40 And Lonely: The Silent Alcohol Epidemic Among Males

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Remember those days… being in your twenties and loving the new-found freedom of adulthood? New friends every weekend, more groups of guys to cruise with through the bar scene every night. Those were your twenties. A bit reckless, because you’re young; a bit excessive, because you’re out and enjoying life; unbridled, uncaring, free, right?

Being twenty-something allowed for carelessness and excessive tendencies. At that time, it was fine. But what about thirty? Remember being thirty and scoring that job at the bar? Your favorite bar, of all things. Now you could be there on the weekends, having fun and working too. Double whammy.

So maybe you didn’t have those excessive college nights, maybe you didn’t become a bartender at your local watering hole. But through the course of your teen years, into early adulthood and through to the next phase of your life as a man, something happened. Something happened that changed the way you perceive life, how many steps you take forward versus how many steps you take backward. These words are about your life and they are meant to make you think about where you may be heading and what you’ve left in your wake.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

As life hits us full-force, churning forward whether we’re ready or not, we are plagued by awareness that we either give into or ignore. We are suddenly aware of the reality of life. That being an adult is something we can hardly avoid. Bills will exist, unexpected problems will transpire, the future will always find us.

For young men who careen into their twenties full of nightlife energy that never seems to quit, that candle, which remains burning at both ends, smolders silently through daily life.

Many men who take on drinking socially will also begin to drink more casually during the day. Maybe the aspects in life that promote future successes will not be completely tarnished. College may be completed, jobs may be acquired, but with every step in the right direction, those who drink excessively can be seen to take several steps back in other areas of life.

An ongoing struggle can be seen in the life of the 40-something male as a result of their former, 20-something self. When social drinking took them from okay to borderline excessive, and into the realm of alcoholism, oftentimes they never saw it coming. Furthermore, many men who unknowingly stay this course often wake up to find that time never slowed down while they were coasting by under the cover of drunken nights and morning beers.

Being aware of how much time is lost to over-consumption of alcohol can either be a game-changer or a death sentence. Let’s look into the course of alcohol abuse and how it changes a young man’s life, leading him toward alcoholism and many lost years…

Social Drinking: A Balancing Act

While drinking among friends in early adulthood, many will find that drinks are had everywhere. Friends may meet up after work at a bar, while coworkers may also want to get drinks during lunch breaks. Going-out nights used to be Friday and Saturday… but with social groups evolving and personal limits being broken, a man with a rich social life may delve into Monday night trivia at the bar, Thursday night bowling and beer, plus Friday and Saturday for normal bar nights. Sunday football… and beers. Wednesday lunch break… at the place with the Bloody Mary bar.

The less we limit ourselves, the easier it is to allow every social engagement to also be a platform for drinking.

Perhaps this level of drinking seems okay to many men in their twenties. We can now drink legally, there are girls everywhere, no parental rules, privacy at our own apartment… our entire world is up and about at night. And there is always somewhere to be and something to celebrate.

Q: So is drinking 3 or 4 nights per week excessive?

A: Sure, but in those college years and in combination with new adult experiences, it is quite common.

Q: But is it common enough in the mainstream that many men will ignore it while coasting into the next decade?

A: Absolutely. In fact, those who seem to put alcohol-infused social engagements on a pedestal are the same men who want more than anything to remain as young as possible so they never have to give their nights of freedom up.

From Twenty To Forty, But Only On Paper

Everyone’s course of life is very different. I cannot say that X number of men will be affected by alcohol abuse as a result of over-drinking in college, because we don’t know what each individual’s back story really is. While many aspects of life, especially early life, affect the negatives we are prone to hold onto in later life, it can be said that alcohol abuse either gets better, stays the same, or gets worse for either sex. Common factors that lead to each result can be contemplated through the representation below:
20 -to- 40

BETTER:

  • Less time in life to drink
  • More responsibilities in work
  • More meaningful relationships, such as marriage
  • Having children
  • Other friends moving on in life
  • Social groups changing
  • More financial responsibilities, such as mortgage
  • Past legal problems making for better decisions
  • Loss of friends and family members, looking at life differently

SAME:

  • Remaining in hometown, experiences limited
  • Same friends, same bars, same atmospheres
  • No major relationship changes
  • No major financial endeavors
  • Work fluctuations negative or no change in responsibilities
  • Stagnancy
  • Fearful of change
  • Limited emotional connections, also with family
  • Experiences eclipsed by comfort in life remaining the same

WORSE:

  • Social groups weeding out the ‘betters’ and leaving the ‘worse’
  • Loss of responsibility
  • Loss of jobs, relationships, familial connections
  • Emotional downfalls, difficult to combat
  • Weakened resilience
  • Lack of ownership (house, assets, etc.)
  • Difficulty finding jobs due to bad habits/legal troubles
  • Ignoring many aspects of future, past, and present
  • Wanting life to change, but feeling that it is impossible
  • Being one’s own worse enemy

These common traits that lead to common ends can be applied to many a man’s life, whomever he may be. Taking these traits into consideration as they apply to men as they pave a course through their twenties and into their thirties, we can explore the detriments in the SAME and WORSE categories to continue on in the next decade of life.

