Retirement and Life In The Fast Lane

Have you ever seen one of those time-lapsed before-and-after comparisons that they show on TV infomercials? That would probably be the best way to show the contrast in my lifestyle before and after my retirement.

I was 48 years old when I started really hitting the bottle, and, short of an act of God, it didn’t seem like there was anything that could stop me from drinking to death. After decades of working, I took an early retirement, cashed out my stocks and decided that I was going to enjoy my life. Unfortunately I started to enjoy it a little too much and got in over my head very quickly.

My alcohol abuse escalated basically the moment I retired. At times it was like I was trying to make up for years of responsible living, sometimes doing a lifetime’s worth of drinking in one weekend. I was divorced, my children were grown, and there was nobody to answer to but myself. I started taking long boat trips and disappearing for days at a time. It got to be a regular habit — so regular in fact, that nobody bothered to look for me after awhile; they just assumed I’d be back.

I’d made dinner plans with some friends one night and told them that I’d meet them after I was done fishing that evening. I had way too much to drink that afternoon, passed out around three, and was basically dead to the world for 15 hours. At around 5am, I was awoken by a deep scream through a megaphone. My friends had called the Coast Guard, who found my boat just floating, unmanned, in the middle of the ocean. I made up a bunch of excuses to the rescue team and to my friends to explain my bizarre behavior. It was sometime shortly after that incident that I realized I’d crossed the line, and I really did need help. This wasn’t my first close call while drinking, but it might have been my last chance.

I came clean to my friends later that day that I needed help. One of them had also battled a drinking problem and told me about the alcohol rehab facility in Florida that helped him turn his life around. I knew that if I didn’t at least go there and allow them to help me stop drinking soon, I feared that my retirement would end up being very short-lived. I wanted to enjoy life, not burn the candle at both ends.

First, I went through the alcohol detoxification process to physically get all the alcohol out of my body. Then at some point during the behavioral therapy phase of my alcohol treatment, I finally realized why I tried to live life in the fast lane after so many years of cautious living. I also learned a mantra “slow down and think” to silently repeat to myself when I feel the need for speed or excess. I also came away from treatment with a feeling that I needed to treat people better, spend my money more responsibly, and find something meaningful to do with some of my time.

After I returned home from my alcohol treatment, I knew I had to rearrange my life. It was going to be the only way I could abstain from the temptation to start drinking again. Everything was connected, as it had been before I started abusing alcohol. My way of life prior to retirement kept me healthy, satisfied, and sober. I needed to keep busy and help people in order to feel like my life was worth living, so I’ve been volunteering and doing some consulting work. I haven’t had a drink in a year, and, thanks to my treatment, I have learned the coping techniques to resist any future temptation to ever start drinking again.

Henry W.
Port St Lucie, FL