Problems Women Face in Recovery and How to Handle Them
Being a woman brings challenges that men will never understand.
We clutch our keys like knives when we walk to our cars. We cross the street from shady looking men. Naturally, a woman’s experience in recovery is different from a man’s experience.
Some things to consider about addiction and women:
- The gap is closing between the percentage of men who struggle with addiction and the percentage of women who struggle with addiction. Historically, more men have wrestled with addiction more than women. Today, the numbers are almost the same. Of course, this is not what we meant when we said we want equality with men. However, it is good that professionals are taking addiction in women more seriously. Nowadays, professionals are more likely to ask pertinent questions to find out if women struggle with addiction, whereas in the past they often assumed that their female patients didn’t struggle with drug or alcohol abuse.
- Women’s bodies process drugs differently than men’s bodies. People used to think that this was just because women are generally smaller than men, but it’s actually more complicated than that. Scientists have learned that women have less of a particular stomach enzyme that breaks down alcohol. Men also have less fatty tissue than women, which means that women’s bodies allow more substances into their bloodstream.
Scientists are still trying to figure out the psychological differences substances have on men versus women. It’s not clear exactly what they are, but there do appear to be differences. There are some often gender-specific aspects that keep women from seeking help.
Issues Faced by Women in Addiction
Specific issues women face when seeking treatment for substance use disorders include:
- Shame. Shame is a real experience for people of all genders in recovery, but many women live with facets of shame that many men don’t. One large area of shame for a lot of women is children. Mothers may experience intense shame for things they did (or didn’t do) to their children under the influence. Or perhaps mothers feel shame for leaving their children to get sober. Breastfeeding or pregnant mothers often feel an even deeper level of shame, fear, and guilt because what they do to their bodies directly affects their child’s body. This guilt can be magnified by the shame they receive from others in society.
- Practical Costs. In addition to shame, many mothers might carry child care responsibilities, income considerations, or custody battles. Common questions women face include: Who will watch my kids if I go to rehab? Will I lose custody of my kids if I seek help for my addiction?
- Addiction Can Overlap with Other Issues. Addiction can become amplified with eating disorders, codependence on a partner, or abuse. Of course, these issues don’t only affect women, but, sadly, these issues tend to affect women’s lives more than men. This article doesn’t even touch on all of potential issues LGBTQ women might face.
All of these issues are real and complex, but there is not a set of rules that will fix these problems for every woman. For example, some women feel they need a gender-specific support group, while others are comfortable in recovery groups with both men and women.
The Good News: Women Have Strengths That Help Them in Addiction
Women typically move quicker through recovery than men. This is because women are often more relational and emotional—two very key attributes to a successful recovery.
In recovery, physical strength doesn’t help much. Neither does intellect. But being able to feel deeply, process through why things have happened, and leaning on others for support is a vital part of getting sober.
So, if you are a woman in recovery, be encouraged. You are part of a strong gender. You can do this.
If you know you need help, but have yet to seek professional help, licensed medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nurses at Victory Addiction Recovery Center’s detoxification program can help you. Professionals are on the clock 24-hours a day, seven days a week. They will guide you through the specific issues you have as a woman with a substance use disorder and provide the resources necessary for recovery.
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