Substance Abuse: Turning to Bad Habits to Cope With a Bad Marriage
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By Shanon Lee, Featured Columnist - January 15, 2014

AA Wine.jpgStaying in a loveless marriage can take a mental and physical toll:

Months before I made the decision to leave, for the final time, I found myself in a recurrent pattern of putting the kids to bed and making sure I was asleep before my husband came home from work. And by asleep, I mean sound asleep.

Preferably, in a deep slumber encouraged by my two trusted sleep aids: a dosage of Tylenol PM chased by two glasses of wine. I had to make sure I wasn’t at risk of being stirred awake for any type of accidental interaction. Not to hear his complaints, not to hear incessant chatter about his work day and not to hear his latest excuse for being late and missing dinner. Past the point of being remotely interested in being intimate, I was sure he was cheating on me anyway, but lacked enough information to prove it. Part of me just did not care. I had grown to genuinely dislike him.

At best, he was a narcissist that couldn’t make enough room in his life to accommodate his wife and children. At worst, he was a sociopath incapable of respecting or caring for others. I hated the dismissive way he treated me. Yet, I loved the home life I had created with my children. Some women devote their entire life to rearing their children and I thought could too. I hoped that it would be enough. I’d given up my professional aspirations to be a wife and support his career, so I had to make it work. But, I just wasn’t happy.

Soon, I started self-medicating just to make it through the day. One night, he panicked after trying for 20 minutes to wake me. It took him awhile to detect any signs of life and in those moments he did not know whether I was dead or alive. That was when I knew it was time for me to go. Holding on to a marriage of convenience was not worth sacrificing my mental and physical health, or jeopardizing my life.

Choosing to self-medicate in order to deal with stress or cope with sadness is not uncommon:

Substance misuse can start with an extra glass of wine you probably shouldn’t have, or prescription pills you refill just because they “help take the edge off”. It can slowly become an everyday pattern and act as a crutch to help you avoid your real problems. Substance misuse can cloud your judgment and leave you vulnerable at a time in your life when you must make important choices for yourself and your children.

It can impact your ability to communicate with family and friends when you need their support the most. It can also cause custody and visitation issues down the line, if it’s used to build a case against you. Other implications of substance misuse include an increased risk of developing mental and physical health problems, such as depression and elevated blood pressure. It can also quickly lead to addiction.

The signs of substance misuse include (but are not limited to):

  • Consuming more than the recommended amounts of alcohol or drugs
  • Consuming dangerous combinations of substances
  • Avoiding responsibilities at school, work and or home
  • Uncharacteristic behavior (i.e. social isolation, unsafe conduct, etc.)

Has a conflict at work or home recently become more escalated?

Do you find yourself putting off things that are important?

Are you using drugs or alcohol regularly to help you cope?

Have your friends or family expressed concern?

If these signs are familiar, you may be experiencing the negative effects of substance misuse.
A healthy diet, regular exercise, seeking social support and using stress management techniques are healthier alternatives. Professional help is also available. For more information, call the National Help Line for Substance Abuse at (800) 262-2463 to discuss self-help or treatment options.

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