The Challenges of Being a Retiree and Functioning Alcoholic

Retirement after decades of pouring yourself into a career can be anxiety-provoking and always makes the "top ten" list of most stressful life events. It is a major life change and more emphasis needs to be placed on how to cope with the emotional side of retirement. While there is ample literature on the financial aspects of retirement, there is very little that discusses the emotional aspects involved when you stop working. I have been a functioning alcoholic for most of my life, even while I held down a career job. Retirement hit me with a heavy blow that led to a serious bout of depression and heavy drinking that lasted for years.

Get Counseling or Get a Hobby

I did not seek help for the increase in my drinking problem after my retirement. Perhaps I should have. I will never know the degree to which that might have helped me. I would recommend to others, though, that they should at least give some sort of counseling a try upon retirement. I am one who rightly or wrongly believes strongly in self-help. I did fall inadvertently into a successful therapeutic plan consisting of a do-it-yourself home decorating project.

I bought a cheap sewing machine off eBay and yards of different types of inexpensive fabrics from the home décor section of an online mega-fabric site. I do not sew. I do not design or make curtains, comforters, bed skirts, pillow shams, valances or roman shades. Why I chose to engage in this particular activity remains a mystery.

For hours, weeks and months, I consulted local seamstresses, upholsterers and fabric store owners to help me make patterns, cut out shapes from my different materials and sew up a storm, transforming every window, bed, sofa and chair in my house. I threw myself completely into this creative endeavor and it probably saved my soul.

I wish I could say the interior of my home was much improved by this lengthy, extensive creative storm, but the results of my labors would never make the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. The overall effect was actually quite awful even though the craftsmanship was passable. What's really important, though, is that the psychological, emotional and mental health benefits were enormous.

Soon after I ended my decorating frenzy, I took everything I had made down, donated it to the Goodwill and did not replace any of the decorative items I had so feverishly created. Believe me, the interior of my home was far more attractive with my handiwork removed. What stayed with me, though, was the reduced stress I'd gained from being so involved in those projects.

Enjoying the Golden Years Takes More Than Financial Planning

I would caution everyone facing retirement to not only have a detailed financial plan in place, but also a detailed map of what to do with yourself immediately upon retirement. This detailed plan needs to be designed years prior to the actual retirement date. It can and should be revised along the way as life events, wants and needs change. Think of it as a business plan that will outline how to profit you emotionally instead of monetarily. Continue revising your retirement plan as life changes.

Togetherness is Not Always Bliss

Another item that must be part of your retirement plan is who you spend it with. Whoever you lived with during your working life will now be by your side 24/7. This will require some major living adjustments. There is no business plan for this one. Every relationship has its unique attributes that must be taken into consideration when the few precious hours of togetherness during the work week turn into living together every hour of every day of every year once the work-week routine ceases. No one talks about this, yet it is an important facet of retired life that must be dealt with.

Retirement can be a stressful situation for everyone. For the alcoholic, it can be a springboard to hell.


Tess Chedsey is a retired systems analyst, life-long alcoholic and native of Los Angeles, California. She now resides in a small town in Oregon where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean--a setting not unlike some of the more luxurious rehabilitation "resorts." She has been writing articles for over ten years for numerous websites on a wide variety of topics, including addiction. Besides writing, Tess has a passion for world travel and animals.

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