Is there a right age to get sober? Whatever age we decide to stop drinking, we will face challenges and limiting beliefs. In this episode, Chip and Veronica discuss the challenges of getting sober at a young age and getting sober when you are older.
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Whatever age you are when you decide to get sober, there is misinformation and limiting beliefs you will have to work through.
For the person who makes the decision late in life, it’s easy to look back with regret, wishing it were made sooner. For the younger person, it’s easy to look ahead and think you have more time before you need to give it up.
Chip and I have had clients at all points of the age spectrum, from teenagers all the way up to an 80-year-old and over our years in practice, the age people present has reduced dramatically. People are being exposed to drugs and drinking at a much younger age and as a result, many are recognizing they have a problem as young as their teens or early 20s.
“I think that’s one of the problems that a lot of young people have. They think they’re too young to have a problem.” – Chip Somers
It can be quite difficult to acknowledge that your drinking has gotten bad enough to be problematic at a young age. They’ll often look around at the average person with a heavy drinking problem and think, “That person over there is in their 40s, I’m a bit too young to really get into recovery.”
Access to drink and drugs has changed so much in recent years. Online availability lets you buy whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, at any age so young people are coming face to face with not only more but also stronger substances. That fact, along with the normalization of excessive drinking and drug cultures means young people are getting into trouble with alcohol at a much younger age than ever before.
“I wholeheartedly believed that drinking and drugs were what everyone did to have fun. It was devastating to think that I had to let go of all of that.” – Veronica Valli
For me, I was 27 when I got sober and like many people entering recovery, the fear of missing out was a massive concern. At that point, I wholeheartedly believed that drinking and drugs were what everyone did to have fun. It was devastating to think that I had to let go of all of that.
When I made the choice to get sober it felt like I was choosing to miss out and not include myself and that made me angry. It felt like a death. I made the choice because my mental health problems were so bad but it was a crushing feeling, thinking I was condemning myself to isolation.
Luckily, that was the furthest thing from the truth.
We’ve all been sold on the belief that everyone drinks alcohol and that you need alcohol to have fun and socialize. Yes, it is going to be a challenge to rebuild your social life as you’ve likely surrounded yourself with people who drink as you do. What you’ll discover is, there are loads of people who are sober or who simply don’t use alcohol or drugs.
“There’s a whole world out there of things to do that are fun and interesting and don’t require alcohol.” – Veronica Valli
For the 40+ age group, coming to terms with the past and things you may feel that you’ve missed out on can be terribly difficult. They come in with a heavy load of shame, of waste, of regret, that young people often don’t have. For Chip, when he got sober at around 37, he carried a lot of regret for not being present and damaging his child as a result.
“The thing about the cost of drinking is some people pay it very early upfront but for other people, it’s delayed.” – Veronica Valli
You can be very high functioning and have a lot to show for all your years but if that has come at the cost of a very unhappy relationship, acrimonious divorce, children who are distressed by you, very few friends and a reputation of being a heavy drinker, that success has come with a high price.
Whenever we get sober, we have to go through a process of healing and rebuilding our relationships. We can’t change the past but we can learn from it, and we can change what’s going forward.
I’ve seen some people get sober but stay living in the past, just feeling guilt and shame and that’s living a half-life. On the other side, I’ve seen loads of people get sober and the relationships going forward were really special and really incredible. It takes forgiveness and love, and work and effort but whatever age you are right now, the future is unwritten.
As it says it in the Big Book: the past is my greatest asset. Chip and I wouldn’t be the therapists/parents/spouses that we are, without our past and the wisdom we were able to take from it.
It’s not easy, but it’s so much easier than carrying on as you are. Everything about sobriety is so much easier than having a drinking problem. What sobriety offers you is an opportunity to transform your life.
Young, old, no matter what age you are, the future can be transformed. And that’s really all that matters.
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