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Divorce and Addiction – a strong connection

The statistical connection between addiction and divorce has been estimated to be staggering – some sources have concluded that families struggling with issues of addiction are four times more likely to face divorce.  On a personal level, addicts may leave a marriage because the home is no longer a comfortable place to use alcohol or drugs; a non-using spouse may leave based upon months or years of living with deception and failed promises.


Families which face addiction issues, however, may be unaware of a profound truth which has come to be recognized by professionals in the recovery community:   addiction is a disease of thought which affects the entire family.   Some professionals describe addiction as a powerful aversion to uncomfortable feelings, situations and circumstances (see David Lee on‎).  Addicts develop great skill at avoiding this discomfort by every means possible, including the emotional manipulation of those who love them.  They can keep their loved ones going around in circles to insulate themselves from the consequences of this avoidance.  This is accomplished through tactics of creating fear, fostering sympathy, expressions of anger and blaming others, or even a manipulative use of hope – all to keep things going along the same – in circles.  It’s as if addicts are masterful conductors of an overly dramatic and dissonant family symphony.


Faced with these very stable but very unhealthy family dynamics, it’s important for family members of addicts to get help of their own, before they can expect things to change.  Establishing solid personal boundaries strong enough to withstand the dramatic emotional ups and downs of the addict they love must frequently come first – before intervention or potential recovery can occur.


The Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota recognizes that a high percentage of divorcing families are affected by these issues, both in the immediate family, and also in the extended family of origin.  Educational meetings are available within the Collaborative Divorce Process to give families the kind of information they need to create a more solid foundation for recovery, beyond any divorce proceeding.  Recovery professionals from well respected organizations such as The Retreat in Wayzata ( will make themselves available to families for these informational meetings as part of the Collaborative Divorce Process, at the offices of the Collaborative Alliance (3300 Edinborough Way #550, Edina, MN  55435).


Contact Judy Johnson at  (952-405-2015) if you would like to learn more about this resource for families.