Starting the road to recovery can seem insurmountable. For women in recovery there are special considerations. Certain stigmas, and barrier can exist if you If you or someone you love are in the process of recovery here are some things that will be helpful to keep in mind as you move through the process.
In 2020 many news sources cited that alcohol related death rates have nearly doubled, the largest among those being women. While overdose deaths increased in all categories which includes illegal drugs and prescription drugs such as opioids. It is no doubt that there is a crisis at hand, and it helps to take a look at why women can be at greater risk and what steps we can take to better tailor treatment to meet these needs.
While addiction carries no gender bias, recovery can particularly tricky for women. In many circles the underlying message is that women should hide their addiction, from their families, partner, or friends. Women are judged more harshly for DUI’s, jail-time and mandated treatment. Society still holds different standards for men, leaving women often not getting the support and treatment they need. While the trends are changing women can still be seen to have more barriers to addiction treatment than men.
Shame and Guilt
Holding on to shame and guilt around substance abuse behaviors is particularly common for women. This plays into societal standards of being the good daughter, partner, wife or mother. Women are supposed to show up, be present and at all costs behave appropriately. Women are often relied on to be the emotional mooring for their families and when that doesn’t happen, they feel great shame and responsibility to roles unmet. In addition, certain religious or ethnic communities might overtly or covertly amplify shame and encourage isolation.
Addiction often walks hand in hand with trauma. Psychology Today states that, “Women are exposed more often to certain types of trauma that can fuel drug abuse. For example, interpersonal violence can play a significant role in how and why women fall into addiction.” Often barriers to treatment for this trauma leave women alone to medicate internal pain.
Barriers to Treatment
There are several reasons why women may not be able to enter treatment. Lower earning potential may lead to stricter financial circumstances, family obligations or inability to secure leave from work. A woman may be a single mother caring for dependent children, not have access to insurance that covers sufficient treatment and may also have comorbid mental health, health and substance abuse issues that make treatment more complex.
Considerations for Support
An important first step is admitting you need help and beginning to break down the barriers of shame. Joining a recovery support group can assist women in finding others who have been where they have and come out stronger. Finding the right professional help to support your journey is also key.
Build a support system that believes in your strengths and resilience. Not only do we need accountability but in all honesty, we need a cheerleader. For a lifetime a woman may have received messages that they were incapable or less than, which is completely false. At a time when you may be most vulnerable, choose others who lift you up.
More than anything women need community. Even the most introverted of women seems to benefit from community support. Whether you find that online or in person a women’s need to process feelings and emotions in the presence of another can be a powerful step in healing.
Know that you are worth it. You are seen and heard. Sober support groups for women are only getting stronger. If you feel like you are struggling with substance abuse, seek help. There is an abundance of resources waiting for you. You are not alone.