Women face unique challenges when it comes to addiction recovery, but rarely are they addressed in formalized treatment centers. All too often, individuals seek help – and they only receive information, tools, support and resources that address the addiction itself and nothing else. Addiction is not what makes a person, however. We’re all complex beings with histories, thoughts, personalities, learning capabilities and mental health statuses. What better way to enhance our addiction recovery than to address many of the most important aspects of our lives? The mind, body and spirit represent a holistic view of recovery, and by taking this approach, we can address not only addiction, but also some of the most pressing needs facing women today: body image issues, parenting concerns and healthy relationship guidance.
Women & Body Image in Addiction Recovery
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines body image as,
“[The way you] feel comfortable in your body and you feel good about the way you look.”
Women face a lot of pressures in the world today to keep up appearances. Magazines and societal expectations hold incredibly high standards, which are enough to make anyone feel incompetent. Previous studies have highlighted the fact that women who have a low self-image are more likely to use drugs; a 2017 study conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia found that teenagers who struggle with depression and low self-esteem, as well as negative body image, are likely to increase their tobacco and alcohol use.
A negative body image can cause women to be at higher risk for depression as well as eating disorders – and sometimes drugs feel like the only way “out”.
Women, Parenting and Addiction Recovery
Mothers who are reclaiming their life after active addiction may feel apprehensive about their role as a parent. Previous studies have emphasized just how important the parent-child connection is, and how it can become greatly disrupted if active addiction takes over. Children must learn to trust their parent again, and mothers may have a particularly difficult time with this if there are many emotional wounds still leftover. The Mighty, a website that highlights personal stories on topics such as addiction, disability, chronic illness and more, published the story of a woman’s journey through recovery. These were some of the tips she provided to re-establishing that parent-child bond:
- Be honest about the past.
- Allow your child to express their feelings, no matter how painful it may be to hear them.
- Let time heal these wounds.
- Be actively present in your child’s life.
- Cherish the moments that you spend with your child.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights many services that women in recovery can benefit from, such as parenting skills, vocational assistance, family therapy, individual therapy and more. Mothers in recovery may need to “relearn” how to build a relationship with their children, how to recover from feelings of shame, how to let go of unrealistic expectations and other crucial components of parenting.
Addiction Recovery: Women & Healthy Relationships
Relationship-building is a huge aspect of recovery because that social support is what can drive many women to continue pushing past all obstacles they encounter in recovery. When active addiction has taken such a significant toll on a person, however, it can make forming relationships a bit challenging. Some women have only been accustomed to forming relationships with people whom they’ve abused substances with – and for them, recovery is an entirely new world where they must build a recovery support network.
A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy concluded that it’s often the way a person views their “social identity” that influences the way they create and maintain relationships. This can be a huge undertaking for women in recovery, especially when these types of relationships need to be avoided:
- Toxic relationships – maintaining relationships with people whom you used to use drugs with or obtain drugs from
- Codependent relationships – forming relationships in which a person believes that love, acceptance, security and approval are contingent upon taking care of a person in whatever way they wish
- Enabling relationships – being with someone who allows you to make excuses or who will cover up for you if you decide to abuse substances again
Our past can weigh heavily on the way we relate to others, and some women may have a strong pull towards relationships that don’t serve them in healthy ways. Throughout recovery, these types of concerns should be addressed.
There are many concerns that are unique to women, which makes them important topics to address in recovery. The more personalized care that can be provided, the greater the chances of success will be for women striving to overcome addiction. If you have a loved one who is currently struggling with addiction, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights. Help is right around the corner.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.