Midlife adulthood can be a difficult period in life. Because a person has the potential to encounter many difficulties during this time, there’s also the chance of finding and relying on certain unhealthy coping mechanisms.
In fact, it’s been reported that nearly 2.3 million adults over 40 are in need of treatment for a substance use disorder. However, many people don’t frequently talk about addiction in midlife, potentially viewing it as a sign of failure, experiencing embarrassment or shame when faced with their reality. The truth is, with so many people experiencing the struggle of substance abuse during midlife, it’s a wonder it isn’t discussed more often.
There are different ways of handling the struggle of addiction, and never does it need to be a path traveled alone.
Talk about it
Nothing is more difficult than going to a close friend or trusted family member and saying, “I am really struggling.” It takes courage, vulnerability and humility. But this choice to speak about what’s happening in your life gives remarkable opportunity for growth; by bringing your struggle into the light, it actually removes the shame you may feel surrounding the situation. It’s true – once you speak issues into existence, your feelings cease to have as much power over you. And now that someone else knows, they can offer a new outlook on the situation, work with you to come up with a game plan and be a loyal accountability partner when you need it.
Be gentle with yourself
By midlife, you’ve seen a lot, experienced a lot and might be plain worn out. Perhaps your life didn’t turn out the way you were hoping. Maybe all your kids have left for college. If you’ve experienced a loss, trauma or grief of any kind, finding a healthy method of handling your issues might seem impossible.
No matter what you’ve gone through in recent years, be gentle with yourself. Just as high school, life fresh out of college and the first year of marriage were all stages of life, midlife challenges are also unique. As you continue to journey through it, continue to hold yourself accountable and fight against bad habits, but don’t mentally destroy yourself when you make a mistake. You’re just as human now as you were ten years ago, so making mistakes is not just alright; it’s to be expected. Recognize your mistake, choose to do better and keep going.
Seek other methods of coping
There are both healthy and unhealthy methods of dealing with stress, anxiety and depression – mental health struggles frequently seen during midlife. It goes without saying that substance use, whether with alcohol or drugs, is an unhealthy coping mechanism that worsens the problem instead of healing it.
On the other hand, there are many methods of coping with these struggles that are not just healthy, but productive. Daily exercise, getting a pet to love and care for, practicing the art of letting go, taking time to meditate or pray in order to practice spirituality, and even simple tasks like deep breathing or mindful eating can offer a lot of perspective and direct your mind and energy away from unhealthy habits.
Remove yourself from triggering situations
Certain people, places and things can cause a person to turn to substance use. Perhaps it’s a demanding supervisor or a frustrating family member causing you anxiety. Maybe it’s a place that reminds you of a traumatic event, or a particularly overwhelming situation that tricks you into believing there is no relief without the substance.
Of course this is untrue – there is always a better way to find relief, but in order to realize that, sometimes you just need to take a break. Whether you need to hang up the phone and call back later, step out of the meeting for a brief moment or simply say no to an invitation, take the steps to avoid putting yourself in the way of temptation. There’s no shame in doing what you need to do to be healthy.
Consider reaching out to a therapist
There is also no shame in asking for help. Some things are just too close to home, too complicated or too confusing to deal with on our own, and professional help is the only option. Turning to a counselor doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it simply means you recognize there is someone out there better equipped to help; not only that, but it’s a faster way to recovery, freedom and renewed ownership over your own life.
If you need to talk to someone about an addiction, reach out to Silver Ridge Recovery today at 855-945-7788.