Women have unique challenges in life. They also have incredible strengths. But when it comes to addiction, recovery, and sober living, there may be compulsions unique to the feminine gender. There may be obsessions that are driven by an inner need that only women possess.
Compulsive behavior is one in which you feel as though you can’t stop, with an irresistible urge that goes against your conscious wishes. But first, let’s be clear: although having a compulsion might seem like a limitation, like a power you can’t control, like a demon that drives you to overeat, overwork, or over use your drug of choice, compulsions can be companions. They can point the way to healing and healthy living – believe it or not.
For women seeking sober help and attempting to achieve long-term sober living, know that when a compulsion is near, so is your healing. When you’re driven to excessively work, eat, drink or use drugs, there’s something right beneath the surface that’s driving that compulsion in the first place.
For example, let’s say you made a mistake at work and your boss discovers it. You leave that day feeling like you can’t do anything right, like you don’t deserve to be there. These are uncomfortable feelings to have. To try to get rid of these feelings, you find yourself buying a bottle of wine and drinking more than you should.
But let’s discuss why this might be unique to women. Sure, men can experience compulsions too. Yet, for women, it’s easy to develop a part of themselves they see as shameful, worthy of discarding and rejecting.
Sadly, for many women, the shape of her body and the amount of body fat she carries can heavily influence her sense of self worth and self-acceptance. Women can develop a tendency to be perfect, the need to rely upon outer appearances for their self-worth. From making sure that her life appears put together to ensuring that she’s dressed well to finding self-worth in the opinions of others, women can easily discard a part of herself if it’s not accepted by the outer measures of society. These patterns are practically woven into Western society.
Compulsions develop as a result of trying to push those uncomfortable feelings of shame – or fear, or anger, or loneliness – away. Yet, when they raise their ugly heads, they are really shining the light towards healing. Let me explain: Right in the middle of experiencing an obsession, bring your curiosity to it. Let the power of your attention dissolve it by asking, “Okay, what do I really need?” Instead of being led by the nose by the compulsion, see if you can stop yourself right in the middle of it. It’s easier said than done, but the challenge might encourage you to try it.
The truth is it’s unlikely you really need the glass of wine or the extra piece of cake or the extra hour of work. Instead, you likely need some self-care, love, or inner reflection. When your compulsions arise, whether you living sober now or not, they are an indication to come home to yourself.
Most recovering men and women can be fanatical in their behavior. They are fiery people with a passion for life. Because of this it’s possible to develop addictions to other behaviors – not just drinking or drugging. It’s possible to become compulsive in other ways, not just for alcohol and drugs.
For women reaching for sober living, compulsions can be your allies. They are the threshold to walk through – using your attention and curiosity – to uncover what you really need. They are a mask to pull back so that underneath you can find your true needs, desires, and feelings.
In your walk towards sober living and when you are reaching for sober help, know that you can always stop what you’re doing, breathe, and ask yourself, “What do I really need?” And if you are currently in a sober living program, diving deep into yourself with curiosity, attention, and love is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.