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Addiction and Divorce

Since the turn of the century, the United States has seen a marked increase in the nationwide divorce rate.  It has gotten to a totally new level in which roughly half of all American marriages will end in divorce.  At the same time, drug and alcohol abuse and addiction to such substances and just addiction in general has also skyrocketed since the turn of the century.  Coincidence?  Probably not.  There have been numerous divorces, (numbering in the hundreds of thousands in fact, if not the millions), in which spouses have had addiction issues of some kind or another, including alcohol, drugs, pornography and gambling, that led to the divorce in the last several years alone.

There are a lot of problems involving addiction and divorce.  They are often linked.  It is not necessarily always the case that the addiction is the single factor or the cause of the divorce, but it very often is a contributing factor to it in a surprisingly high percentage of American divorce cases. There are clearly no winners when it comes to addiction in a marriage. Unless someone receives help for the substance abuse habit, all parties are sure to suffer from it to one degree or another.  In fact, if an addiction goes on unhanded and unaddressed in the life of one or more members of the marriage than not only is the marriage beyond repair but so are the lives of those in it.  Addiction can and often does kill the spouse who is addicted, and the spouse who is not often suffers from it for life.

When it comes to addressing an addiction in a divorce or in marriage there are several things to accomplish before a potential resolution is even mentioned.  The first step is of course admitting that there is a problem, and the next step is dealing with it with the help of an inpatient, residential, drug and alcohol addiction and dependence treatment center, detox facility, rehab program, and recovery organization. There have been far too many people in denial concerning the effects that their addiction was having on their marriage, causing many partnerships to end with tragic consequences.

Enablement in the Marriage

A lot of times the only way that addicts are allowed to continue in their addiction is because they are being enabled.  To enable an addict simply means to help him or her in some way, shape, or form.  This is the truth of the mater and it has been this way for some time now.  Essentially what happens is that addicts are self-destructive.  It is the nature of addiction and it always has been.  More often than not, an addict cannot survive on his or her own without outside help.  Family members and friends who love the addict and care for the addict reach out and help him or her when he or she needs help and, by getting that help and by being able to go on living without hitting rock bottom, the addict is simply able to keep going on abusing drugs and alcohol indefinitely.

A true statement would be that in many marriages where one spouse is the addict, the other spouse becomes the enabler of the addict. This can become a major part of the problem for both individuals. There have been situations where the addicts’ spouses will be seeking help for the addict, trying to change their behavior and whatnot, and the marriage will start falling apart because of the personality changes that result or the fact that things are no longer in balance.  Add this to the fact that the spouse is also actively enabling the addict by allowing him or her to continue to live in a house with basic necessities for life and by not cutting him or her off completely just adds to the overall mess of the situation.

When it comes to addiction, marriage, and the threat of divorce, it is critical that there be intervention and counseling and an immediate shipping off of the addicted spouse to an inpatient, residential, drug and alcohol addiction and dependence treatment center, detox facility, rehab program, and recovery organization. Even if the marriage cannot be salvaged and it is far too late for any hope of a continuation of the relationship, treatment and counseling is critical so that there can be life after alcohol or drugs for the addict’s spouse, especially if there are children involved.

The Statistics on the Matter

It’s pretty concerning how prevalent addiction and divorce is in the nation today.  Addiction statistics are out of this world and are hitting numbers the likes of which this nation has never seen before.  Divorce rates are just as bad too.

For some context on this:

• More than twenty-four million Americans are addicted to drugs and alcohol according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

• 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce.

• 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.

• 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce.

• In America, there occurs one divorce approximately every 36 seconds. That’s nearly 2,400 divorces per day, 16,800 divorces per week and 876,000 divorces every single year.

• The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is about eight years long.

• People wait an average of three years after a divorce to remarry, (that is if they remarry at all).

• The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old, give or take a few years.

• About eighty percent of custodial mothers receive a support award, while only about thirty percent of custodial fathers receive a support award of any kind.

