Staying Sober Following a Divorce

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worried middle aged woman with head bowed


No one ever said that marriage was easy. When you share your life with someone, there are bound to be ups and downs and times when your emotions get the best of you. Still, even if bad times are expected, some relationships are just not meant to last. And trying to force a marriage to work can actually make things worse.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common for couples to try to make it work, especially if kids are involved. But when you are stuck in a loveless marriage, it’s easy to turn to bad habits to cope. An extra glass of wine here and some pills to help you sleep there can eventually turn into full-blown addiction in the blink of an eye.

Staying Sober Following Divorce

This is why substance abuse and divorce often go hand-in-hand. Addiction can put further strain on an already crumbling marriage, which often leads inevitably to divorce. However, if addiction is not initially present, the divorce itself can also trigger it.

This article will look more closely at the link between divorce and addiction and how it is particularly hard for single mothers, as well as warning signs, to look out for and tips for staying sober as a divorced mother after the separation.

The Correlation Between Divorce and Substance Abuse

Despite previous highs in the past, divorce rates in America are currently at an all-time low, with only 14.9 out of every 1,000 marriages ending in divorce. Estimates still show that around 50% of marriages will end in divorce, but those numbers are dropping, likely because marriage rates as a whole are steadily declining.

Still, as long as marriages continue to occur, there will be some divorces that follow. And while divorce can happen for any number of reasons, research has found that there is a link between substance abuse and divorce. Essentially, the more alcohol or drugs a person consumes in a marriage, the more it increases the likelihood of a divorce.

However, not only does substance abuse lead to divorce for many couples, but the divorce itself can also cause an addiction to develop. Divorce can also impact addiction recovery and make it harder to get sober if addiction was already present before the divorce.

Just as living in a loveless marriage can cause you to turn to substances to cope, the emotional rollercoaster of divorce proceedings and the aftermath of a divorce can also cause you to rely on drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and make you feel better. And if you were already struggling with addiction before divorce, the separation can trigger relapses and extend the recovery process.

Single Mothers Are More Vulnerable to Addiction

Single parents also have a higher risk of developing addiction and struggling to overcome substance abuse. This is because raising children is not easy. Despite the joys of parenthood, it can still be stressful and overwhelming at times, especially if you are raising children on your own.

Single mothers are even more at risk of developing an addiction than single dads because when divorce occurs, mothers are more often awarded custody. Unfortunately, meeting a child’s needs while also trying to take care of yourself can be challenging and stressful. Often, mothers will put the needs of their children first, but when they neglect their own needs, it can result in a turn to substances for relief.

Though drugs and alcohol might provide a temporary escape, they generally end up making things worse. And once an addiction is developed, not only will you continue to neglect your own needs, but you may start to neglect your children as well, which is a serious situation that can result in a loss of custody. Losing your children in a custody battle can also further impact your addiction and make it harder to get sober.

Warning Signs of Addiction

Substance abuse can look different for everyone because the way a person copes and the behaviors they exhibit can vary greatly. Still, some common warning signs are important to look out for as they can indicate that you are developing an addiction.

Warning signs of substance abuse during or after a divorce can include

  • Turning to alcohol to help you communicate or be intimate with a partner
  • Using drugs or alcohol as a bonding experience
  • Isolating yourself to hide addictive behaviors
  • Making excuses for why drugs or alcohol help you
  • A sudden imbalance of caretaking duties
  • Constant use of lies to hide drug and alcohol consumption
  • Prioritizing the use of substances over spending time with loved ones
  • Struggling to maintain your job
  • Financial troubles due to money being spent on drugs and alcohol instead of necessities

Tips for Getting Help and Staying Sober After Divorce

Despite the abysmal prospects that divorce and addiction create, recovery is possible. It’s important to remember that you are not alone as a sing mother, even if it feels that way, and many others have been in your shoes and successfully overcome their substance abuse. As hard as it may seem, it’s essential to stay positive during recovery, even when there are setbacks.

Substance abuse can affect your mind and your body, which can make it twice as hard to push through and stay focused on your sobriety goals. But this is why physical and mental health are both important when you are finding ways to heal on your journey to recovery. Often, people will focus on the physical aspect of addiction and recovery, but your mental health is just as essential. Simply cutting out alcohol and drugs to heal your body will often lead to a relapse. You must also focus on healing your mind as well if you want to fully recover.

However, before you can heal, you must first get help. Seeking help is the first step to getting sober. As strong as you think you are, you will need support to get you through. You can do this by seeing your general practitioner and being honest during the addiction screening. The questions your doctor asks you are not meant to shame you; they are intended to help you. As tempted as you might be to lie due to embarrassment, you need to be honest to get the help you need.

Second, do not avoid friends and family. Again, it is common to feel shame when battling addiction and attempting to recover, but the more support you have, the more likely you are to successfully recover. Even if you relapse, don’t be afraid to admit your mistake. Lying is a bad habit that can further hinder your addiction recovery. And if you are too ashamed to speak to loved ones, you can start by speaking to a drug and alcohol counselor, a therapist, or others like yourself in group meetings.

Final Thoughts

Speaking up and getting treatment is essential to addiction recovery, especially when you are a single mother. If you aren’t sure where to start, you can talk to your doctor or seek out a specialist. Numerous organizations exist to help people like yourself, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

There are even resources available for your children, should they need them. Just remember to prioritize your needs in addition to others’. Keeping a journal can help, as it allows you a moment to yourself to write down your thoughts and better process what you are going through, which can ultimately help you realize what you need to get better.

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