Divorce and Addiction Often Go Hand-in-Hand
Addiction is a progressive disease that gradually weakens a marriage, undermining the commitment each partner made to the other. Without professional help, the damage from drug or alcohol abuse can build up to the point where the marriage isn’t salvageable.
Due to the way it negatively impacts the addicted person’s loved ones, addiction is often referred to as a family disease. This impact can be acutely felt within the landscape of a marriage.
Addiction within a marriage may lead to hurtful behaviors, potentially creating a dysfunctional relationship and an unstable home environment. Untreated, addiction can:
- destroy trust and create a cycle of blame and shame.
- disrupt intimacy, both on an emotional and physical level.
- cause conflict, disagreements, and fights.
- induce stress in the parent/child dynamic.
- be linked to increased rates of domestic violence and aggression.
- be linked to increased rates of childhood abuse and neglect.
- lead to financial hardship, turmoil, and instability.
- cause resentment – the feeling that their spouse is choosing drugs or alcohol over them.
The cumulative effects of these stressors can be great. “Alcohol and substance use are among the most common reasons given for a divorce – the third most common reason for women and eighth most common for men,” as found by the University at Buffalo.
Divorce and Addiction: Signs of Relationship Damage
The effects of drug and alcohol abuse can permeate every aspect of a relationship. Warning signs include:
- The only way that a couple can communicate or be physically intimate with each other is when one or both partners are under the influence.
- Consuming drugs or alcohol becomes one of the main activities a couple does together.
- The relationship or family becomes isolated from other loved ones in an attempt to hide the addictive behavior.
- The majority of arguments and stress within the relationship revolve around drugs or alcohol.
- One or both partners claim they use drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with marital tension.
- One partner has begun to enable the other person’s substance abuse.
- The non-addicted partner begins to feel like a caretaker instead of a partner of equal standing.
- One partner begins to be dishonest about their drug or alcohol consumption, sabotaging the trust they share with their partner.
- Using alcohol or drugs has become more important to a person than providing for their family or spending time with their loved ones.
- A person’s career is on the rocks due to substance abuse, to the extent that it threatens the family’s financial security.
- There is not enough money for food or bills due to how much money is spent on the abused substance.
Faced with the stark reality of these issues, many couples may begin contemplating divorce.
Is Addiction a Good Reason to Get Divorced?
There is no clear-cut answer to this question. Instead, each couple must be honest with themselves and examine the role of the addiction within their relationship.
Certain couples find that pursuing marriage counseling and drug rehabilitation can offer the support and healing necessary to help their marriage stabilize. Other couples decide that the toll of addiction runs too deep and decide to divorce. Even if this is the case, the addicted individual should still strongly contemplate treatment. Should one partner decide to file for divorce, a lawyer can offer guidance on the best ways to document the role of the addiction as grounds for dissolving the marriage.
It is important for both parties to evaluate the role addiction has taken in the relationship. They should each look at the ways it has negatively impacted their health, their family’s finances and the stability of the home. If there are any children involved, it’s important to be aware of how the addiction has been detrimental to their wellbeing, too.
Divorce and Addiction: Codependency
In a codependent relationship, the non-addicted partner enables the addicted individual’s substance abuse and the lifestyle which supports it. The codependent individual maintains the relationship despite the fact that it’s emotionally destructive and harmful to their health.
In striving to mend the relationship, each partner will likely need to overcome these negative behaviors. Both therapy and counseling, inside or outside of treatment, can help with these concerns.
Whether a person is seeking treatment in an attempt to save their marriage or enrolling in a program after a divorce, recovery success hinges on finding the right program.
The methods used within treatment may vary depending on the state of a person’s marriage. If a person is pursuing treatment not only for themselves but as a way to heal their marriage, the program should be designed with this in mind. Rehabilitation programs that promote individualized methods may be helpful for those struggling with both alcohol and drug addiction.
With substance-induced marriage troubles in mind, a program that offers family therapy and support and/or marriage counseling should be made a priority. The most successful programs offer a blend of behavioral therapies and counseling to inspire an addict to live a sober, balanced life.
Divorce and Addiction: Staying Sober
If you’re newly divorced or in the process of getting divorced, enrolling in a peer support group can help in the process of healing and growth for a healthy future.
Peer support programs for addicts include:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- LifeRing Secular Recovery
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.)
- SMART Recovery
- Women for Sobriety
Programs for family members of addicts include:
- Families Anonymous (FA)
- CoDA (Codependents Anonymous)
Ashleen Hoover is the lead content writer for Addiction Campuses, a company that specializes in individualized evidence-based treatment for drug and alcohol addictions. To learn more about the relationship between divorce and addiction, visit: www.addictioncampuses.com/addiction-resources/divorce