“It’s not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship
that makes unhappy marriages.”
I may not agree with everything I’ve read by Mr. Nietzsche, but he’s nailed this one, hasn’t he?
I look around at the failed marriages of my friends and family members, and, if there’s one thing you can say for certain, it’s that they probably weren’t true, hardened friends the day they got wed, and certainly not with the kind of friendship that could stand the stresses and strains of a marriage…
And, even if they thought they were friends then, on the happiest day of their lives, they certainly weren’t that way when the divorce monster finally spat them out the other side.
Me? I’ve never been married and my horizon is looking pretty clear in that respect too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bad-looking guy (so I’m told… occasionally); it’s just I’ve had a lot of stress and strain just simply trying to live. The reason for that is simple too. Addiction. Meth, alcohol, weed – you name it. I was married to all of them.
My name is Andy, and I’m pleased to say that, just over 9 years ago, I finally divorced them all, and have lived a clean and sober life ever since. It wasn’t in a divorce court, with lawyers bickering over what my entitlements would be – it was finally settled in an Idaho drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility, and I left with the chance to lead a better and healthier life – an entitlement that any addict would settle for given the real opportunity.
Quite a few of the marriage breakdowns and subsequent divorces I’ve witnessed in the lives of those around me fell victim basically to an outsider and a thief sharing their house – yes, addiction. One of them unknowingly let it in, it made itself at home, and, yes, you’re right, it refused to be the first to leave.
Good people, their relationships destroyed by this constant unwanted house guest. By then, for the vast majority of them, it was too late, the damage irreparably done.
Fact. Just under half of those choosing to tie the knot in the U.S. will end up divorcing each other. Just under half… And many will return to the scene of the cime too, and get hitched for a second time. The divorce rate for those marriages is even higher.
What I’m about to tell you is exactly why and how addiction and substance abuse affects the social health of an addict. In other words, here are 4 reasons their ability to maintain healthy, rewarding connections and relationships is going to become seriously flawed.
Let’s begin with something that, as a married partner, you’re not going to be able to see physically, but you will certainly know about it – brain function. Alcohol does many things to the human body, but one you may not be entirely aware of is how it’s effects on the thought process can range from crystal-clear clarity to utter, and often unbelievable, craziness.
Any type of substance abuse, and alcohol particularly, will actually physically restructure the way a brain works, and the connections that can be severely include:
- Pleasure & Reward
- Memory & Learning
- Natural Impulse, and
What you may be able to witness, therefore, is the resulting brain damage (because that’s what it is, and, believe me, I know), such as:
- Mental health disorders, eg.
- Sleep disorders
- Possible psychosis
- Uncontrollable aggression
- Memory impairment, eg. blackouts
- Hepatic Encephalopathy (caused by cirrhosis of the liver)
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome:
- Severe memory loss
- Confabulation (or invented memories)
- Inability to converse
- Lack of perception
I am now going to make the assumption that part of any healthy marriage is a healthy sex life, and, highly likely, it’s the desire to start a family too. Actually, that’s no assumption. However, the substance addicted spouse is going to be experiencing some problems and issues in that department, regardless of whether the addict is a man or a woman. Addiction certainly doesn’t discriminate.
One of the victims of long-term substance abuse is the hormonal system in general, and, in particular, the two primary hormones for the regulation of your reproductive functions – testosterone, and estrogens, such as estradiol.
A little biology here. In men, hormones affect sexual maturity, sperm development and level of fertility, and sexual behavior. In women, hormones affect several functions, predominantly breast development, body hair, menstrual cycle regulation, and the ability to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Let’s look at alcohol as an example. In men, chronic alcohol consumption can result in hormonal imbalance, infertility, and sexual dysfunction, such as:
- Abnormal sperm
- Reduced testosterone levels
- Male breast growth (you’d better believe it), and
- Sexual and reproductive disorders
In women who are premenopausal, chronic alcohol consumption can result in several reproductive disorders, such as:
- Irregular menstrual cycles or the cessation of menstruation
- Menstrual cycles with no ovulation
- Early menopause, and
- Spontaneous abortions
Finances, always one of the biggest sources of marital disharmony, get hit by addiction – big-time, whatever your drug of choice. Not only will it affect your spouse, it’ll hit your community and the whole country you live in right where it hurts – in the pocket.
Did you know that the financial cost of alcohol addiction alone in the U.S. is around a mere $249 billion every single year, and drug addiction costs an estimated $484 billion every year? That’s serious, serious figures. Every single year.
However, you not going to be too concerned about that, if your the spouse in an addicted marriage. Sooner or later, money will go missing with no explanation, jobs are lost, court fines need paying, to name but a few ways your family’s finances are affected. Furthermore, let’s not forget the actual cost of the addiction itself, which, depending on the so-called “drug of choice,” can be the odd thousand dollars a month.
As mentioned earlier, addicts can have a great deal of difficulty controlling their aggression, particularly when what angers them happens “in their space.” The other thing you should know with regard to this is that addicts are generally good people. However, they still believe they are the same good person when they’re either drunk or high or both. Rarely (and sadly) the case.
Even more sad are the following statistics where substance abuse is discovered to be the primary factor:
- 80%: Domestic violence incidents
- Half of all sexual assaults
- 81%: Child Protective Services intervention
And it’s not just violence against others. 45% of people with untreated substance abuse disorders end up taking their own lives. The only protection and safe haven for you, your spouse – the addict, and other family members living with you is for them to find the best residential or outpatient addiction recovery treatment.
However you want to break it down, divorce is an ugly business. It’s even uglier when one of the participants (usually, the unwilling one) is an addict. I’ve seen it first-hand when one of my closest friends back in our addicted days split with his wife and child. Her reason? She’d become scared of him. Add a child into divorce proceedings, and the process becomes uglier still.
All of the 4 reasons provided above echo through what I witnessed – the impaired logic and thinking, the frustration in everything, the money worries, and, yes, child services becoming involved in their homelife. A sad thing to watch from the sidelines.
Personally, I never had a relationship even approaching mildly successful, let alone one that would lead to a marriage, while I was drinking and using. Successful relationships are always based upon mutual honesty, mutual respect, and a mountain of compromise – qualities an addict lacks in equal degree, as did I back then.
Then I got sober and my life changed fundamentally. I and millions of others out there in this big wide world are living proof that recovery from addiction is possible with the right help and support. We just need a lot of help and motivation in finding it.
Are you currently experiencing problems with substance abuse in your marriage or relationship? Please remember, there is always hope. Do share your experiences with your fellow readers by commenting below. All are gratefully received. Lastly, there is only one answer for the addict – abstinence. It’s not a cure, but it’s a start. Above all, take care.