Superheroes: Women In Addiction and Recovery

Women in addiction and recovery have unique obstacles to overcome. Addiction is a huge issue not only in North America but all over the World. It affects everyone.

The definition of addiction is the inability to stop using or participating in almost any kind of mind or mood altering substance or activity. Alcohol, street drugs, prescriptions, over the counter medications and herbal remedies just to name a few are the commonly abused substances. The activities of addiction are just as common and include things like sexual addiction, gambling and multiple types of obsessive self-harm.

Addiction per say is not the problem. The addiction results from the solution (reactionary behaviour) that is the product of a problem.

The using reaction offers a  person relief from inner pain which is otherwise inescapable. The continued using leads to the addiction. Also, of course, during “using,” the addict’s pain and problems get worse, adding to the negative cycle.

Women, addiction, and their recovery face a unique path from men. This uniqueness is often ignored, and women are made to feel as if they are somehow not “working their recovery program” well enough. When this rejection happens, a lot of women often feel let down yet again and end up relapsing.

For women to find real recovery, they must accept, adjust, address and support themselves and other women’s specific needs. We as women, those working in rehabilitation and women in recovery themselves need to stand up and demand this necessity.

Every 12-step addiction recovery program originates from Alcoholics Anonymous and their Big Book written by their founding fathers Bill W and Dr Bob in 1939. The fundamentals laid out in this book have worked miracles in millions of people’s lives ever since its introduction. Many other 12-step programs have revised it and published their interpretations and found equal recovery success.

However, two men wrote this book in 1939, not a time relevant to today’s women and their issues. The Big Book was primarily written for the typical man of 1939 hence its heavy emphasis on the recovering person doing service and making amends. In 1939, men enjoyed living in a very patriarchal society and doing service work was a significant change. But Bill W and Dr Bob felt it was important for their peers to become humble, accept their shortcomings and work for their sobriety.

It is proven that paying it forwards, and helping others, is an important part of recovery for everyone. In fact, all people benefit from making the mindset if giving a priority in their life. Also, sharing with others not only lightens your load and helps you through the tough times but it also helps others and confirms your commitment to your recovery.

However, here’s the catch. Women are often victims especially when they are living an addict’s lifestyle. Addiction warps thinking and often makes women take dangerous risks. This thinking along with the burning want to use means that women are often abused, raped and tormented in many ways during their using days. Additionally, female addicts often struggle with terrible self-esteem issues and even self-hatred. This sense of lowered self-respect allows them to put up with torturous treatment from others.

The terrible scars left from these additional wounds of women’s addiction require different, caring and supportive measures that are currently lacking in the patriarchal and traditional 12-step systems. This situation is where the downfall occurs.

12-step programs work and do so in miraculous ways. Their success has been proven millions of times when the recovering addict follows them with diligence. However, women in recovery need to find themselves some additional specialised help to address and heal their particular issues. Thankfully there is extra help through many dedicated women’s programs or even through many enlightened sponsors and counsellors.

If you’re a female addict looking for recovery, even if you don’t think any of this applies to you, love yourself enough to get some help and guidance from YOUR unique perspective. You will never regret it, I promise.

One last word, let me know how you’re doing. I care.

Note from author: Although I no longer work with addicts and women in recovery, it remains a subject close to my heart. I am not able to offer any personal assistance currently but if you are searching without any luck, contact me, and I can pass along a few of my old links.

Originally published in 2014. Updated and republished in 2016.