Dennis Rodman once again made news this weekend after checking into an alcohol rehabilitation center for a 30-day program. Most recently, the flamboyant basketball star has been facing criticism for his “goodwill” trip to North Korea to play with former NBA players against a Korean team. He made headlines by singing Happy Birthday to dictator Kim Jong Un in front of 14,000 fans, and by mouthing off that an American who has been imprisoned by North Korea since 2012 may have done something to deserve the captivity. After reflecting on his antics, he admitted that he had been drinking excessively and was embarrassed and remorseful for his behavior. Rodman has been treated for alcoholism in the past, but has currently been experiencing a relapse.
It’s normal for individuals to suffer setbacks in battling alcoholism and at 52 years old, Rodman’s determination to get this behavior under control is more important than ever. Studies show that he isn’t alone and that middle age men who consume more than 2 ½ drinks per day should be particularly concerned. A recent study published in Neurology last week shows evidence that men who drink heavily during midlife find themselves with an accelerated rate of memory decline in the next 10-year span. The study looked at 5,000 men and 2,000 women in the UK. They tracked these white-collar workers and how much they drank for a period of ten years and then gave them cognitive tests. The participants taking the tests ranged in age from 45 – 69 and displayed higher rates of cognitive decline than the average non or light drinker.
In other words, heavy drinking during this time of life not only blurs your memory of the evening, but also can accelerate the aging process in the long-term. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, 23% of men between 50 and 64 years old report consuming at least 5 alcoholic beverages per day. As people age, the bodily functions change which can result in more alcohol circulating in the bloodstream and the liver becoming less efficient. It’s a serious problem that can lead to serious health repercussions like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and liver disease, hangovers and now we know accelerated memory decline as well.
For many, middle age is a particularly difficult time to stop drinking. It’s customary in social and business situations in the U.S. to drink during work dinners, celebrations as well as during get togethers with friends and family. During middle age, many male adults are at the pinnacle of their careers and quite honestly, business relationships are often sealed over a bottle of wine or spirits. So what is middle-aged man supposed to do?
One can start by keeping in mind that there is no downside to not drinking. You will feel better, have deeper conversations, make better judgment calls and don’t have to worry about embarrassing yourself with sloppy behavior. If you are concerned about how others will perceive your abstaining, just walk around with a non-alcoholic drink and don’t make a big deal out of it.
If the alcohol dependence has become severe, an in-patient facility might be the best bet to help get through the initial withdrawal stages. However, once you’ve made the commitment to stop drinking, you can also start at home by going cold turkey or slowly cutting back on the amount you drink each day. Get rid of any temptations that are easy to get your hands on in the house, stay away from your drinking buddies and look for support from people who really care about your wellbeing. If it’s not the first attempt, as in Rodman’s case, it’s important to reflect on what can be done differently this time to avoid another relapse. Most importantly, finding an alcohol recovery group that you click with, 1-1 psychotherapy or take an alcohol awareness class will help you stay the course.