As women, we have always known and felt the anxieties we face in society. We feel pressured to look and act a certain way and to feel less than whole if we are without a partner, wedding ring, or child. We have to be thin, have great style, and be able to pull it all off while still finding time to focus on our careers, families, and friends. It’s no wonder my news feed is constantly bombarded with women patiently awaiting their end of the day wine.
With all of the external pressure we feel to fit in and conform to the mold, many of us are left with self-esteem issues, depression, eating disorders, you name it. The anxieties we face are often some of the main reasons most of us pick up a drink or a drug in the first place.
Many studies have been performed on the differences of addiction in men and women and the results have been eye-opening to me. For example, according to Harvard Health Publications,
- When it comes to alcohol, women tend to weigh less than men and have more fatty tissue. Alcohol is absorbed faster into fat cells, so we tend to get drunk faster. We also lack the level of enzymes that break down alcohol in our system, which means our bloodstreams absorb more alcohol than men.
- With stimulants, women have been found to not only start at a younger age, but can develop cravings according to our menstrual cycles, and are more easily triggered by mental cues.
- With opioids, women are more commonly prescribed painkillers than men because we are more commonly diagnosed with chronic pain such an endometriosis, fibromyalgia, etc.
As if our hormones weren’t annoying enough already! In addition, women with anxiety also tend to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol more than men, so not only are we failing to deal with the issues at hand, we are covering them up and usually only making them worse.
With the rise of anti-anxiety and depression medications, overdose rates in women have skyrocketed in the last 20 years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, somewhere over 4 million women, and that is just the reported ones, are facing a drug or alcohol addiction. The troublesome part, however, is that many feel they cannot get help due to outside pressure such as:
- They don’t want to abandon their children and families
- They are told their addiction is actually just a symptom of a chemical imbalance and get prescribed medications instead.
- They are too ashamed and embarrassed to ask for help.
- They don’t want to feel excluded from their normal routines and friends or family.
In our society, it is pretty much the norm for mothers to get together and drink while the kids play. We all know how common it is for coworkers to get drinks after work. When I first got sober, I was so ashamed to tell my friends and coworkers that I was in recovery that I would instead fake sick or make up excuses to avoid the social gathering. It just seemed like one more thing that I could be judged for.
Women with children can’t find proper childcare or help for them to receive any sort of treatment, and fear they could lose the child if they do ask for help. Younger girls don’t want to miss out on their “fun years” of college or afterwards, and will deny they have a problem. For me personally, I never even knew there was another option. All of my friends partied just as hard as I did, as did the parents, people in the media, and I thought, the rest of the world. I didn’t even know I had a problem until I was so far gone that I didn’t even recognize who I was anymore.
Now I know this may seem like a pretty dark topic, but if there is any hope you can get from this article, it is that you can find comfort in the fact that you are NOT alone. Many women with anxiety do recover. There are thousands of other women out there who have been through the same things, and who understand our struggle. If you have made it into treatment or into the rooms of any 12 step fellowship, you are one of the lucky ones.
In reality, women in recovery have a new gift of life. We are now able to face our days with our heads held high, knowing that we don’t HAVE to be drunk or high in order to be able to relax or spend time with our friends. We can develop deep and spiritual connections with other women based on a community of trust, understanding, and support. The simplest thing to do to help yourself is to ask for help. Everything else will follow.
Need More Tips to Help an Addict or Alcoholic You Love?
If you or a loved one need help to overcome addiction, treatment is a proven effective option. If you are a woman looking for treatment, Wayside House can help you. A woman’s treatment center offers a safe, supportive environment and our programs are developed specifically to address the unique needs of women. Call us today at 800-655-0817, our trained specialists are standing by to help you or your loved one.