Both men and women each face challenges when it comes to overcoming addiction and beginning a new life in recovery. However, women statistically struggle to recover from addiction more than men. Why is this, and what needs must be addressed so that women can succeed at sobriety?
Women respond differently than men to drugs and alcohol. This is largely to do with the physiological differences between genders. Women require less drugs and alcohol to become intoxicated, experience adverse reactions more rapidly and severely, and become physically and psychologically dependent faster than men do. Hormones play a part in addiction for women. Menstrual cycles, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause all impact addiction and the effects of substance abuse.
While these physiological differences are significant, they are only a small part of the hurdles that women face.
How Addiction Impacts Women
Addiction is a huge struggle, whether you are male or female. For women, there are struggles that are unique to them or are more pronounced. For example, while both sexes often experience violence as a result of addiction, women are much more likely to suffer from domestic violence as well as sexual violence, assault, and exploitation.
Because of societal expectations around women and sexual behavior, intense guilt and shame often keep women continuing to use.
Women often have different motivations for substance abuse than men. Men are more likely to use substances as a social activity, where women are more likely to turn to substances as a response to negative feelings or to self-medicate depression or trauma.
Mothers And Addiction
Women are often the primary caregivers of children. Even when both parents are using, the women will often have parental rights terminated before the man. Again, societal expectations of women means that there is far more stigma and judgment attached to mothers with substance abuse disorder than fathers.
For women who are dealing with the loss of custody of their children, whether temporary or permanent, the grief, loss, shame and guilt can feel like too much to bear. The reactions of family and friends may be incredibly judgmental and only add to these feelings.
Women who experience trauma, depression, anxiety or other mental disorders are less likely to receive help or ask for help. Employers are less likely to offer female employees treatment. Women who are stay-at-home mothers often lack the resources, education or support to get into treatment and achieve sobriety.
Women And Recovery
Despite the many hurdles faced by women, recovery does happen. The struggles do continue, however. Continued issues with self-esteem, self-worth, lack of confidence and lack of support and services can make staying sober difficult.
Even in recovery, attitudes and expectations about women, addiction and how women should behave makes their way into the minds of people in twelve-step programs. These attitudes and the behaviors they cause can make it difficult for women to feel safe and supported in the recovery environment. It’s especially important that women seek each other out for support in early recovery, and avoid unhealthy relationships and situations that could lead them to relapse.
Statistically, women relapse more frequently than men. This is often due to untreated trauma and other mental illness, or due to unhealthy, toxic relationships with people who are still using. Guilt and shame also play a role in relapse, and for mothers of children and women who have been sexually exploited, this guilt and shame can be a particularly powerful force.
Another issue that women face in recovery is trying to find time for recovery and caring for children. Because women are often single mothers or the primary caregivers of children, their responsibilities may make it more difficult to concentrate on their recovery and take care of themselves.
Helping Women Recover
Given the differences in addiction and recovery between men and women, it’s important that women take a different approach to healing. One way this can happen is through treatment that is geared specifically toward women.
Co-ed addiction treatment facilities don’t always address the unique needs and challenges that women face. Not too long ago, there was little to no attention or research given to women’s addiction and recovery. Treatment programs were created for men, not women. While women attend these rehabs, their needs are often not addressed.
A women’s treatment center solves this problem, as well as others. Women in co-ed treatment centers often don’t feel safe. A women-only treatment center allows for healing and recovery in a safe and secure environment. Programs created for women can address issues around guilt and shame, trauma recovery, parenting, self-esteem, and self-worth while addressing the addiction and teaching tools that allow women to develop confidence and self-sufficiency.
Get Help For Addiction
If you are a woman struggling with substance abuse disorder, Wayside House can help. Our program is created for women age 18 and older, and our treatments and therapies are specifically designed with you in mind. We offer a safe, secure and serene environment that promotes healing and a sense of community. For more information about Wayside House, call 800-655-0817 to learn more.