Early recovery and sobriety can be such difficult phases, emotionally and mentally. Getting through recovery and finding yourself on the other end alive and well is exciting, and for many residential treatment facilities or sober living communities, the prospect of a sober future is finally possible and achievable. Many describe these days as filled with rollercoaster emotions – your heart jumps from one end of the emotional spectrum to the next, and you go from feeling manic, to depressed, to angry, to serene, and back again.
Managing this rollercoaster and getting through this first phase of recovery is difficult, especially because many experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms or intense cravings or want to satisfy some other form of wanting by feeding an inner craving for physical contact and lust. In some cases, while drugs can be an aphrodisiac, true embittered and passionate love is only possible in full sobriety – and the prospect of being with another human is scary for some, and exciting for others.
That is one reason why gender-specific sober living communities can help some individuals find a safer and better way to a sober future.
Why Relationships and Sex Aren’t A Good Thing During Early Recovery
It’s normal to miss human contact, love, and even lust. But it’s important not to let those emotions overwhelm you and distract you from what’s really important. Many people share stories about rehab sex and rehab romances, and while it’s true that some facilities struggle with residents finding ways to couple up and get illicit, it’s important that this subject isn’t just treated with irreverent levity but with the seriousness that it deserves.
Sex and relationships at such an emotionally fragile moment in a person’s life are a bad idea. You don’t want to engage in such behavior because it can cause serious emotional harm and it could tremendously set back your recovery if approached impulsively.
Some people find themselves stuck in their situation not just because of drugs, but because of the highly volatile combination of sex, love, and drugs. Some people get addicted because of a manipulative partner, some get addicted to pay or sex, or use sex to pay for their addiction. Others got addicted after the fallout of a nasty breakup and aren’t emotionally ready or mature enough in their newfound sobriety to engage anyone intimately, romantically, or otherwise.
Sex is all fun and games when you’re feeling confident and secure, but it can be life-shattering when turned into a mind-game, a power-play between two individuals, the means for one to get off on the emotional torment of another. Understanding the potential dangers and volatility in engaging with other fragile people early in recovery is important. Don’t get involved – not yet, at least. There’s always room for love and lust when you’re stronger. But not right now.
Among gender-specific sober living environments, it’s even more important for homosexual tenants to understand the risks of engaging with others. Even in sober living homes that specifically separate tenants on the basis of sexual orientation, bisexual tenants should be careful to avoid getting too close with a potential love interest. Friendships and camaraderie are important but developing stronger feelings for one another can be dangerous when everyone is still fresh off recovery, dealing with the ramifications of early sobriety. In time, you can let the heart want what the heart wants.
Addiction is Different for Men and Women
The potential fallout of a bad breakup or a bad hookup is only one aspect of why gender-specific sober living arrangements matter. Addiction and mental health issues are fundamentally different between men and women.
Men generally struggle with different codependent diseases than women do, and while every individual is ultimately unique in their own sense of self, and separate from just their gender, the fact that men and women experience mental health issues and addiction differently is enough to justify creating different environments and programs for men and women. For example:
- Addiction is generally much more likely among men than women, but women get addicted much faster, due to the effects of estrogen on dopamine, particularly in cocaine.
- Women are more likely to develop depressive symptoms and signs of an anxiety disorder, while men are more likely to be paranoid or struggle with aggression.
- Women are more susceptible to cravings and relapse and may need treatment specifically to address these issues.
- Women often get addicted for very different reasons, including self-medication, peer-pressure, and abuse, in a different degree than men.
- Men are more likely to be alcoholic, and alcohol triggers a greater release of dopamine in men versus women.
- Men are more likely to struggle with addiction if they start drug use early in life, while that doesn’t matter for women.
- Men are much less likely to self-report addiction or substance misuse, while women are more likely to realize addiction and take steps towards getting help. Men require a greater focus on solving denial, while women more often do not. Unfortunately, men are more likely to enter treatment if threatened with an ultimatum by the law or an employer.
It’s naturally dangerous to assume a person’s individual addiction factors solely on the basis of their gender, but the differences are numerous and significant enough to suggest that treating people differently by utilizing gender-specific treatment programs and gender-specific sober living environments can help. Nevertheless, therapists in any environment focus on a patient, with as little bias as possible, in order to tailor an effective treatment plan.
By entering a gender-specific sober living environment for men or women, you can often save yourself the trouble of being distracted by thoughts of relationships or lust, while focusing entirely on your treatment, especially early on or after a hefty relapse. Sober living homes work hard to foster camaraderie and a social setting, encouraging tenants to communicate and work with one another to identify similarities, forge friendships, and help one another deal with the challenges of recovery. This can be done more smoothly in a gender-specific environment.