Divorce adds a certain element of stress to your life. Even the most amicable divorce situation can stir feelings of anger, regret, and loss. When that happens, it’s natural to want to turn to someone or something else to fill the void or help you cope with the dissolution of your marriage.
However, if you turn to alcohol during divorce, you could put vital aspects of your life at risk, including your job, housing, or family situation.
Additionally, alcohol can have devastating effects on your health, as your body’s immune system may already be weakened by your inherently stressful situation. What begins as a casual drink to cope may eventually result in a harmful and addictive behavior.
Here’s Why We Turn to Alcohol During Divorce
Once upon a time, your marital partner filled a space in your life. Even if the passion was gone for years prior to your divorce, it’s likely that they were still part of your routine. Without them, there’s a void. Without their financial or homemaking contributions in your life, you may also feel the pressure of making more money or doing more around the house just to stay afloat.
It’s easy for alcohol to fill the vacuum your spouse has left in your life. It is also easy to use alcohol to cope with resulting guilt from your divorce. For some, alcohol addiction is even a root cause of divorce.
Excessive alcohol use can start in a number of different ways: it could involve more after-work drinks with your friends, clubbing every weekend, or having several drinks alone at night in front of the TV. If you’re indulging frequently and getting out of hand on the weekends, you may be one of the 26.9% of Americans over the age of 18 who engage in binge drinking on a monthly basis.
Because over a quarter of the adult population participates in binge drinking, it has become normalized. Unfortunately, the dangers of drinking are pervasive and put you at risk.
The Health Risks of Alcohol Use
Long-term alcohol use can result in various health conditions that can impact your well-being or shorten your life span. These include:
- Cancer (breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, and liver)
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Digestive issues
- High blood pressure
Combined with the stress you’re already dealing with due to your divorce and the potential resulting situations (sale of home, custody of children or pets), your risk is especially high.
The aforementioned binge drinking, characterized by five or more drinks at a time for men or four or more drinks at a time per women, can result in intentional and unintentional injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, neurological damage, and more.
In 2013, 46% of liver disease deaths and 48% of cirrhosis deaths were related to alcohol. This substance can cause some serious health problems.
The Social Risks of Using Alcohol to Cope With Divorce
Overuse of alcohol can also negatively impact and permeate various aspects of your life, including work, family, and social life. Excessive drinking in the United States costs over $249 billion in productivity annually, especially when you factor in alcohol-related injuries and criminal activity.
When you’re going through divorce, it is a time when you are supposed to be holding your life together. This is the worst possible time to let it all fall apart — and that’s what alcohol can do to your life.
Alcohol, in addition to the stress you’re coping with, alters your personality. Your family and friends may claim they don’t recognize you anymore. This can become especially precarious for you during legal proceedings, especially if you have children and a custody battle is involved in your divorce process.
If you’re drinking excessively, the court could view you as an incapable parent and deny you custody. Furthermore, you need to think about how the divorce affects your children. They’re likely to also feel stressed, dealing with school and other interpersonal relationships on top of the divorce. They may also want an outlet. Unfortunately, studies show that if a parent drinks, a child is more likely to do so. According to Joseph Rowntree researchers, “children who regularly see their parents drink are twice as likely to binge on alcohol themselves.”
The Cascade Effect: Children and Alcohol During Divorce
According to federal law in the United States, people under 21 cannot consume alcoholic beverages. However, the CDC reports that 12 to 20 year olds are responsible for consuming 11% of alcohol, usually by binge drinking.
Specifically, adversity in the first 20 years of life can significantly increase an individual’s risk of drinking and other risky behavior — but the best way to deter that behavior is to pay attention to a child’s needs and to model positive behavior during difficult times.
Avoiding Alcohol Dependence During Divorce
As someone going through a difficult divorce, you’re surrounded by feelings, responsibilities, and changes. You can avoid alcohol dependence by coping with divorce and other difficult life situations in healthy ways:
- Seek counseling for divorce from a certified therapist.
- Talk about your feelings informally with friends.
- Limit the amount of beverages you consume.
- Ask your peers to help you limit your alcohol consumption by suggesting alcohol-free locations.
- Find new, healthy routines, such as healthy cooking or yoga.
Your therapist can work with you to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. If you have children, a family therapist can also assist you in modeling positive behavior for your kids so they avoid risky behavior.
By focusing on rewarding, healthy ways to cope, and by expressing your needs to others, you can avoid alcohol dependency as a primary coping method. If you find that you are developing a problem by abusing alcohol during divorce, form a plan for improvement and reach out to a support group immediately.