This great piece of divorce advice was told to me by a well known therapist who specializes in addiction: When people are going through a divorce, especially at the beginning, they are susceptible to addictions.
People who are newly separated experience all kinds of emotions. They can feel anxious, scared, nervous, angry, depressed and traumatized. And so they sometimes try to numb those things, and other things causing them pain with drugs, sex, gambling, alcohol and other habits that can become addicting.
I can attest to the alcohol part. I've never been a big drinker, but when I got separated, during the first few weeks, I frequently felt like I wanted to drink. I would drink at home when my young kids were at my soon-to-be ex's new house, and after a couple glasses of wine, I would either fall asleep, eat a huge meal, or text and call my girlfriends.
I also started going out to bars a lot. I met a friend who was also getting divorced (who now happens to be one of my closest friends) and we would go out and have a few drinks pretty much every week.
One night, we went to a party, and I had probably had about a glass and a half of wine, which is a lot for me, coupled with the fact that I hadn't eaten anything all day (that was typical in those days. Did I mention I was really skinny back then?) Anyhow, my babysitter called and told me that my then 4 year old daughter had just thrown up. I think it was about 9 pm.
Freaking out with worry, I rushed out of the bar, got in my car, and made a u-turn to get home quickly. The next thing I saw made my heart stop. Cop car lights pulling me over.
My heart was pounding. Was I drunk? I didn't feel drunk, but I did have a couple drinks and no food. Was I going to have to take a sobriety test? Was I going to end up spending the night in jail? I was paralyzed with fear, and all I wanted to do was get home to my kids.
I pulled over and waited for the cop, promising to God that if He would let me off the hook, I would never, ever drink and drive again.
"May I see your Driver's license and insurance card please?" the cop asked.
"Sure." I handed the documents to him and my hands were shaking. 'Please God, please God...I can't go to jail. I can't lose my children...'
I cleared my throat. "Officer, my babysitter just called and my four year old just threw up. That's why I was rushing to get home. I really, really, really need to get to her. If you'd like, you can come with me so you can see that I'm not lying."
The cop took a deep breath, handed me back my license and said, "Please be careful." Then he walked back to his car and got in.
Being as dramatic as I am, one would think I would have burst into tears, and that did happen, but not before I drove about 20 miles an hour home, paid the sitter, and tended to my little girl, all the while saying in my head, 'Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God.'
I will never know if I'd have passed a sobriety test. What I do know is since that night, I have never had more than one glass of wine and driven a car, and I never will. Ever again.
I am urging anyone going through a divorce to please be careful. It's not worth it. Water tastes just as good as wine when you are having a good time. If you do want to have a drink, please eat something, and then have a huge glass of water or coffee.
Alcoholism can creep up on you, and then you end up with two problems: a divorce problem and a drinking problem.
Same divorce advice goes to anything people tend to do in excess: drugs, sex, gambling. When we are hurting, we want to soothe our pain, and so we medicate with something.
If you feel like you need real medication, i.e. anti-anxiety drugs, there is no shame in it. NONE. You might only need them temporarily. People don't advertise it, but a lot of people you know are taking them. So, don't feel like you are weaker than everyone else if you need them.
Additionally, there are so many wonderful, productive ways to soothe the pain of a divorce. Here are 20 ways:
1. Talk therapy
7. Girlfriends and coffee!
8. Exercise-strength training and cardio, particularly kickbox
9. Knitting/needlepoint/jewelry making/other crafts
10. Watching funny movies
11. Watching Homeland
14. Hugging your kids
15. Taking a course/going back to school
18. Music/live or just listening to your iPod
20. Shopping (watch the spending, though!)
These are all temporary, of course. The best divorce advice I can give is: let time go by because that's the biggest factor in healing, in my opinion. But in the meantime, stay out of trouble, meaning minimize drinking, and instead do good things for yourself, your career, and your children.
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of the blog, Divorced Girl Smiling. She is also the author of the comedic novel, FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE about life after divorce. Ms. Pilossoph is a weekly business features reporter and columnist for Sun-Times Media. She lives in Chicago with her two kids. And she's divorced (obviously.)