This statistic from AARP got my attention: 17% of adults aged 60 and older have a drug or alcohol problem, compared to 10% of the overall population. But beyond the statistic, here is a real person’s story from our community. She is a 76 year old grandmother with a loving and supportive family. As she struggled with being the sole caregiver for her husband who had suffered a series of debilitating strokes and dementia, she turned to drinking. She often drank more than she planned and started not remembering phone conversations with her family.

Her moment of “incomprehensible demoralization”, as she described it, came when she missed her granddaughter’s graduation due to intoxication. She planned on having only one glass of wine but ended up drinking the entire bottle and was unable to drive. She felt humiliated in front of her family. Her son insisted she get help. Filled with shame, guilt, fear, and confusion she contacted Silver Sobriety, a local program tailored to helping older adults who struggle with addiction.

Silver Sobriety is a non-residential program offering services provided by licensed alcohol and drug counselors, such as Peter Oesterreich. Their mission is to provide older adults with affordable recovery services for alcohol and drug addiction. The program serves people 50 and older who have responded to the cumulative losses, setbacks and challenges in life by turning to alcohol or drugs for relief.

What Silver Sobriety’s clients receive, besides treatment, is connection to a community of peers, where mutual trust and camaraderie promotes success. As Peter said: “Our experience shows that rehabilitation among peers is critical. Seniors need to connect with their peers and work on issues unique to their age group. Older adults do not relate to younger people whose addictions, problems, life experiences, and drugs of choice are different from their own. Our age specific program is the difference maker. We believe no matter your age, you can overcome alcohol abuse and addiction with the right support and resources”.

And rather than a typical 30 day outpatient program, Silver Sobriety is a six-month commitment, where clients engage in programming 3 days per week, 4 hours a day. Costing up to 85% less than inpatient treatment, and 60% less than other outpatient treatment programs, Silver Sobriety is more affordable. Individual meetings with Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors help monitor a client’s progress and the potential need for more intensive case management services, which link clients to appropriate medical, social, and psychiatric resources.

And how did our 76 year old grandmother’s situation turn out? According to Peter, she gained an education on alcoholism and loss of control, connected with like-minded supportive peers seeking sobriety, learned new ways of dealing with stress, and is now offering support to new comers to the program.

You will have the chance to meet this brave soul and other clients at a free event on Thursday, December 1 from 5 to 8 pm at Stillwater Motors in their community room. Food and fellowship will be offered plus a recap of Silver Sobriety’s first year in business. And if addiction is an issue for you or a loved one, remember that it is never too late to ask for help. The resources and support are here, in our community, to help you on your path to wellness.

By Sally Anderson