Dealing with Divorce and Addiction: Recovering Your Life When Everything Falls Apart

Drug addiction and divorce often occur together. There may be other underlying issues, but substance use in a marriage inevitably causes conflict. If one partner gets necessary addiction treatment and both agree to go through relationship counseling, the marriage may be salvageable. Often too much damage has been done, and the addict is left facing the loss of a partner while also trying to cope with a substance use disorder. During this time, it is important to rely on the support of other loved ones, to make healthy lifestyle choices, and to get professional addiction treatment.

A substance use problem and relationship difficulties all too often go hand-in-hand. If you are struggling with alcohol or drug use, and your marriage is falling apart, you may need more help than you can give yourself. But there is hope in your future. While rehab may not be able to keep your marriage together, it can help you navigate this difficult time. A stay in rehab can help you stop using and develop better relationship skills that will give you a better, more hopeful future.

It is a fact of life that addiction in one or both partners leads to difficulties in the relationship. And if those issues are not addressed, divorce or a breakup is the typical outcome. A partner in a relationship with an addict is likely to be unhappier than most, even when compared to couples who seek professional counseling for marital problems.

Substance abuse and addiction takes time away from the relationship and family. It divides couples emotionally and physically. Addiction also causes more fights, and may even be a driving force behind violence and abuse. Often this all happens in a cycle in which fighting and other issues lead one partner to drink or use drugs, which worsens the problems and leads to yet more substance abuse.

It is important to understand that addiction is not a disease of an individual but of the entire family. Everyone is involved, has a role to play, and is impacted by one person’s substance use. The buildup of stress, anger, depression, anxiety, even violence and other negative feelings or actions associated with one partner misusing substances often leads to a breakup of the relationship.

Managing Substance Use During Divorce – When to Get Treatment

If you have an issue with alcohol or drug use that you have not yet addressed, going through a divorce is likely to make your struggle even worse. Stress and the emotional impact of losing your marriage are important triggers that will make you want to use more. Now is not a good time to indulge that urge. Try to cut back or stop using so that you can be clear-headed through this process.

Of course, if you cannot stop using drugs or drinking during this difficult time it is a strong indicator that you have a substance use disorder. That means you need professional treatment. Consider choosing a residential facility for treatment. This type of care can provide you with the dedicated and expert type of treatment you need to overcome addiction and learn to cope in your new life post-divorce.

The Benefits of Residential Treatment at This Time

There may be practical reasons you cannot choose to go to rehab now, including children or work, but keep in mind that just a couple months in treatment can be life-changing, in a good way. A residential program will give you the chance to focus on your own wellness and recovery with minimal distractions. Most programs also involve family members and loved ones, so you can work on improving relationships as you also learn to be sober.

Another great thing about rehab is that it addresses all of your emotional and mental health needs. When you go through intake, you will undergo a full evaluation to determine any existing mental illnesses and any special considerations, such as the stress of divorce. Effective treatment for an addiction has to address all your needs. Rehab can provide this diverse kind of care that will help you make sense of your divorce and how you will carry on with your life post-divorce and post-drug use.

Rely on Loved Ones for Support

Going through a divorce while also struggling with addiction is not a challenge to be faced alone. At this time you may feel alone, losing your partner and best friend. It is essential to now rely on other people in your life, family members or friends, who support you and care about you.

Studies indicate that having a support network made up of family and other trusted loved ones results in better outcomes and more successful recovery from addiction.

Your family and friends will be able to provide you with the support you need, especially as you leave treatment and start to build a new life. It can feel very lonely after a divorce, and the difficult emotions this brings up are bound to be triggers for substance use. Having a strong network around you will push you to think twice about relapsing.

Hope is Just a Phone Call Away


How to Cope With Addiction Recovery and Divorce

If you are already in recovery from a substance or alcohol use disorder and are now facing divorce, this big life change could derail all your efforts. Relying on support from friends and family is one way to make it through this tough time without a relapse, but you may also need more help. Consider going to support group meetings, even if you haven’t in the past. These groups include a lot of people who can relate to your situation and will listen and lend understanding and support.

It is also important to embrace all of your feelings at this time. A divorce can feel a lot like grief. Let yourself go through the process of grieving, but as you do, focus on positive choices. Instead of turning back to drugs or drinking, try healthier activities: exercise, yoga, meditation, spending time with friends, finding new hobbies, going back to school, or focusing on work. Healthy distractions are important now.

Andy’s Story of Addiction and Divorce

“I had been drinking more and more for a while before my wife and I decided to get divorced. We fought a lot over things like her going back to work after our last son was old enough to not need her every day and also over the stress of our financial difficulties. The fighting really stressed me out, and it all made me feel like a failure. I drank more to cope, and then that led to more fighting and even more guilt.

“This went on for nearly two years before it finally fell apart. At that point, I was drinking every night. I knew that the damage was done to my marriage but that I could salvage myself and still be a good dad. So I made the difficult decision to go to rehab for a few months. My wife was so angry, so at first she didn’t participate. But eventually she agreed to do some counseling with me. Although we went through with the divorce, including her in treatment helped us both work through some important issues.

“When I finished rehab, I was facing living alone and seeing my kids part-time. It was a depressing prospect, but my therapist prepared me for it. I spent as much time with my kids as possible and focused on positive communication with their mother. I also went to support group meetings and spent more time with my parents. I’m still working hard every day to be a good dad and to avoid the urge to drink, but I am happier than ever.”

Overcoming an addiction and coping with a divorce are two major life changes. To have to deal with both at the same time can feel overwhelming. As it feels like your life is falling apart, try to keep things in perspective. Be grateful for the good things you have in your life and spend plenty of time with supportive friends and family. Perhaps most importantly, recognize when you need professional help coping. Rehab could be the best decision you make right now for a better future.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.