It’s been three long years since my divorce and I haven’t touched a drink since. Too bad I didn’t decide to change my drinking habits when I was married, maybe things would have worked out differently. Alcohol and drug use can play a major role in divorce – if you decide to let it as I did. I had to find out the hard way that my decisions and everyday choices were affecting a person I loved dearly, my husband. At the time, I was very much in a self-loathing stage in my life where I really could care less about anyone else, including myself. In the end, this self-loathing and my choice to continue drinking rather than working on my marriage eventually led to its demise.
Peter and I dated for 7 years before tying the knot. Our relationship wasn’t perfect but we always made it through difficult circumstances, he had a way of pulling things together when they were seemingly falling apart, a quality about him that I absolutely adored. It wasn’t until almost a year into our marriage that we started trying to conceive. Anyone who has trouble getting pregnant can relate, the endless doctor appointments, fertility treatments, the needles, the negative tests, I hated it all. I eventually began to crack under the stress and pressures of not being able to have a child of my own. I felt personally responsible for ruining Peter’s life and even though I knew we could have adopted it just wasn’t the same for me. I felt inadequate, useless, and worthless.
We decided to stop for a few months to give me a break and then my drinking began. I drank to be numb and I didn’t care. For me, I always saw the perpetual cloud above my head, even on a sunny day. I didn’t care about anything else besides drinking. I worked from home so no one knew the extent of my drinking throughout the day. Peter typically worked until 7 or 8 at night, so I had an excuse to be constantly buzzed when he got home, pretending that I had gone to happy hour with the girls.
However, I couldn’t hide my alcohol use forever, eventually he found out, and it wasn’t easy to talk my way out of. I made all the typical excuses, and blamed every other person and situation I was dealt in my life except myself for my choosing to drink. I never stopped to really deal with my problems, I just tried to use alcohol as an excuse to make them go away.
As I became more distant, Peter became distant as well. This went on for well over a year. He didn’t try to fix us, and I didn’t either, but I knew we weren’t happy anymore. He had decided that he had enough and we separated. I went through a stage where I partied like I was 21; I drank and tried a few different drugs to fill the void. I always came home to nothing, and the black empty hole enlarged in my heart.
It was a rainy cold day in April when I received my divorce papers. I knew it was coming even before I opened the mailbox that day. I called Peter immediately and we were both surprisingly calm; he explained his reasons over and over again. He had made the decision to move on in his life after waiting so long for me to fix mine. He wanted to be happy with someone who cherished him, fulfilled his needs, and was able to be there for him. Something I just couldn’t do for him at the time. I couldn’t love and take care of me; much less take care of someone else’s needs.
Looking back now, I know it was the right thing for him. The divorce made me wake up and start to take responsibility for my actions and decide I wanted to make my life right. Marriages that have alcohol or drug addiction mixed into them can survive if that’s what both people want, but the substance use can go on unchanged for years. In some marriages like mine, the other person walked away, which they are completely entitled to do. Peter deserved his own happy life and I know that. I deserved mine too and going through the divorce helped me to decide to reclaim it.
Although it was painful, my divorce was a blessing in disguise. I wasn’t ready to look at my life or consider changes until the reality of divorce made me stop and finally examine what was happening in my life. When I did, I didn’t like where my choices had taken me and who I had become. When I was drinking, I drank to avoid dealing with life and it took a while for me to realize that wasn’t working. I had to change for my life to change, not blame other people or situations. Peter tried to help and encourage me but the only one who could make those changes was me. I stopped drinking because I made a choice too, but it took me a while to realize the consequences of my actions. I made some changes to not only stop drinking but align my life with who I wanted to be by making better decisions. By making these changes, I really like myself now. In fact, I love myself for the first time in a very long time.
Peter and I are good friends now. It has taken some time but we are both happy with our lives. We made the choice to move forward in our lives, although separately. I am proud of the hard work I chose to do to stop drinking, face my life, and make better decisions to reclaim it. I realize now that my divorce was my silver lining and the best years for me are yet to come.
This was a guest post by Faith Moore, Public Relations Coordinator at Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrates on self-directed positive and permanent change. Through the program, we offer the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement. www.soberforever.net