FAIRFIELD — The last of the baby boomers celebrate their 50th birthday this year. This is the same generation that heard Timothy Leary encourage them to “turn on, tune in, drop out.”
The first baby boomers were young adults during the turbulent 1960s, when American society underwent monumental changes, including the use of recreational marijuana. Love, and drugs, flowed freely in the Haight Asbury during the Summer of Love.
Some baby boomers never left that lifestyle. Some are starting to embrace it now – a 2012 national survey on drug use and health found that among adults, age 50 to 64, illicit drug use has grown substantially.
According to the study, an estimated 5.7 million baby boomers will need substance abuse treatment by 2020.
Roger Maryatt doesn’t plan on being one of them. The 58-year-old Fairfield resident recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety.
“A lot of us have 20 years (of sobriety),” he said. His wife Lynn Maryatt threw a party to celebrate the milestone.
“He’s a rock,” she said. “He’s mine and many others’ hero.”
In the past few years, Roger Maryatt had a few excuses to escape into a world of drugs and alcohol. His brother died. Then he lost his 33-year-old son to cancer.
“I didn’t think about using,” he said. “I wasn’t fighting that battle. I didn’t think about getting loaded.”
Such challenges are a part of life, he said. The difference is how people deal with them. Relapse is more likely when someone gives up on life rather than considering it a setback, Maryatt said.
Maryatt took his first drink when he was 12. After the first sip, he said he found refuge from fear and a feeling he could conquer the world.
At 16, he left home and became fast friends with his then-girlfriend’s stepfather. Together, they drank and did speed.
“My whole life was about when is the next party and where is the next high?” he said. That even rang true when he was bowling or fishing. “All the activities I did, there had to be something to drink, something to use.”
That lifestyle continued until his second marriage was on the rocks. He sat across from a therapist at Kaiser Permanente and told her he wanted to save his marriage.
She told him to stop drinking. His reply was blunt.
“Are you kidding? That’s the only thing keeping me alive,” he told her.
Soon Maryatt began taking classes and became involved in recovery programs. He was clean and sober for 1½ years before a relapse. He started using speed.
A third arrest for driving under the influence, his job on the line and faced with the loss of his children, Maryatt walked away from the drugs – and his pals that also had substance abuse issues.
The recovery community was his new family. When he was strong enough, Maryatt picked up the torch and began sharing the same message he had received: Hope is out there.
“My life is reflective of doing that work required to get over that hump,” he said.
Maryatt is active in the recovery community. He advocates for changes in the way those with substance abuse disorder are treated by society and the legal system.
He’s fighting to see parity in the amount of money government spends on treating and researching the disorder. This year, he wants to show the local community a documentary about people in recovery.
The man who didn’t think he would celebrate his 18th, 25th and 30th birthdays is now looking forward to his 60th.
“Life after 50 for me is wonderful,” he said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.