Women’s Addiction Guide: How to Navigate from Rock Bottom to Recovery

This women’s addiction guide should serve as a helpful tool for you if you are struggling with substance abuse. As a woman, you face challenges that are usually much different from those of a man. These challenges are often what lead to women struggling with substance abuse problems.

We’d like to help you by giving you additional information about your condition. You may find it to be a relief to know that someone understands what you’re going through. Even more, you should know that there are ways that you can recover from your addiction successfully.

Right now, it could feel like you’re at the end of your rope. The situation you’re facing might feel hopeless, and you worry that you’ll never be able to escape addiction. We want you to know that is not true at all. However, your recovery begins with understanding your addiction more fully.



Comprehending Gender Differences in Addiction and Recovery

When it comes to gender and addiction, men and women really are very different from one another.

Research tells us that:

  • Women tend to get addicted faster than men
  • Women often have more access to prescription drugs than men do
  • Women will frequently hide their addictions from other people
  • Women often master the art of balancing home, work and addiction
  • Women frequently battle hormone issues, mental health problems and other conditions that lead to addiction

Statistics indicate that both men and women are equally likely to become addicts or alcoholics. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, higher numbers of men are addicts in all age groups. However, that doesn’t change the dramatic effect substance abuse has on females.

There are also differences in recovery. Women require a different approach than men because their needs are so varied. They may need to remain in treatment longer in order to address all of their issues as well. If they don’t, their likelihood of relapsing is much greater than it is for a man.

Women’s Issues in Substance Abuse

A woman may become addicted to drugs or alcohol for a number of different reasons. It’s possible that she has a history of addiction that runs in her family. Or, it could be that she has been affected by outside influences in some way.

It’s important to understand the various issues that can eventually lead to addiction for women. We’ve covered a few of them here. Perhaps you can relate to one or more of the following.

Women are often viewed as the managers of their homes. This is a role that many are able to take on without any problems. However, family life can be chaotic, and not everyone has the appropriate coping skills to handle the challenges.

Specific issues within this type of stress might include:

  • Having a newborn baby at home
  • Having more than one child to care for during the day
  • Being responsible for caring for children, paying the bills and many other responsibilities
  • Problems with disciplining children appropriately
  • Having children in multiple extracurricular activities
  • Having children in more than one school

Family life can be extremely stressful for anyone, but women are often hit especially hard. It’s not surprising that many of them look for alternate ways to cope. For these women, using drugs or drinking might be seen as a solution.

According to the United States Department of Labor, the number of stay at home moms has fluctuated dramatically. In 1967, they report that 49% of mothers stayed at home with their children. That number decreased until 1999, when only 23% of mothers stayed home.

Since that time, that percentage has continually gone up. By 2012, 29% of mothers stayed home. It’s possible that it has gone up even more in the years since.

Today, that means that a lot of mothers have entered the workforce. Many work full and part-time jobs. However, they are still expected to care for their homes as though they didn’t work. This creates additional stress that could also be adding to job-related issues.

It’s not a secret that marital issues are a serious problem in our country. According to the CDC, the divorce rate in the United States remains high, even if it has declined somewhat. That doesn’t even speak to the number of partnerships that have been dissolved.

Broken relationships are not the only problem many women face. There are often issues within these relationships that can go unresolved for years. As a woman, you may have been a victim of:

  • Sexual abuse at the hands of a spouse or partner
  • Verbal and emotional abuse
  • Spousal addiction
  • Infidelity (cheating)
  • Unresolved financial problems

These and other challenges can cause a woman to feel as though she’s living in a prison, rather than her home. When women reside in this type of environment, they will often turn to drugs or alcohol as a result. It may be their way of “rebelling” against the behavior that is expected of them. It could also be the only way that they feel as though they’re in control and can cope.

Mental illnesses can go undiagnosed for years, and in women, this is especially common. Many women suffer from symptoms of anxiety or depression. Instead of being treated for their symptoms, they’ll look for other ways to feel better. Typically, this might mean reaching for a bottle of prescription painkillers or drinking alcohol.

What many women don’t realize is that addictions and mental illness often go hand in hand. A significantly high percentage of women who suffer with mental illnesses also have addictions. When these conditions occur together, it is called having a co-occurring disorder.

Some examples of co-occurring disorders include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Borderline personality disorder

Even women who get help for these and other mental health issues may not get the right kind of help. They may not even mention their drug or alcohol use to their therapists. This only allows the problem to persist, and treatment is often wasted.

In order for recovery to take place, co-occurring disorders need to be treated at the same time. This has shown to be effective, and because of this, it is a model that is being widely adopted.

Unfortunately, women are often victims of trauma. When traumatic events occur, they leave their scars behind. Some women may be able to get past them quite well as long as they have a good support system. However, others may find it to be rather challenging. If trauma is left untreated, it can eventually develop into PTSD.

The experience of a trauma is relative to the individual. For instance, one person may believe they have been traumatized after living through a horrific accident. Another person may feel traumatized because of severe bullying in school when they were young. Both of these can cause lasting damage for a woman, and either one can lead to an addiction.

Why Going to Rehab is More Challenging for Women

In the U.S., we live in a country where both genders are on a more equal playing field than ever. Our country has progressed so much, even in the last few decades. However, women will often run into barriers that make it hard for them to get help for their addictions.

Alcohol Recovery

As we’ve discussed, many women consider themselves to be the managers of their homes. They may feel as though they’re abandoning their children or spouse if they go to rehab. They may worry about the loss of income because they won’t be able to work. It’s also possible that they worry about who will take care of their responsibilities around the house.

