For too many people, divorce is a fraught, drawn-out process that drives at least one if not both parties to harmful coping mechanisms.
And while there’s nothing wrong with blowing off steam once in a while, there’s a worrying statistic that you need to know if you’re ending your marriage: rates of drug abuse are higher among divorced people than married people.
This is why it is important now more than ever to prevent addiction after divorce.
We already know that addiction is a common cause of the breakdown of marriages. However, new studies show that there’s also a potential association between divorce and the onset of substance abuse, even when controlling for other contributing factors like adolescent deviance and a family history of drug abuse.
Because of these statistics, if you’re living in a world where you see your marriage ending, it’s important that you recognize the warning signs as well as understand the ways to stay safe.
Here is How to Prevent Addiction After Divorce
Why is it that more divorced people struggle with addiction issues? What is it about divorce that brings about a possible predisposition for addiction? It’s not just the end of a relationship — especially since researchers recently found that divorce is a bigger predictor of addiction than widowhood.
It’s difficult to say what makes divorce unique, but we do know that the trauma of it is enduring. Many people, naturally, experience grief as one of the most involved relationships of their lives comes to an end. When a marriage ends, you lose a companion, shared experiences, support, and hopes for a shared future. Even if the relationship soured or was unhealthy, feeling a loss is natural.
Grief also has a profound experience on the human brain. When you experience trauma, your brain kicks in to help protect you as you deal with the stress that comes with a traumatic loss like a separation from your partner.
For example, when you’re grieving, your brain experiences an influx of stress hormones that can disrupt your bodily systems and cause anxiety, fatigue, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping. This, in turn, damages your cognitive ability, and your experience of the world changes while your brain fights to regulate itself again.
Because of this, particularly if you are going through grief and you turn to alcohol or another depressant, you could experience very different consequences compared to when you’re not grieving.
How to Cope With Grief Without Turning to Addiction
Avoiding addiction doesn’t mean avoiding grief. On the contrary, it means coping with your grief or loss and doing so in a way that doesn’t lend to turning to alcohol or drugs.
First, it’s important to recognize that you are going to have feelings. “Feelings” is an understatement: you may have intense emotional experiences, and many of the emotions you experience may even be new to you. Although you may find them overwhelming, the episodes do lessen as time passes and you settle back into your new normal. It’s also important to remember that you may have these feelings whether or not the relationship was healthy or harmful.
Avoiding self-imposed social isolation is also vital. The research we noted also found that people who remarried or sought new relationships had better outcomes in terms of addiction avoidance or recovery when compared to people who isolated themselves socially or romantically. Loneliness fuels addiction and vice versa, so it’s important to seek help and share with friends or with a professional.
Meanwhile, the difficult truth is that not only are divorced men specifically at a higher risk of addiction, they are also nine times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts. Finding someone to talk to early and often can save your life. If you are already experiencing feelings of hopelessness or suicidal ideation, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone now.
Finally, it’s important to find ways to practice self-care that work for you. Whether amicable or hard-wrought, the stress of divorce can take its toll on your mind and body. By caring for yourself, you will likely find it easier to avoid dangerous coping mechanisms like substance abuse.
Some self-care tips include being patient with yourself, finding new habits and hobbies, caring for your body through meal planning and exercise, and recognizing when you need outside help.
Moving on From Divorce with Healthy Mindset
A divorce can be earth-shattering, but it doesn’t need to be the end of your world. Although it can and will be hard, it’s important to focus on not simply surviving your divorce, but on building a foundation that will help you thrive in the future. Giving into grief and turning to coping mechanisms like substance abuse can have dire consequences as your brain struggles to cope with both the stress of divorce and of alcohol and drugs at once.
Moving on from divorce with a healthy mindset means caring for yourself, but it’s important to remember that self-care takes different forms. For some, it means taking time to get in touch with your feelings, including building up one’s self-confidence by trying new hobbies or investing in a new wardrobe.
For others, it may include all kinds of self-reinvention both physically through weight loss or plastic surgery and emotionally through self-care and meeting regularly with a therapist. The right kind of self-care is the kind that works for you.
Although it may be tempting to give in to grief, a focus on the future will help prevent addiction after divorce and emerge from your divorce ready to take on new challenges. It will even prepare you to be a better partner in the future.