Addiction and recovery can look a lot different in women compared to men. Women face different obstacles in both stages, and the reasons they start using drugs in the first place can be different too. For example, more women than men report that they started using cocaine to lose weight. Of course, the desire to lose weight is an experience shared by many women and does not originate in a vacuum. Society imposes strict guidelines on the type of bodies that are desirable, and women are under a lot of pressure to meet these standards. But with that being said, there are some important differences between men and women’s drug use patterns.
These differences exist in recovery too. Women are more likely than men to enter a recovery program indirectly, for example through the child welfare system or by mental health services. In cases like these, their attitudes when coming into the program may be very different to their male counterparts. Even when women leave inpatient centers and continue their recovery in the outside world, they may no longer have the social support they need to take care of their children. Some women must also deal with their children being taken away from them by Child Protective Services. Programs which do not appreciate and address differences like this, may miss the mark for women in recovery. Recovery programs that provide a safe space for women to share their experiences will allow them to feel comfortable enough to immerse themselves in the recovery process. Even outside a structured rehabilitation program, support goes a long way in creating an effective recovery environment.
How might social support affect recovery?
Relationships play an important role in womens’ recovery and social networks that support our recovery are essential to aiding the recovery process. When we find community in groups like these, we can start to shift our perceptions of ourselves. You no longer have to see yourself as an “addict”, but you can become “a person who is recovering from addiction”. In other words, these social networks are a powerful opportunity to reframe the way we think about ourselves because they allow us to be part of activities outside of just recovery.
Women, more than men, must take on multiple roles and perform exceptionally well at them; to some people, career success means nothing if we are not doing even better at raising our children, for example. Thinking about all our different identities doesn’t have to be a bad thing; when we recognise our multiple identities outside of addiction, this can help us distance ourselves from the stigma and marginalisation that might come with recovery. If we can find community to do this with, then we will feel even more supported as we recover. Not only can new friendships start to develop, but it can be incredibly healing to share stories with other women who just get it.
If you are struggling with recovery and looking for social support, the internet is a great launchpad! You can find social support from groups in your area. For example, this information and referral website contains a directory of mental health and addiction social support services in Montreal. If you or a loved one want to start your recovery journey, please contact us today.