These are very real concerns, and it’s important for them to be addressed. The good news is that in most cases, these and other barriers can be resolved. Multiple forms of treatment exist that can make it so much easier for women to get the help they need.

If you’re a mom, you may find it especially hard to go to a rehab facility. However, you need to know that it can be done, and many women do it successfully. It will take some planning, and you may have to think outside the box for it to happen. 

Talk with your spouse or your partner about making the appropriate arrangements. Your partner might be able to handle the additional work of the home while you’re gone. If not, you may want to think about hiring some help. This might mean getting  a babysitter for a few hours during the day, or hiring someone to clean. 

If you’re a single parent, your situation will be a little bit different. Single parents often feel like they need to be the heroes of their home. This is a mindset that you need to put behind you. Or, you can embrace it by recognizing that choosing to get help for your addiction is actually quite heroic. 

Consider talking with your parents or a close family member or friend. Find out how they may be able to assist you with your kids while you go to treatment. It may surprise you to learn that the people who love you the most are also the most willing to help.

Knowing how to talk with your children about your addiction and treatment is a challenge. However, it’s not one that you cannot overcome. You can, you just need to know how to approach the situation.

We have a few specific guidelines that can help you do that. They are:

  • Choosing the right time to talk. This should preferably be once arrangements have been made for rehab.
  • Making sure that what you say is age-appropriate. Older children may understand addiction more fully. For younger children, you may want to say that Mommy is sick and is getting treatment. No matter what you say, be honest.
  • Validate the child’s experience with the news. You should invite questions and dialog from your children. If you have more than one, be prepared that every reaction might be a bit different.
  • Make sure your child knows the addiction isn’t their fault. Children often take the blame for their parents’ problems upon themselves. This can lead to significant issues later on in their lives.
  • Consider getting support for the child. Younger children might need to go to therapy for help while you’re in rehab. Older children and teenagers can benefit from going to Al-Anon or Alateen. These meetings are free and they’re held all over the country.

What is Gender Specific Treatment?

Going to therapy for your addiction is critical for your recovery. However, as a woman, you may do much better in a gender specific environment.

Gender specific treatment would mean that you would be in a group with other women. You would not attend group therapy meetings with men. This type of rehab is designed to specifically target the unique issues that women with addictions face.

During your rehab, you’ll be receiving women’s issues therapy. There are many forms of therapy that are frequently utilized to help women overcome addictions. The type you receive will depend on what your needs are, and the issues you’re facing.

For instance, you may experience:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy that can help to address depression or anxiety
  • Narrative therapy, which can assist you with changing your beliefs about yourself
  • EMDR treatment, which has shown to be very effective in treating trauma and PTSD
  • Cognitive processing therapy, which is also helpful in treating PTSD and other conditions
  • Family therapy, which may be instrumental in helping you rebuild your most important relationships

While it’s true that all of these may be available in coed rehabs, the experience isn’t the same. Among a group of women, you’re likely to feel much more comfortable sharing how you feel.

Additional Questions You May Have as a Woman Seeking Recovery

You may find that you have some additional questions that you would like to have answered about your treatment. It’s important for you to get answers to them.

Some of the top addiction treatment specialists in the United States advise against dating while in recovery. There are actually some really good reasons for this.

For one, someone who is new to recovery really needs to focus on getting better. The very first year is filled with its own challenges. A relationship can serve as a distraction, and your quit can easily be derailed.

It’s also possible that the relationship could become a second or replacement addiction. Love addiction is very real, and co-addictions are common among addicts. It’s best for you to wait until you’ve been in recovery for at least a year. After that, you should talk with your therapist about whether or not you’re ready to date.

As you’re probably aware, there are many different types of addictions. However, some are much more common than others for women. There are four different types of addictions that experts believe women may be more susceptible to.

  1. Alcohol is often the go-to choice for women. It’s easy for them to access it, and it’s legal to consume.
  2. Prescription opiates are readily prescribed to women who complain of even mild to moderate pain. These drugs are highly addictive, and their power is often underestimated.
  3. Stimulant drugs like cocaine and Adderall are frequently the drugs of choice for women. This might surprise you. However the fact that so many women suffer from depression supports it.
  4. Likewise, depressant drugs are also common among women. Prescription medications like Klonopin and Xanax are frequently given to women for anxiety. These medications are highly addictive.

Women have a lot of choices when it comes to getting treated for their addictions. Keep in mind that not all facilities offer gender specific rehab. However, they are becoming more common.

You can find inpatient rehab for women, and there are also those that combine sober living with outpatient treatment. These facilities are generally for women needing long-term stays.

Women can also attend outpatient addiction treatment. They can work with a counselor on a one on one basis. They can also opt for an intensive outpatient treatment program, or IOP. Both can be very effective.

The benefits of going to a treatment center for women are plentiful. Women may feel more relaxed, calm and open in an environment with only other females. They also will receive the type of therapy that they need to recover from addiction.

While coed rehab facilities can be very good, they’re not right for everyone. Please keep this in mind as you make a decision about your treatment.

Making the Decision to go to Women’s Addiction Recovery

If you’re ready to consider women’s drug and alcohol treatment, we can assist you here at AspenRidge Recovery. We know the challenges you face are unique. We’re prepared to provide you with the help you need that is detailed according to your diagnosis. Our new 90-day program for women may be the perfect fit for you.

How can we help you reach your recovery goals? Please contact us right away.

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