Common vices. We all have them. We divorced folks almost inadvertently end up with our chosen addiction. Be it illicit drug use, an alcohol affinity, sex, overeating, or a newfound fondness for nicotine and nicotine accessories, there’s always something. Vices are common, but they don’t have to be a permanent part of our lives.

I’ve had a running theory for quite some time. We arrive here because of where we ended up – because of the aftermath. Once whole and now halves, we leave pieces of ourselves in our failed relationships. Being split in half hurts. Our addictions make the pain tolerable.

Being split in half hurts. Our addictions make the pain tolerable.

But, are common vices healthy? Certainly not. Each of these leads to our demise at some point. But what if it didn’t have to? What if we gave in to our neuroses and let them exist in a controlled environment of our existence? Can it be done?

You Aren’t the Only One Affected

The reality is we don’t live in a controlled environment. The term functional addict doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a temporary state that exists as part of a permanent problem. There aren’t rules governing who can and cannot live this way. And it’s our kids who end up carrying the burden.

Children of Addicts

Prenatal and postnatal exposure to alcohol or other substances are forms of maltreatment and can inflict lifelong trauma on a child. Such trauma can hinder development and impede learning abilities and cognition.

As a youngin’ grows, they depend on us for stability and a source of constant learning. I’ve said it before, we are their first teachers! Kids mimic what they see around them. They become our actions. Kids of addicts sometimes grow up and become addicts themselves. They can experience things like:

  • Conflict
  • Mood swings
  • Unpredictability

Even when the addicted parent isn’t physically or emotionally abusive, they tend to be focused on the next fix when they should be worrying about their offspring.

Societal Issues

When it comes to drug abuse, it impacts all of society on multiple levels. Directly or not, communities are impacted by drug abuse. NIDA, the National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that drug addiction costs the US an estimated $484 billion each year.

Society pays a significant cost due to other factors, too. Things you wouldn’t ordinarily think about, like lost productivity, job losses, and spent opportunities impact the economy and can affect home sales and debt.

Loss of Income/Productivity

Addicts frequently experience problems at work that endanger job stability and limit their abilities. Chronic substance abusers miss work frequently. They miss out on promotions that could improve their financial situations.

Over time, that lost income translates into missed opportunities (like a lack of educational funding) for their children.

The Mind-Blowing Financial Impact of Common Vices

It’s not just drugs, either. An alcoholic who drinks two cheap sixers a day spends, what, like $9 to support a habit? Expand that rate of consumption to a month and you’re looking at $36. At a year, you’re facing $432 peed away down the toilet!

Nicotine addicts with a-pack-a-day habit blow upwards of $2,000 per year on cigarettes. Heavier users bear costs that can reach or even exceed $6,000 per year. Illicit drugs can be harder to tally up. But some estimates put the total somewhere around:

  • $1,000 for marijuana
  • $4,000 for methamphetamine
  • $10,000 for heroin/cocaine

Mind you, these estimates aren’t taking other vices like gambling and sex addiction into account. Add these factors in, and there’s just no telling what it could cost a habitual user.

Insurance Costs

Health problems go hand-in-hand with addicts of all kinds. Common vices, like smoking, directly lead to increased health insurance premiums. In addition, addiction in general can produce a state of euphoria leading those under the influence of a good fix to feel invincible and take risks they wouldn’t ordinarily take like driving recklessly.

Addiction Alternatives

We’ve all heard that things like regular exercise are positive forms of addiction that add value to someone’s health. And it’s true.

The term positive addiction was coined by William Glasser in his book by the same name. He focused in on activities like running and meditating, though he offers many other examples from the experiences of others.

Glasser claims that positive addictions work in ways that, “…strengthen us and make our lives more satisfying,” thus enriching our overall happiness and health.

For an activity to be considered a positive action, it must:

  1. Be a noncompetitive activity to which you could devote an hour or so each day
  2. Not require much mental exertion
  3. Be done alone and be something you don’t depend on others to do
  4. Have physical, spiritual, or mental value to you
  5. Allow you to improve your ability with practice
  6. Not give you room to criticize yourself or your performance – otherwise, you won’t consider it addicting

Positive actions remain confined within a time frame. From your perspective, it should feel like time you’ve allocated to perform those duties. The beneficial consequences will spill over into your life right away, but the activity itself must remain locked up within a scheduled allotment of time. Jogging is a great example.

The more people identify with positive actions, the better off they’ll be. It’s a way to introduce a substitution for an unhealthy activity, allowing it to become a source of hope.

Positive Addictions Work

And there’s some real science behind it too! In 2008, NIDA pledged $4 million to look into and study the effect of physical activity on drug use. Other researchers have published a wealth of studies on the subject.

Physical exertion causes the brain to release endorphins which create a type of euphoria not unlike that experienced by drug users. Caused by a similar surge of dopamine, it can produce similar effects on the brain. It’s a healthier way to self-medicate with a productive activity.

Choosing Your Vices Wisely

As members of the divorced population our vices are inevitable. Be it food, drugs, booze, or getting laid, we end up picking one. Generally speaking, rarely are the vices we choose ever healthy or productive. They’re, in fact, almost always counterproductive and very un-healthy.

They can affect those around us in addition to ourselves. Overall, the costs of carrying on with a vice post-divorce affects more than we care to admit, but those costs are felt by the public at large. Everyone pays for it.

Choosing Hope

But there are alternatives. Taking a healthier approach isn’t always easy. It requires plenty of work. Given the right support, an addict could and should take up a hobby and diligently take the necessary time to fulfill the activity.

Choosing something non-competitive that can be done alone (like running, cycling, or meditating) while having a wholehearted belief that persistence will improve performance will help by making it more appealing.

A positive action doesn’t dominate or challenge your life. It simply adds a purpose, and a way for you to spend energy in an avenue conducive to your overall well-being. We’re all addicts in some way, but positive actions put good use to our need for vices.

We all struggle with things like weight management, smoking, or alcohol use (to name a few common vices). Would you consider adding a positive addiction to your daily routine? How would you incorporate it specifically? Let us know in the comments!

Recovery takes many forms. Get solid advice from expert Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA on How to Begin Recovering Financially After a Divorce.

It’s all about choices, right? See what it looks like from a child’s perspective in a Daughter’s Letter to Her Estranged Father, Choosing Your Stuff or Choosing Your Kids, by Jennifer Hutto.

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