• About fifty percent of non-custodial mothers totally default on support, while only thirty percent of non-custodial fathers totally default on support.

• About a little more than one percent of the total number of currently married same-sex couples gets divorced each year, in comparison to about 2 percent of married and straight couples. (Note that the percent of couples that get divorced eventually is actually 50 percent, but only one or two percent get divorced in a particular year).

What to Do About It

So what can a spouse do about his or her significant other who is abusing drugs and alcohol?  How can one avoid the cruelty and the heartache and the stress that is divorce?  It’s not the easiest thing to confront by any means at all, but more often than not it is better to fight for the sobriety and the abstinence of your partner than it is to give up and divorce them and let them continue to abuse drugs and alcohol willy-nilly.

Listed below are some tips about what to do when your spouse is an addict:

1. Quit covering for them already. Cover-ups allow a drinker to continue drinking in peace or a drug user to keep taking drugs undistributed.  It is through and through a form of enablement and there’s not questioning that stable fact. One great way for steady alcoholics and drug users to realize that they really do have a problem is to allow them to deal with the full consequences of their actions and to not enable them or help them. This means that you will actually have to not do things for that person like call in sick to work so you can stay at home and take care of your spouse when he or she is sick, or even worse call your spouse’s work and lie to them about why he or she is not coming in.

2. Be specific about your concerns, worries, statements, points, and demands.  Don’t beat around the bush with them.  That won’t work.  It takes a firm hand a resolved demeanor to get through to an alcoholic.  Don’t talk about general ways in which alcohol or drugs are bad such as, “Drinking is unhealthy”, or, “It’s bad for us”, or, “It’ll get worse”.  Instead, rather make a point to mention specific ways that drinking harms your marriage like, “It makes me upset that you canceled our plans last week because you were hungover and couldn’t come out with me,” or something of that sort.

3. Time interventions that work to put yourself between them and their substance of choice. Only talk to your spouse when he or she is sober and calm and not under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Soon after an alcohol-related problem occurs is a good time to talk because the issue is fresh in that person’s mind, especially if he or she messed up and did something bad that time as a result of drinking or doing drugs.

4. Get help for you and your spouse! When bringing up alcoholism and drug use and abuse with a spouse, there is strength in numbers on an exponential level.  This is why interventions work. Be sure to involve family members and friends that can each say something different to your spouse. Ideally these should be people both spouses know and or trust and care about.

5. Discuss marriage consequences of what might happen if your spouse doesn’t hang it up and quit abusing drugs and alcohol. Tell your spouse what will happen if he or she fails to seek help or stop drinking or stop abusing drugs. Explain that this isn’t a threat at all, but a way to protect yourself from the consequences of alcohol and drugs which affect far more than just the person who is taking part in the substance abuse. You can tell your spouse that you won’t go to social events together, attend family dinners or even that you will move out and that you will get away from them. Never make fake threats though, as this will reduce your credibility. If you are not prepared to walk out the door, don’t say that’s what will happen. If you aren’t prepared to cut him or her off, don’t list that as a consequence. Pretend threats won’t help or have a positive effect on a spouse’s alcoholism or drug use, it’ll just make them think you are bluffing all the time even on the occasions that you actually aren’t.

6. Get support for your spouse.  Seek out rehabilitation for him or her. Either as a couple or one-on-one, but preferably in the form of rehabilitation of an inpatient nature, seek outside support and help from a rehab center.  This can greatly help a marriage that has been stricken with alcohol abuse or drug use.  Inpatient rehab is the most effective way of ridding anyone from addiction, so it is obviously the overall goal to be achieved when confronting a spouse who is abusing drugs and alcohol.

One of the greatest challenges in the relationships of life comes in the form of a spouse who is abusing drugs and alcohol.  This is truly where rock bottom is.  When a family member or loved one is abusing drugs and alcohol, particularly when it is a spouse, something must be done about it, and rehabilitation is always the best and the safest answer for them.

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