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I’ve watched friends get divorced and friends get sober, and it’s always surprising to me how much the recovery process is the same. Those first several months, it can be a struggle to make it through each day. For the alcoholic, the overwhelming urge is to take that drink. For the person getting divorced, the urge is to give into anger, revenge and blame. Both people know that such behavior will sabotage themselves. . . but that’s the addictive quality of alcohol and human emotions – the pull is so great that sometimes self-destructive acts triumph over rational thought.
I’ve often thought that if divorce court were run like Alcoholics Anonymous, it would be an entirely different experience – and one with better outcomes. Everyone would attend meetings, surrounded by other couples struggling with the same issues. The newly-separated would be inspired by the long-timers who have reached the light at the end of the tunnel. The speakers would share their inspirational message of hope, telling of the positive life changes that came out of their divorce. They would speak of how the temptation to lash out at their ex is still there, but it is easier now to walk away.
Everyone would be given a sponsor, someone you can call day or night when you’re feeling weak, or when you are about to walk into a settlement meeting with your spouse. Finally, at your one-year mark, you’d stand up and be honored for having made it through one of the most difficult years of your life.
You’d be given all the same slogans too – “This Too Shall Pass,” “Fake It Till You Make It,” and – my own personal favorite – the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
I tell my clients these very same things: “This is not the end of your life, even though it feels like it right now.” – “Try to keep it together around the children even if you have to fake it.” – “You can’t control your spouse’s behavior – just focus on your own actions.”
Although this is a far cry from the legal system we have today, you can still choose to follow this model. The main thing it requires is for you to wake up each day and say, “I’m not going to give into anger, revenge and blame,” the same way the alcoholic wakes up each day and says “I’m not going to take that drink.” Granted, it’s much easier said than done, but we’ve all known courageous people who did it – whether in sobriety or divorce.
My “12 Steps for Divorce”© read like this:
© 2011 by Alison Patton; originally published on Huffington Post
Have a question about divorce? Want more information about a particular topic? Email Alison@LemonadeDivorce.com. Frequently asked questions will be selected as topics for future articles or for published Q&A. If you prefer anonymity, please specify and your name will be withheld.
Alison Patton is a licensed family law attorney and mediator, and a resident of San Diego for fifteen years. Her specialty is providing low-cost, low-conflict divorce mediation and legal services for people who want to get through the divorce process quickly, affordably and without setting foot in court. She writes about divorce for Huffington Post and on her blog, LemonadeDivorce.com.
Originally from San Francisco, Alison graduated with highest honors from UC Berkeley and UC Hastings School of Law and was on Hastings Law Review. She handled litigation in the areas of family law, paternity, domestic violence and guardianship. She was named San Francisco Pro Bono Family Lawyer of the Year and received the Wiley Manuel Pro Bono Service Award from the State of California.
In her spare time, Alison plays the guitar and enjoys cooking. She lives in a cozy and crowded little house with her husband, two children and a menagerie of pets.