The Impact of Substance Abuse on Marriage and Divorce

Substance abuse continues to be a major problem in American society. In 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that 35.8 million people took an illegal drug. A whopping 140 million drank alcohol, while 45.9 million smoked cigarettes. Not all of those substance users are addicts, but their sheer numbers show how many of them are at risk of addiction if they don’t manage their habits.

Drugs and alcohol are highly addictive. And by drugs, we don’t mean just illegal ones like heroin, cocaine, and meth. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be abused, too. As such, your home itself can be a risky place for someone prone to needing medication.

If your spouse is such a person, they won’t necessarily become addicts in the future. But if they have an “addictive personality”, their risks might be higher. Addiction may also run in the blood, so if your in-laws have a history of any addiction, make sure your spouse stays away from anything addictive.

But at the end of the day, we cannot control anyone’s actions and choices. If your spouse has unfortunately spiraled into addiction, don’t blame yourself. You can help them through this tough time, but you may also walk away. The latter may be a better choice if addiction has caused abuse to occur in your marriage.

How Addiction Affects Marriage

If your spouse’s substance abuse occurs without your knowledge, you may mistake their odd behaviors for something else altogether. This will cause arguments that may escalate into fights. The situation will worsen if your finances and your spouse’s job have become affected. Not knowing the root cause of your depleting finances can draw allegations of infidelity, which would frustrate you even more if your spouse denies it.

You can still save your marriage if you get a confession out of your spouse. Substance abuse isn’t incurable. If the addiction is still mild, you can take your spouse to rehab, and fix things after they recover.

Addiction doesn’t happen out of nowhere. It usually roots from deep-seated problems that vary for every addict. Marriage counseling may help you and your spouse communicate your issues better. It’ll give your addicted spouse a safe space to voice out his triggers and other factors that contributed to this substance abuse. You, on the other hand, can learn how to respond to your spouse’s condition better.

If you’re aware of your spouse’s addiction, ask yourself if you’re being their enabler. An enabler is someone who inadvertently encourages bad behavior. If you allow your spouse to expose themselves in situations where the substance is present, you’re probably being an enabler. This may avoid arguments and fights, but ultimately, it’ll still destroy your marriage because the addiction has already damaged the brain.

Brain damage from drug addiction can be irreversible. Heroin, the most abused opioid, doesn’t just damage the brain but may cease the heart rate and breathing, too. Luckily, effective rehab programs for heroin abuse do exist. Taking a heroin-addicted spouse to rehab as early as possible can save your marriage.

How Addiction Affects Divorce

You may also take your spouse to rehab but leave the marriage. Sometimes, a divorce is the better option because substance abuse breaks trust, just like infidelity. However, don’t assume that walking away will make things easier.

It will be hard to settle a divorce if your spouse doesn’t have the headspace for it. But that’s nothing a good divorce lawyer can’t work around with. What would be harder to deal with is child custody and any matter involving kids.

If you’re the sober spouse, the odds will be in your favor because the court won’t likely give custody to the substance-using parent. But even if addiction hasn’t affected your spouse’s love for your kid, your co-parenting plans may still be at risk. The court, after all, won’t assume that your spouse can be trusted with the child just because you said so. They ensure that kids will not be mistreated by both or either parents, so they take addiction seriously. If they decide to grant you 100% of the custody and no visitation rights for your spouse, that can be more devastating than the addiction itself.

This is why rehab is truly helpful. It allows an addict to redeem themselves before it’s too late. If your spouse recovers, your co-parenting journey can go on with minimal problems. You may even be on good terms eventually. On the other hand, if your spouse refuses help, then either staying in the marriage or divorcing will give you trauma. So matter what happens, try to help your spouse overcome their addiction.

Meta title: How Substance Abuse Can Affect a Marriage and Divorce
meta desc: Nearly 40 million Americans have used an illegal drug. If you’re married to one of them, your marriage is probably on the verge of falling apart. But divorcing won’t be as easy either. Read on to learn how substance abuse affects marriages and divorce.