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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

02-10-16 | By

The 5 Hurdles Facing Women In Recovery

5 Hurdles

Those who are on the path and journey of recovery know that the journey in of itself is ongoing and can provide its’ share of formidable challenges.  This is especially true of the journey that women undertake on the road to long-term sobriety and recovery.  While both men and women face similar challenges in recovery such as detoxing, rebuilding relationships, and regaining both physical and mental health, women who are in recovery face unique challenges. The following are five hurdles facing women in recovery .

Trauma and Abuse

It is estimated that approximately 75% of women who have past substance abuse issues had a history of physical and /or sexual abuse.  Women in recovery may have heavy baggage when it comes to dealing with past abuse because in comparison to males, women who were or are chemically dependent have more perpetrators in regards to who had abused them, more frequency when it came to abuse and had endured abuse for longer periods of time.

In order to move forward in recovery, women who embrace sobriety must learn to embrace safety and finding places (such as women’s self-help groups for example) where they can feel safe and empowered to confront the past, mourn the events and what had transpired and most important learn to reconnect with their true selves.

Dual Diagnosis

The presence of co-occurring mental disorders and addiction is common across all demographic groups.  Women who are recovering from substance abuse commonly experience the following mental disorders:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar

For women, finding a treatment center that has emphasis on the assessment, evaluation and subsequent of co-occurring disorders is crucial for long-term recovery outcomes. Additionally, women also need to find treatment and aftercare facilities that have the focus on the unique needs that women have regarding recovery, which is less punitive based and more towards empowerment and self-reliance.

Process Addictions

In the process of working through the early stages of recovery, women who are newly sober may experience feelings that are very visceral and as a result women may feel difficulty in coping with these new feelings. In order to cope, women may transfer or switch addictions in order to rationalize or cover up feelings. The phenomenon of crossing addictions is another one of the major hurdles facing women in recovery and can include food, sex, work and shopping among others. The key to stopping these potential cross-addictions for women in recovery is for women to have the proper avenues to divulge and discuss these raw feelings. Having access to effective therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy may be good options.


What women come into recovery, they commonly had previous partners that were substance abusers and the width and breath of their relationships were tied to drug use. Therefore, women who are new to recovery often view drugs in terms of relationships. Being involved in a deep or more romantic relationship while new in recovery takes the focus away from self. If the relationship turns bad, the emotional distress of that relationship will significantly impact recovery. It is crucial that women new to recovery focus on themselves first and establish stability within themselves and avoid the emotional rollercoaster of a relationship.

The “Superwoman” Complex

Women have a lot on their plates. Maintaining a household, taking care of children, being a wife, and maintaining their career is a lot to juggle. When women who are sober complete treatment they might feel pressure to fall back into their routines. The expectations of being a good wife, mother and career woman can place undue burdens on those who are new to recovery. If there is no support or help, women in recovery are at risk of falling back into a stressful life and relapse.

It is Important That Women Find Treatment That Addresses Their Specific Needs

For women who are struggling with substance abuse, there are often significant barriers that lie between them and the appropriate help they need. Some of those barriers include a lack of financial resources, social isolation and as well as the complex connections between addiction and intimate relationships.

There are an increasing number of gender specific drug treatment programs that have been established that focus on the specific needs of women. For example, many of these facilities help provide childcare services as well as other financial resources for women who are in treatment. One of the common hurdles facing women in recovery is the fact that many treatment programs have been designed and tested on male populations. These programs often take a disciplinary approach, and the punitive measures that are employed in traditional drug treatment programs may not allow women to truly examine the underlying causes of their addiction in a supportive environment.

As a result, many gender specific treatment facilities that are geared for women allow their clients to feel safe in expressing the guilt and shame they feel in regards to their substance abuse. Additionally, these treatment facilities emphasize group therapy and interaction where each person can feel the support and encouragement of the group itself and feel a sense of empowerment when addressing their individual issues and making the move towards change.

Additionally–and ideally–women must be able to find treatment facilities in which women are a significant part of both treatment staff and administration. Having female staff in this important positions can provide those in treatment the role models they need to move towards recovery with more confidence.


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