Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Divorce and Addiction

Does your ex-spouse (or soon to be ex-spouse)have a problem with addiction ? If so, you have double the issues to deal with. It's very likely that the addiction problem existed before the divorce, and you tried everything you knew to cope with that person's drinking or drugging. Here's some news for you: there is nothing you can do to stop another person from drinking or using drugs. You may have discovered that by now. If not, give it time to soak in.

At this point,I want to share something with you that could be a tremendous help. It's called THE THREE C'S:

1)You didn't cause it
2)You can't control it
3)You can't cure it

If you make these a part of your daily routine, you can gain some much needed peace of mind. Now, this brings us to another issue: what do I tell my children about their mom/dad's addiction ?

The first and most important thing they need to know is this - it has nothing to do with them. That parent has a disease that is causing their behavior. They are not acting that way because they are a jerk, or because they don't love you.
Tell them about the THREE C'S. This is also the core issue of divorce that children need to understand.

The next most important thing you need to tell the child is strategies for keeping safe when they are with that parent while he or she is under the influence.
Encourage them to call you when the other parent is drinking or drugging and they feel uneasy. Knowing they can call you anytime can give a child a feeling of security.

Encourage your child not to argue,nag or plead with their drinking/drugging parent. This just creates more frustration for him or her. The best responses they can give are minimal and to the point.

If they have no choice but to ride in the car with that parent, emphasize the importance of seat belts. Make it clear to them to avoid arguing between themselves, or to avoid any behavior that would increase the stress level in the situation.
DON'T ROCK THE BOAT are the keywords in this situation.

As for your dealings with the former spouse, don't try to talk rationally when they are under the influence. If you have an issue to discuss with them regarding the children or child support, make notes ahead of time about what you will talk about. This will help you communicate in a business-like way. Avoid talking in person with them. Phone or email communication can be more objective than face-to-face; There are fewer possibilities of getting hooked into conflict.

One last but very important coping skill for you and your children is Alanon for you,and Alateen for teenage kids. Another good option is the How To Cope program that the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence sponsors. They have a 6 week program for adults and children with substance abusing loved ones that is very helpful and effective. You are provided with a workbook containing all the information you need to know about the disease of addition.

I would suggest family counseling for you and your children while you are going through the divorce, since you are dealing with very complex issues. Remember that you are going through a grief process regarding the loss of a relationship, but your grief process started long ago as your spouse's addiction began to be the focus of your family life. Allow yourself the time to feel sad and angry about the situation. Your spouse's addiction is not your fault. He/she made their own choices to drink or use drugs. You can't control that.

What you CAN control is your own emotional responses. Recognize that you are not a victim. You have choices. Avoid blaming the other parent. Blaming keeps us helpless and stuck. In order to go forward with your life, you need to DETACH from your attention on that person. The best strategy at this point for you and your children is to make a life that focuses on YOUR needs and goals.

You can, through reading about the effects of substance abuse on the family, gain the necessary knowledge that will help you GROW through this experience and come out a healthier, happier person. The following are suggested sites to explore.

www.http://healthyplace.com AND www.http://livestrong.com

Watch for my newsletter to appear on WizIQ