Connecting the dots: Alcohol, Drugs, Divorce

Aug 8, 2012 by

Part I: What it Looks Like

One of the things that surprised me when I was doing research for my book The Divorce Lawyers’ Guide to Staying Married (Volt Press, 2006) was how little information there was about the correlation between alcohol and drug abuse and divorce. One attorney who I interviewed thought that up to 30% of the divorce cases were either directly or indirectly related to a spouse’s alcohol or drug abuse. Yet, rarely does one come across any information about this all too common problem.

Here is the story of Mike and Beth, a couple whose marriage imploded under the pressure of Beth’s drinking and drug use, as told to me by Mike. Can you relate to their story?

“My friends and I were at this bar at a bachelor party when this gorgeous girl walked in. She definitely looked like she was too good for the place. I still remember working up the nerve to ask her to dance. I was 28 at the time and she was 24; we dated for five years before I proposed.

“Looking back, I think that I waited so long to propose because there were a lot of red warning flags flying high when we were dating. Her family was a big problem because they were all completely insane. Her crazy mother was constantly meddling in our life.  

“Another flag that was waving that I ignored at the time was Beth’s drinking. I guess I thought of her as an extreme social drinker when we were dating. When she drank, she would get drunk, but not “happy” drunk. The drinking would make her very bitter. I do remember asking her on our wedding day to please not drink a lot.

“We had two girls and then a little boy. Our son died of SIDS when he was just two months old. I think this tragedy exacerbated Beth’s drinking problem.

“We both should have gone to therapy, but we didn’t. Because Beth’s alcoholism made it impossible for her to reliably parent our two girls, I took over the majority of the parenting. Later, I found out that Beth was mixing prescription drugs with her drinking. I never knew what I would find when I came home from work. I once found her passed out at the top of our stairs. I probably should have figured out about the drugs because there were times that she would act drunk, but I couldn’t smell any alcohol.

“Ultimately, our marriage couldn’t stand the pressure of Beth’s drinking and drug use and we got divorced. I have custody of our two girls who have a lot of issues because of their mother’s addictions.”

Can you relate to Mike and Beth’s story? Does any of it look familiar?

– Wendy Jaffe, ESQ.


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