Divorce is never an easy time for families or their loved ones. When one partner is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the process can be even more difficult. This is especially true when the couple has children to consider. Drugs and alcohol put a strain on more than just their abuser; they hurt everyone around, and addicts almost always put their addiction above everything else. When divorce arises due to drug and alcohol abuse, it is important to take the right steps to ensure that you and your children are protected from the effects of divorce and substance addiction.
By the Numbers
The statistics surrounding divorce and substance addiction are staggering. Over 7 percent of all marriages end up in divorce due to habitual substance abuse. Almost 25 million people are currently in a marriage where a spouse is an addict who abuses drugs or alcohol. What this means is that you are not alone if you find yourself in this situation. Help is available if you take the right steps.
When to Consider Divorce?
Nobody wants to walk away from someone they love. You may wonder if it’s possible to help your spouse rather than pursuing divorce. This is a noble thing, but there are hard questions you need to ask yourself. Has the damage your spouse’s abuses caused become too great to bear? Has your life changed for the worse overall? Does your spouse admit to their addiction, and do they seek help for their problems?
Does your addicted spouse lie, fail drug tests while claiming to be clean, break promises, or even steal to support their habits? Are you ready to take on the challenge of starting a new life? Even more so, have you reached the point where this is your best option, and the safest thing for you and your children? It is important to recognize that there is nothing wrong with answering “yes” to any of these questions. When things get to the point of no return, divorce is sometimes your best choice.
Drug Testing in Divorce
The first thing you need to do is make sure that your spouse is subject to drug testing before, during and after the divorce proceedings. This is vital to protect all parties involved. Remaining free from drug use ensures your partner is clear-headed and able to make their own decisions.
In addition, testing makes sure that the effects of their substance abuse to not carry over to you or your children. If they do turn to their addiction, they can be caught and held accountable. This testing can be especially important as a factor in custody and visitation rights. Be sure that your attorney demands a written clause in the divorce agreement that requires regular drug testing as a requirement for any visitation.
When your spouse’s addictions make divorce your only option, you have a difficult road ahead of you. However, this road is also full of hope, and you may feel like a weight is lifted after the divorce is complete. The process is never easy, but coping comes with time and effort and in the end, you, your children and your spouse may end up better off for it. They say that some addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can recover, and losing their family can be a hard wake-up call.
We’ve all heard about addicts who attend support meetings. What many don’t realize is that there are also meetings for spouses, children and loved ones of addicts. Having a strong support group around you is vital to the process of coping and getting well.
Your new support group will help you on the road to the work you need to do, in order to rebuild your life and find yourself once again. Many of the same groups that offers support meetings for addicts and alcoholics also offer services for family and friends of addicts.
Children and Divorce
Almost 40 percent of all children under 18 will face their parents’ divorce at some point in their young lives. It is true that children are resilient, but the scars of divorce can be long-lasting and kids can develop feelings of betrayal, displacement and depression over the split. Behavioral and emotional issues related to the trauma are not uncommon and affect up to 25 percent of children who go through their parents’ divorce.
Just as it is vital for you to have a strong support group around you of friends, family, counselors and community, your children need strong support systems as well. It is not a failure to seek professional counseling for your child — in fact, it may be the best thing for them. The combined effects of divorce and an addicted parent can be a lot for the child to bear, and can be a lot for you to address on your own.