Alcohol abuse is an addiction that can impact many areas of a person’s life, and none more so than their own family. The link between alcohol abuse and divorce is supported by scientific evidence; the stark data shows that a consumption increase of 1 liter of alcohol per capita brings about an increase in the divorce rate of about 20%.

The recent divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie came as a shock to their fans, and the rumour mill went into overdrive. Recently, Brad Pitt explained his part in the divorce – and the fact that alcohol abuse played a large part in the demise of his marriage.

“I stopped everything except boozing when I started my family. But even this last year, you know—things I wasn’t dealing with. I was boozing too much. It’s just become a problem. And I’m really happy it’s been half a year now, which is bittersweet, but I’ve got my feelings in my fingertips again. I mean, we have a winery. I enjoy wine very, very much, but I just ran it to the ground. I had to step away for a minute. And truthfully I could drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka. I was a professional. I was good.”

Research Links Alcohol Abuse and Divorce

alcohol abuse, divorce, separationIn a study published in May 2014 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers from the University of Michigan used information from a nationwide endeavor called the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to compare the divorce rates for people with diagnosable alcohol use disorder to the divorce rates for people unaffected by this condition. The researchers also looked at some of the underlying factors that can increase or decrease the odds of going through a divorce.

Overall, the researchers concluded, nearly half (48.3%) of the study participants with a past or present case of alcohol use disorder got divorced at some point in their lives. Between the first and second waves of the survey, the divorce rate for these individuals was 15.5%. Between the first and second waves of NESARC, individuals unaffected by alcohol use disorder had a divorce rate of just 4.8%.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 49 per cent of women who had experienced an assault in the preceding 12 months where the perpetrator was male, stated that alcohol or drugs had contributed to the most recent incident. Consistent with most other studies of marriage breakdown, research consistently finds that alcohol abuse results in approximately 7.4% of all marriage breakdowns. Other statistics show11 per cent of women and 3 per cent of men reported alcohol or drug abuse as the main reason for divorce.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Under terms established by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorder is defined by the presence of at least two out of 11 potential symptoms that indicate a damaging, non-addicted relationship to alcohol consumption and/or physical alcohol dependence and alcoholism. Creation of this definition represents a fundamental alteration of the long-held belief that the symptoms of non-addicted abuse constitute a separate issue from the symptoms of alcoholism.

Findings strongly indicate that no such distinct division exists, and any given person affected by alcohol dependence can easily have other symptoms usually linked to alcohol abuse (or vice versa).

Why Alcohol Abuse Is Hidden

alcohol abuse, divorce, separationAlcohol Use Disorder or alcoholism is the monster in the closet. It is the “thing” for which spouses and children make excuses to keep the monster hidden. What is often the most difficult aspect of divorce for the spouse of an alcoholic is opening the door to the closet and letting the monster come out. A spouse’s alcoholism may not be an issue if minor children are not part of a divorce; however, it is a significant issue when minor children are involved.

Generally, there is a huge amount of guilt involved when the spouse of an alcoholic seriously considers divorce, especially when what the spouse really wants is for the alcoholic to seek help. Whether a spouse is an alcoholic or not, one of the hardest lessons to learn is that the only person you can control is yourself, and if an alcoholic refuses to help him or herself, you have to protect yourself and your children. If you are considering divorce and are married to someone who is dependent on alcohol, you have to stop covering it up. This doesn’t mean you should start making overt statements about your spouse’s problems with alcohol, but rather you should not hide it.

It’s also important to seek the assistance of a mental health professional for yourself and children, if applicable. You will most likely have plenty of blame thrown at you from your alcoholic spouse, including being the cause of his or her need for alcohol. The input you receive from a mental health professional will allow you to process what’s happening without having your guilt control your reaction. It will also allow your children the opportunity to freely express themselves without the concern that they are being disloyal to the other parent.

You may have concerns about an alcoholic spouse in terms of parenting, and it’s important to get legal advice in this situation to determine the best course of action.

Do you need advice in relation to divorce and family law? Phillipa Kingswell is an Accredited Specialist in Family Law and offers friendly, expert advice. Contact us for your free, 10-minute phone consultation today.