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Full-Blown Addiction in the Empty Nest

Dec 10, 2019

A married couple in their 50s—we’ll call Jack and Linda—were empty nesters as their grown children no longer lived at home or even close to home. Jack worked full-time in sales, and Linda only worked occasionally and began to have daily glasses of wine at home by mid-morning. When their children were living at home, the couple seldom went out but now Linda and Jack began going out nightly to a local bar in their small town.

The newfound freedom experienced by Empty Nesters sometimes can lead to drinking heavily or misusing drugs. Examining the timing, frequency, and outcome of your alcohol or drug use can be a helpful first step in recognizing what’s changed in your lifestyle. When drinking becomes habitual and negatively impacts your ability to maintain relationships and handle responsibilities, you should seek the help of professionals in the field of addiction treatment.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

Empty Nesters can experience a big sudden change in the home environment and in their routine. Like Linda, they may give themselves permission to make new choices on how to spend their time while not being observed by children. But, when those new choices could be considered harmful and become habitual, like in Linda’s life, it’s helpful to consider the timing, the frequency, and the outcome of each choice to turn to alcohol or drugs.

Timing: When do I drink?

For Linda, drinking often began after breakfast with wine poured into a coffee cup. Sometimes, it coincided with an activity or event she had planned to attend. Most commonly, it came when she had nothing else specific to do with her time.

Looking at your own patterns of behavior, is there a consistency to the timing of your use of alcohol or the timing of your drug use? Consider what specific activities you are replacing with drugs or alcohol. As we know, each choice to do one thing eliminates another as an option.

Frequency: How often do I drink?

Linda became a daily drinker as an empty nester, even drinking both day and night. The length of time those drinks were consumed spread over the course of 75% of a day, beginning after breakfast and ending well after midnight. Even if she had a drink only once every three hours, that’s still six drinks over the course of an 18-hour day.

As you look at the frequency of your own alcohol or drug use, what’s your typical number of daily drinks and weekly drinks? It’s the same question your doctor would ask. If the frequency is at a level you wouldn’t admit to your doctor, it’s likely a sign your use of alcohol has turned to misuse or abuse.

Outcome: How does drinking affect my day?

Linda’s continuous drinking kept her at home and close to home most of the time. She rarely traveled outside her small town, and she stopped socializing except when she and Jack were at their favorite bar. She missed a lot of events with family and friends and became estranged from her siblings and her aging mother who lived hours away.

Excessive drinking and drug abuse can affect your ability to function daily. You might neglect important tasks, such as staying in touch with family and friends, attending events, paying bills on time, or even getting to work. A significant change to how you interact with others and how you handle responsibilities is a sign your drinking has grown to a level that requires attention and the help of professional resources.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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