Sometimes he takes a Rioja on the shelf when there is a special offer at 12.95 instead of 19.50, “just for the bottle”. Once the bottle is drunk, Hans-Keller fills it to the brim with cheap alcohol and puts it on the table for lunch.
A bottle of Rioja lasts almost a week, and so Hans-Peter Koller saves face.
The first time he decanted the contents of a bottle of cheap Dôle with a red plastic funnel to do it again the next day, he said to himself: “This time you are a drunkard.” This happened three years ago.
- It was then that Hans-Peter Koller began to change.
- His daily barber appointment was no longer in the morning, but in the early afternoon.
- He postponed appointments, lost bills, lost keys and got angry with himself.
- And soon he didn’t like seeing each other anymore.
“Addiction is a taboo subject. Many of those affected struggle with shame and lead a kind of double life.”
- Jonas Wenger, addiction expert
- End of insertion
Once, in the evening, he ended up from the sofa to the bed, in trousers and shirt with slippers, drunk and sad. The next day, his wife looked at him shaking her head and told him he was getting old.
His role suits him; since then he always played the part of the idiot in front of Hildegard, to whom he has been married for more than 40 years. Of course, his wife knows exactly that it is a farce. But she doesn’t want to admit it. “Let’s pretend that everything is normal,” says Hans-Peter Koller.
Jonas Wenger of Fachverband Sucht, the German-speaking platform that brings together addiction specialists, knows the problem. “Addiction is a taboo subject. Many of those affected struggle with shame and lead a kind of double life.
In addition, addiction is often minimized, especially among the elderly.”
The specialist sees this as a major problem, as the insidious consequences of alcohol consumption are often not evident. “Many of the symptoms that can accompany alcohol addiction – such as forgetfulness, confusion or falls – are similar to the common symptoms of old age. As a result, alcohol use often goes unnoticed for a long time.”
Prohibitions are useless
Add to this the fact that with the elderly you do not want to dictate the law or deny them a “drink”. “The addiction politics of recent years and decades has taught us that bans are useless,” says Jonas Wenger. Seniors can also drink for pleasure.
- Ultimately, he says, the goal is to allow affected people to control the their alcohol consumption and thus regain their independence – as far as possible.
- It is about finding a balance between recognizing a person’s self-determination and his or her right to care.
- “It is important for relatives or professionals to tell affected people about their addiction and support them in their decisions,” says Jonas Wenger.
The latter is convinced that the elderly, in particular, have accumulated a lot of life experience and sufficient resources to be able to activate to protect themselves from addictions. “But for this to happen, the people concerned need to be ready to deal with their addiction and get help,” he says.