The Unique Challenges Women Face When Managing Sobriety and Resisting Relapse
While women are less likely to relapse than men, they have more vulnerabilities that make them more prone to relapse. Many people assume that a part of addiction recovery is knowing that, on the road to sobriety, you will have a few instances of using drugs again, but that isn’t entirely true. Women have more unique challenges when managing sober living, but with the right forms of treatment, relapse is preventable.
Unique Challenges Women Face
While both men and women can benefit from the healthy coping skills learned while in treatment, they each face different stressors when entering the recovery phase of their new life. For women, the physical, relational, and mental health aspects of their lives can pose unexpected challenges.
Hormones have a major impact on women and should be considered in recovery. Women can have hormonal issues related to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pregnancy, menstruation, or other related issues that can cause issues like mood swings or depression. Oftentimes women don’t necessarily know they have hormonal issues that impact their mood or physical and mental health. Hormonal imbalances can have such an impact on a woman that they can trigger drug use as a way to cope with both the mental and physical pain. The recovery process should address any mental health or addiction issues that could be related to hormonal imbalances.
Many studies have shown that women have higher rates of co-occurring disorders. A co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis, is when a person has both substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental health disorder. For example, oftentimes a woman may have symptoms of depression or anxiety that coexist with their drug use. To truly heal from addiction, treatment must address every underlying issue that is contributing to drug use. Finding an addiction treatment center that treats dual diagnosis and one’s specific diagnosis is important to one’s recovery.
Women in addiction recovery are more likely to have experienced traumatic and abusive relationships. While they are in recovery they should be in therapy working through past trauma caused by abusive relationships. When they leave inpatient treatment, they may have additional baggage and find it hard to live a new life away from their abuser. While it is strongly encouraged not to associate with an abuser, it can be difficult if there is a power struggle. To maintain sobriety, it is strongly encouraged to find safe spaces. This could be with community centers, family members, friends, or even support groups, either in person or online.
While both genders face their own stigmas around addiction, women face them at higher and harsher rates. These stigmas can affect sobriety because they may be carried out by the very people they need support from, such as their family or friends. When loved ones and society see someone’s disease as something to be shameful and embarrassed about, it can be hard to get the support people need, even after completing treatment. It also can impact mental health and self-esteem because even after all the hard work of therapy, returning to society only to be judged by someone’s past can make them feel like none of it was worth it.
The Importance of Gender-Responsive Approach
Due to the unique challenges women face, there should be options for specialized treatment regarding these differences. Gender-responsive treatment simply means being able to provide separate treatment facilities—one for men and another for women. Spero Recovery provides gender-responsive treatment with programs that focus on each gender’s specific needs.
Gender typically plays a role in why and how a person develops an addiction. For example, it has been shown that women develop a faster dependency on opioids than men and have higher rates of being prescribed them by doctors compared to men. Treatment should always be able to address these differences to ensure the best chance at long-term sobriety.
Peer-supported therapy offers many benefits to women in recovery. Due to the many societal roles that have been placed on women, such as motherhood, the need for connection is high. Research has shown that the quality of connections around one has an impact on one’s sense of well-being and sense of belonging. Peer-supported therapy offers a chance to build new healthy connections while creating the opportunity to learn new techniques an individual might not have tried.
There are many different forms of peer support. There are in-person groups where those in recovery can physically attend a meeting. Oftentimes, many addiction recovery centers facilitate support groups with their patients as one of their programs. Individuals can also find local support groups that are hosted by their community.
Having the support of family is so important when it comes to addiction recovery, especially for women. Family provides recovering individuals with a group of people to talk to when they are not only dealing with issues surrounding recovery but life issues as well.
One’s family also may have seen one go through struggles with addiction. A part of recovery is learning how to repair past relationships and work on building new healthy bonds. Therefore, although they may have seen the person in recovery struggle with drug use or mental health, after recovery they should learn how to support one another. Therefore, family members can help keep recovering individuals accountable during sober living. This helps lessen and prevent the chance of relapse, while simultaneously helping repair and build stronger relationships.
Spero Recovery offers both a women’s residential facility and a men’s residential facility for addiction recovery. We understand the importance of gender-specific treatment and tailor our programs around the specific needs of our clients. Some of our programs are led by peers who are in the program or have gone through the program to help encourage and foster the sense of community needed for our clients. We bring in resources from the community so that our clients can connect to outpatient services such as family therapy, support groups, or creative activities. Our goal is to not only help our clients heal from the disease of addiction but find the confidence to leave feeling like their best chapters are ahead of them. If you or someone you know is in search of a safe and compassionate treatment center, give Spero a call at (303) 351-7888 today.