This is my weekly column published in the Springfield Times, Springfield, OR, January 2, 2009:
I have a friend that is more like my sister. We met in our early twenties. I remember the day that we met, she was high on pot and invited me to Happy Hour where I immediately learned that she had a great capacity for tequila. But, we were in our twenties, and partying was the ‘thing’ to do. We have remained very close over the decades raising our children as extended family, and loving each other unconditionally. Unfortunately, she has never stopped partying! She continues to smoke pot daily, and thinks closing business deals of booze is still acceptable. The problem is that now that both of our kids are teenagers, we seemed to have run into opposing value systems: she allows her teens to openly smoke pot, I don’t think it is appropriate for my kids to smoke pot, or drink alcohol. We are both in our early 50s, how can I get my friend to grow up?!
Recently I wrote on my blog about the growing issue of addiction among aging boomers. I got several responses back expressing their surprise about learning that there is an issue in this age group. For any of you that were part of the 60s/70s peak Boomer era, you may remember the one of mottos for that time “Living Well Through Better Chemistry” as participants of the LSD age “turned on, tuned in, dropped out”. Ahh, those were the days. Or were they? A study conducted between 2003 and 2005 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicated that illicit drug use by people in their 50s increased by more than 60%. Interestingly, this well educated, often professional, demographic lives a dichotomy lifestyle: on one hand being health nuts while on the other being poly-med users while in pursuit of health, youth, and happiness.
Smoking pot is controversial on several levels. I have lived in communities that seem to have a consensus that adults smoking pot is acceptable even though it is illegal (without a “medical card”). The problem with this consensus of thought is that kids don’t get the ‘adults’ part of the behavior. Then, the adults begin to complain about the kids smoking pot, the high rate of high school dropouts, and the non-motivation to move ahead in life.
The thing about partying in the twenties is that, as Americans, it is ‘what we’re suppose to be doing’. The problem is when it is time to stop, some people can stop with no problem, but there are the ‘others’ that can’t stop at any cost. This defines people that are addicts, and people that are not.
It must be very difficult for you to continue to witness your lifelong friend’s addiction, and to watch her pass this behavior on to the next generation. The most important thing to remember is that we don’t have the ability to change other people. We can try to influence them into a healthier lifestyle, but, if they are comfortable where they are at, it would be a waste of time and energy to try to change them. However, we can change how we relate to that person. For instance, educating your own children about the consequences of abusing drugs and alcohol; and, keeping open dialogue with them about their observations and experiences of what is happening outside of your home.
Painful as it may be for you, lovingly distancing yourself from your friend when she is under the influence may help you continue the friendship. Remember that letting go of someone does not mean to stop caring or loving them, it means acknowledging that they are on their own journey, learning their own consequences, and affecting their own destinies. Letting go is accepting what is, taking care of yourself and your family, and being there when the person you love and care about needs support.
Have a question about addiction, recovery, or life transitions such as retirement, career change, grief and loss issues, empty nesting, etc, ‘ASK MAx’. Send your questions to Lifestyle Changes, PO Box 1962, Eugene, OR 97440; or, e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about MAx Fabry at http://www.lifestylechangescounseling.com
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