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Thirty

One well-known comedian often does a bit about how turning thirty just isn’t what it used to be. Thirty is the new twenty, he jibes, going on about how he feels someone has ruined their life if they’re 26 and expecting a child. He says people in their twenties just aren’t mature enough for these things anymore.

Joking aside, there is a lot to be said about the regression of society as a whole and the ways in which men—in particular—are much less of  “men” than they once were. The 1950s, for instance, was a very different time for many reasons, but it is in that time and in virtually every time before then that the world viewed 18-year-old males as men. They were expected to BE adult men, expected to have jobs and stable paths ahead of them in their adult lives. With the era of rebellion, the Vietnam war, and the surge of drug use among the population, the 1960s turned a corner in society’s overall adulthood.

The willingness in men to actually become what many see as an adult man in this day is often warped by the view that progressing in maturity is in some sense linked to being controlled and being changed. Societal changes show that drug and alcohol abuse remains the same or becomes worse with those who believe they are fighting against a force that is trying to “fix” them.

Turning thirty, as it were, is often seen as a major milestone for women; scary, even, to think of. For many men, it is just another chapter in a never-ending book. Life, to those who do not want to face it, will continue on forever. Our bros will always be there, our favorite hang outs will always be there, a couch to crash on… will always be there.

The thirties can easily be ignored if they’re treated just as the twenties were. Social norms can blend into this decade of life just the same. But the difference is, in your thirties, those who have grown out of the college-esque drinking nights and have moved on to a different level of life will be divorcing themselves from your lifestyle. Friends will grow up, move on, build new lives, and very seldom revisit the old days of 4 AM boozing. You–a man in his thirties–will be with less of your kind.

Forty

Making it to forty while still abusing alcohol is no great feat. Many men live very long lives regardless of their excessive intake of alcohol. These men, now in their forties, are more than social drinkers. They’re drinkers who don’t need an excuse for drinking because they feel less shameful of the behavior. They’re also people who put less effort into justifying their actions in their own minds. Excessive is easy to ignore, just as it was at 25 and 35. But when you’re 40… the world is so much different than when you were 25.
REALITY: How The World Has Changed

  • Friends own homes, are married, have kids
  • People around you have been working toward retirement (probably for 15 years or more)
  • The years are gone and cannot come back
  • Those you once had romantic relationships probably have kids, as do your siblings
  • If still in the same job, you’ve let many years go by that could’ve been spent at a better job
  • You old stomping grounds are gone: bars, friends’ basements… none of that is the same
  • At the bar, those who see you frequently look at you as a bar fly
  • At some point, your parents gave up on the idea of you being truly sober
  • At some point they also gave up on you getting married, having kids, growing up

FANTASY: How You’ve Stayed The Same Or Worsened

  • All the drinking that once could be called social is more often done alone
  • Having a daily routine that involves your first drink motivates you to get to that point in time
  • At home situations are almost always paired with alcohol: video games, movies, dinner, etc.
  • There are more gaps in your memory than before
  • When you do think of your life, it depresses you, leading you to drink more
  • You dread “settling down” like you did in your thirties, but there’s less truth to it
  • Wanting to date again causes sadness, as you feel unable to take that first step toward dating
  • Friends’ lives have changed, and with those changes, you’re reminded of how far behind you are
  • For many negative emotions, there is an alcoholic beverage to drown your sorrows
  • You know that people have given up on you, but it makes you angry and keeps you where you are

Finding Reality, Facing Life, Making Changes

Not all that I’ve said of those who drink excessively in their 20s, 30s, or 40s applies to every man. Just know that if you read these lists and feel that something can apply to you, you are in no way alone. Many men suffer the reality of waking up and facing a new decade in their lives after long, hard partying. It is okay to put away the past, remember the good times, but move forward and change yourself because you WANT to.

Remember that there are decisions in the world that belong to you, as well. Though you know that at some point in the past, your mother or a girlfriend wanted you to drink less, today is a completely different day and YOU are a completely different person than THEM. You are at liberty to make the best decisions for yourself without feeling pushed or coerced into a responsible, adult life. You aren’t giving in or being changed. You are changing what you do because you want to, because it is your choice, and because you want the best for yourself.

Being 40 and alone can draw many negative emotions from anyone, push them to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, and even cause major depressive episodes. Loneliness is real, just as time is real. You may have remained the same for many years, but while you did, the world continued turning. People’s lives changed and their futures began. But now, today, there is a future for you. There is a life waiting to be lived, by YOU.

The best that you can do for yourself today is make amends with those who have worried about you for so long. They worried not because they wanted to control you, but because they genuinely care for you and are pained in knowing that your life isn’t all that it could be. Forgive them their negative responses to your downfalls, close the door to the past, and start living your future.

Get Help And Move On

Call To ActionToday is the best day to find a better life. A life of sobriety, of fond memories, love, respect, and better tomorrows is a good life. If you or a loved one is in a tough situation with alcohol abuse, know that there is always a helping hand reaching out toward you in your time of need. Contact AlcoholTreatment.net today and get the help you need. We are here to provide you with the best options for treatment, the most comfortable path to the future, and the most extensive library of resources for your needs.

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