposite. Addiction in a family can be a wonderful opportunity to bring old insecurities and resentments out into the open, to learn more yourself and each other, and to practice resting in the peace of love rather than falling prey to fear-driven attachment.






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