Overcoming Gender Specific Challenges for Women Getting Sober

No matter your gender, making the decision to begin the road to recovery is incredibly difficult. Early recovery can bring a number of difficult experiences along with it, and can cause past traumas and feelings of shame and inadequacy to surface; all of this in addition to the cravings can be difficult to overcome and manage as well. For women, though, there are unique challenges that can make it even more complex to achieve sustained sobriety.

Previous Trauma and Abuse

Experts estimate that women that experience addiction are often the victims of physical or sexual abuse. As many as 75% of women that experience chemical dependency may have been or may currently be victims of this type of trauma. These traumatic experiences can contribute to future drug experimentation and eventual addiction. In general, women report using drugs and alcohol as a means to manage depression and other negative emotions, where men, in comparison, are much more likely to report using drugs and alcohol as a social activity.  Trauma and abuse that is unresolved can also contribute to higher rates of relapse, which is why, statistically, women are somewhat more likely to struggle with relapse when it comes to drug and alcohol dependency.

Clarity House Sober Living works closely with Clear Recovery Center, a local outpatient treatment facility that specializes in helping its clients deal with, and resolve traumatic experiences.

The Pressure to Be Perfect

While women are much more likely to experience violent and exploitative types of trauma, women can also experience trauma that is the result of feeling inadequate. Women are expected to juggle many different roles, including those of exceptional mother, intentional friend, reliable daughter, acceptable wife, dedicated employee, and many others. Women also experience large amounts of social pressure related to their appearance and perceived morality. A large number of women often try to create the perfect image of themselves, both internally and externally, and quickly burn out. Turning to drugs and alcohol can often be the result of trying to connect with something that can be controlled and can also be the result of needing something to turn to when the pressure becomes too much.

At Clarity House Sober Living, there is a focus on getting in touch with and becoming ok with the real you.

Physical Barriers

In general, women tend to require lower amounts of drugs and alcohol to become intoxicated. This can lead to a higher rate of addiction, overdose, and fatality. Because of these physiological differences, women are more likely to experience addiction after initially casually experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol. This rapid decline from casual use to addiction can mean that women may experience more severe physical and psychological symptoms of addiction. Additionally, according to drugabuse.gov, “scientists who study substance use have discovered special issues related to hormones, menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause that can impact women’s struggles with drug use”. Addiction is an illness that requires professional support, and when an illness is more severe, it typically requires larger amounts of expert care. Women that experience addiction are more likely to experience a greater need for (and greater benefit from) professional support in order to overcome their addiction.

Motherhood and Shame

Many women who experience addiction are also mothers. In society today, women are continually seen as the primary parents and continue to be expected to be model parents that are always willing to put the needs of their children above their own. Some women, because of societal pressure or their own interests, are able to “live up” to this stereotype. On the other hand, there are some women that are never able to fit into the perfect “model” expectation and find themselves at odds with their children. Women from both walks of life are at risk for falling into patterns of drug or alcohol addiction, either because of the immense pressure and stress that motherhood can place onto a person or because of the shame and disconnectedness that can accompany not fitting into the “perfect mother” mold.

Regardless of exactly what a mother struggling with addiction may identify as the rationale for why exactly they became addicted to drugs or alcohol in the first place, almost all mothers that do experience addiction struggle with a deep sense of shame. Often, they feel that they have let their children down and begin to feel worthless and unlovable. The shame they experience can often lead to continued and sometimes even increased levels of use of drugs or alcohol, which only works to further the cycle of shame and substance abuse.

What Should Women Do In Recovery?

The reality is that while it can be difficult for anyone to overcome the obstacles that often block the road to sobriety, women are much more likely to encounter additional, complex layers of difficulties that can make it even more difficult for them to reach their sobriety goals. Women who are interested in making a new commitment to their sobriety should definitely consider connecting with treatment resources that can provide one or all of the following types of support:

Comprehensive Recovery Programs

Many drug and alcohol recovery programs are able to provide complete comprehensive care for admitted individuals struggling with addiction. This means that the programs are specially designed to provide holistic care in order to increase successful outcomes when it comes to sustained sobriety for participants of the program. These programs will work to address all aspects of an individual’s wellness experience, including physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, and interpersonal relationship wellness. Programs that are able to address all the different aspects of health and wellness as it relates to addiction are particularly valuable to women because they help to provide a whole-person healing experience. Participants in these types of programs will have the opportunity to connect with counseling and therapy professionals, create an ideal nutrition and exercise plan, will address any additional health problems, will participate in family counseling, and will have the opportunity to address their spiritual health with both religious and nonreligious personnel that are committed to helping individuals impacted by chemical dependency to connect to a larger sense of self and connectedness.

Single Gender Recovery Options

Single-gender recovery programs are available for both women and men. Women often benefit from programs where their peers are only women for several different reasons. First, the reality that women are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence can create a general feeling of distrust and wariness when it comes to connecting with peers. Living and recovering in a women’s only program can help individuals that have struggled with this type of abuse connect with other individuals who better understand their plight and how drug and alcohol abuse can play a supporting role in their previous trauma. Living in a single gender facility also helps to eliminate the potential distraction of emotional and sexual relationships with other men in the program. Many women that struggle with addiction also have difficulty with codependent relationships. Eliminating the temptation to begin an unhealthy romantic relationship during treatment can increase the likelihood that women will be able to reach their recovery goals.

In general, women also tend to have different patterns of use when it comes to drugs and alcohol. According to SAMHSA, women are more likely to abuse prescription medications like painkillers and are more likely to end up experiencing addiction after casual experimentation. Women only recovery programs can work to address these specific experiences as they relate to patterns of use. Women in single-gender programs will also be able to connect with other women with similar experiences. This immediate connection and similarity can help women to open up more quickly in group therapy sessions, and can also lead to better peer support and encouragement towards long-term sobriety and recovery.

Options for Family Involvement

Because many women either have close relationships or desire to have close relationships with their loved ones and family members, there can be tremendous value in enrolling in a recovery program that can provide support for family members as well. Women that struggle with chemical dependency very often experience shame because of their lack of control over their addiction. This shame can lead to isolating behaviors and a general avoidance of close friends and family members. Some recovery programs are able to provide family therapy and family skills groups for loved ones who desire to provide support for and maintain relationships with women who have suffered from the disease of addiction. Families may have the opportunity to work with licensed professional counseling staff in order to build appropriate boundaries for the future, better understand the past hurt and disappointment that comes along with loving someone that struggles with addiction and express their grievances in a healthy and productive way. Some recovery programs are even able to provide family skills groups, where groups of individuals that have experienced addiction in a loved one can get together in order to provide peer support to one another and work on the skills that are required when working to support individuals struggling with chemical dependency.

If you or a woman you know is in need of support to reclaim their lives and achieve a future free from drugs or alcohol, contact the compassionate staff at Clarity House Sober Living today. Our expert staff can help you to find a program that is best for you.