In his latest book, Boom, Voices of the Sixties, Tom Brokaw focuses his famous reporting lens on the Sixties decade. Future business and political leaders came of age, and youth energetically began to carve out new rules and new civil rights. The Vietnam War was defining and divisive, rocking the nation and Baby Boomers in particular. Millions protested the war and the draft. A counter culture, and rebellion against societal mores and "the establishment" was reflected in "acid" music and psychedelic art. Woodstock featured great names in music but became a drug fest. LSD was drug blatantly promoted by Sixties guru, Timothy Leary, who convinced young followers to "turn on, tune in, drop out."
Tom Brokaw interviewed Sixties top singer, Judy Collins, now in successful recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse. She recounted that there was a lot of chaos as well as lots of drug addicts and alcoholics in those days. Those who recovered and those who died. Judy herself finally got the treatment she needed in 1978, and has helped many others by telling her story of hope. Brokwaalso profiles a San Francisco doctor, Dr. David Smith, who started and ran the Free Clinic for Haight Ashbury youth who had nowhere to turn for needed medical care. Dr. David Smith took LSD himself.
What happened to Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendricks was a tragic commentary on the times. Others are in recovery, like singer Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplanes. Singer-guitarist James Taylor overcame his heroin habit but his marriage to Carly Simon didn't survive. The drug culture was vividly described by Tom Wolff's famous The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test as it follows the trail of Ken Kesey and his "Merry Band of Pranksters, and the Grateful Dead's early" Acid Test "music.
At the same time, most kids who tried pot and grew their hair long later shed both. Baby Boomers went on to become the wealthiest generation ever. Energetic optimistic, individual, entrepreneurial, Boomers nevertheless experienced divorce at a rate off one out of two marriages. It was a youth culture. They felt they would naturally stay young, and remain healthier longer than the precious generation. Looking young has cost Baby Boomers a bundle in plastic surgery and cosmetics, yet what is the illusive definition of attractiveness as we age? To age seems somehow reversible to many in this generation.
We know the incidence of late onset and long-term addiction among those over age 50 is on the rise. Many Baby Boomers are self-medicating for chronic pain, slipping into addiction to pain pills, which they get from "doctor shopping" or the Internet. And many suffer late onset addiction to their earlier drugs of choice. Some never quit heavy drinking and / or drug use.
Baby Boomers understand the value of therapy and self-help. They want choice, and to be engaged in decisions. These factors can help Boomers in successful treatment for those who struggle with alcohol and chemical dependency. Being engaged in one's treatment is key, and an individualized care plan begins with the assessment of the person physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, Therapies within a the holistic program are based on the 12-Step philosophy, and may include Motivational Interviewing, and expressive, experiential therapies such as movement, art therapy, writing and music, as well as wellness, nutrition and spirituality. Menopausal and post-menopausal women find Hormonal shift assessment helpful as well. Both men and women renew connection to self and others.
Baby Boomers in recovery are like so many in their generation who are finding renewed purpose in life. They are asking, "What do I want my relationships to be, my work to be? What can I do to make a difference to others and society? What does vitality mean to me?" Exploring healthy aging, even if we use the dreaded word "aging," really is a step towards vitality for those who are on a recovery journey or who want to make meaningful choices in the "second half of life."