Am I Too Old For Rehab?
Debunking Age-Related Myths About Rehab
We tend to get two kinds of people coming into rehab; those who have concerns they might be too young to recover and those who think they might be too old. It would be wrong to just dismiss age-related issues (we will examine some of these later in the post), but it is important to realize that they are often overstated in our thinking when we consider making such a huge life-change. The reality is that there is the addicted part of our mind wants things to remain the same, and it will use concerns about being too old in an attempt to maintain the status quo.
Research by Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy (2018) found that older clients (those over 60) in their sample “surpassed treatment outcomes of the younger sample“. There are actually numerous advantages to being older entering rehab (see below), and it is arguably never too late to begin a new chapter in life.
Ten Reasons You Are Not Too Old for Rehab
Legitimate Age-Related Concerns When Entering Rehab
Age does make a difference. If we are over 60, it is going to be too late for us to play for a Premier League football team, begin training to become a professional ballerina, or join the Special Forces. We will also have different needs, concerns, and issues than when we were younger. There are changes to our physical and cognitive abilities as we get older – although these are frequently overstated as a lot of loss of function can be due to the substance abuse and inactivity (much of the decline that we associate with getting older can actually be more symptoms of inactivity).
To give ourselves the best chance of success at rehab, we do need to take into account age-related concerns. If a program is overly focused on young people, it is not likely going to be a good fit for us. A rehab that caters specifically for older clients could appear to be the obvious solution, but this might be a mistake. The 80-year old ultra-runner Dag Aabye (who runs a 125km race each year) warns us that “age is something other people will put on you.” A better option can be to enter a mixed-age rehab where our specific needs can be met, but where we can be inspired by people of different backgrounds and levels of youthfulness.
Being Older Can Be an Advantage in Rehab
Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
The problem with being a young is we lack life experience. We may think we know it all as an eighteen, but when we look back, we will probably appear incredibly naïve to our older selves. In our twenties, it can appear as if we have all the time in the world to sort our life out, but of course time flies by, and before we know it, we are asking ourselves questions like “am I too old?” We may miss our lost youth, but there are significant advantages to being older, and these can help us when it comes to getting the most out of rehab. These advantages include:
A Brand New Chapter Can Begin at Any Age
One of the most valuable lessons we can learn as we get older is that our time is precious. Unfortunately, if we are caught up in addiction, we can feel hopeless and disappointed by life. We may even be looking forward to it all being over. There is a saying that alcohol and other drugs give us wings, but then they take away the sky. Yet, even at our lowest point, there can be “a light that never goes out”, a suspicion that things could be much better for us. If we can just grasp onto this tiny flame of hope, it can grow and burn the shackles that are keeping us trapped in an unfulfilling life. Half the battle in recovery is the recognition that a better existence may be possible.
If you are ready for the next chapter in your life, please contact the team here at Hope.
Finding the most suitable rehab program can be a bit like tuning a guitar. If it is tuned too tightly the string might break, but if it is too loose, it becomes impossible to play.
A toxic relationship can be a bit like drinking contaminated water. It may seem to quench our thirst, but it is also making us sick.
An insecure attachment style can be like a bucket full of holes. It doesn’t matter how much water you put in there, the bucket continues to feel empty.