Women in Addiction Recovery
Addiction is an equal-opportunity disease. It can impact women as well as men, and there’s no discrimination when it comes to ethnicity, age or income level. While addiction can develop anywhere and to anyone, it’s often beneficial to target treatment to specific demographics. Customized addiction treatment for women can be more effective and may increase the chance of successful sobriety for years to come.
Addiction Impacts Men and Women Alike
First, it’s important to note that women and men should receive nearly identical treatment for addiction. Both sexes deserve access to evidence-based treatment, whether that involves prescription medication from medical professionals or one-on-one behavioral therapy. Why is this? Because addiction impacts men and women in similar ways.
Whether patients are men or women, they will suffer from the physical effects of addiction. They may be at risk for stomach cancer, liver disease or heart failure as a result of their addictions. Men and women alike can feel isolated, have broken relationships, and may lose their careers.
While addiction can impact both sexes in the same ways, and treatment should be similar across the board, it may still be substantial benefit to separating men and women during detox or rehab. Women in recovery might do best when they are in a safe, secure environment where the facilities and therapies are geared toward their specific needs.
Women May Feel Safer Sharing in Segregated Spaces
One of the reasons that women may prefer to recover in a women’s only space is that it can be easier for them to share personal experiences. For a number of women struggling with addiction, opening up can be challenging. Often, their experiences relate directly to men, and speaking in a room full of men can make it harder to be truthful about what they’re experiencing.
It’s also important to address the fact that many women who are in recovery from addiction have a history of trauma. Unfortunately, some of them may be struggling with sexual abuse or domestic abuse, often at the hands of men. It can be integral to recovery for these women to talk about their experiences, and realize that many other women have gone through similar situations. However, sharing these traumatic stories while surrounded by men can be difficult or even impossible.
In group counseling, it may also be beneficial to discuss topics that impact women most. For instance, many women in rehab are also mothers, and they want to talk about how to regain custody of their children or set a positive example for them in the future. Women may also want to discuss the future of their marriages, another topic that may not be as appealing to a mixed audience. Group therapy can also target common mental health issues among women, which might include depression, anxiety, low self esteem, self-harm or eating disorders.
Refraining From Romance Can Aid in Recovery
One of the risks to avoid in recovery is replacing one addiction with another. Unfortunately, romantic relationships that form in rehabilitation programs are often just a way to redirect obsessive or addictive behavior. As a result, they should be avoided, since abstaining from romance or sexual activity can allow patients to focus more completely on their own journey to recovery.
Rehab makes people vulnerable, as they are undergoing a major life transition. Free from the binds of a drug or alcohol addiction, individuals can struggle to make sound choices. That’s why it’s often best to attend sex-segregated rehab programs. Eliminating the opposite sex entirely, at least for the duration of a rehab or detox program, can make it easier to recover properly, follow the rehab protocol and dive into therapy and treatment rather than a new relationship.
Facilities Can Be Geared Toward the Needs of Women
Women ready to begin recovery from addiction may want to focus on facilities that understand the specific needs of women. Ultimately, great rehab facilities will cater to both men and women, but there can be some minor differences that make a difference.
Women are often more concerned with their weight than men, particularly because rehab is a time when weight gain is likely for those in recovery from drug addictions. During this natural and healthy stage of recovery, nutritious and healthy meals can provide plenty of energy without adding unnecessary calories. Dining facilities can also cater to a greater range of dietary restrictions or help pregnant women get the nutrition they need.
Women might also prefer certain recreational facilities to enhance their time in rehabilitation. This might run the gamut from an arts and crafts room to yoga classes. Having gender-specific facilities may encourage women to use more of the amenities and take full advantage of all the services available that can aid in addiction recovery.
Camaraderie Among Female Patients
One of the often underrated benefits of addiction recovery programs is that they can teach patients how to socialize. After years of addiction, it’s not unusual for individuals to be isolated, or unable to participate in a group dynamic in a healthy way. With men in the mix, some women may further isolate themselves, struggling to find an appropriate place in the group.
By contrast, a women’s-only rehabilitation program may encourage social activity. Women may find that they have a lot in common with other patients, and they can form bonds that have the potential to last for a lifetime. During group counseling, rehab outings or even daily meals, they will have opportunities to express their individual personalities without feeling threatened or shy. Doing this can be crucial to the reintegration of patients into society after rehab is complete.
In many ways, recovery for women is identical to recovery for men. However, gender-specific recovery can certainly have some benefits. By increasing feelings of safety, improving shared spaces and having more open group therapy, women will have a better chance at recovery and lasting sobriety.