Men and women recover differently. Although the disease of addiction affects the brain and behavior of addicts in similar ways, the needs of men and women on their journey towards long-term sober living varies. Just like the book Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus points out, there are fundamental psychological differences between the genders.
For this reason, tending to the psychological needs of men and women in recovery is also going to be as different as Mars and Venus. In fact, another major idea put forth in John Gray’s book is that men and women respond to stress differently. Although the book was not intended to communicate any theories about addiction, there are ideas to take note of. For instance, Gray writes that when men exceed their stress level, they tend to retreat into their “cave”. This might include going into the garage to work on their projects or going out with friends to the bar. At the same time, women who have gone beyond their stress level tend to do the opposite. They don’t retreat; they seek out someone to talk to. When there’s not someone there to rely upon, women are vulnerable to coping with their stress in different ways.
This may or may not say anything about addiction, but it makes the point that men and women will drink use drugs for different reasons. In fact, one study published by the Journal of Substance Abuse found that recovery programs, which were originally designed for men, might be inappropriate for the treatment of women. The study found that women did in fact use drugs and alcohol for different reasons, and that they tended to confront more social difficulties, which put them at risk for developing an addiction.
When women are faced with social difficulty, particularly if they had challenges earlier in life, such as physical or sexual abuse, they may be more at risk for developing an addiction. For this reason, women’s sober living homes can support a woman in feeling safe, which is an essential component to staying sober. Certainly, a women’s sober living home will not only facilitate healing the physical addiction, but the women-only environment can also help the emotional and psychological healing of addiction. As women are discharged from a rehab treatment center, it is critical that she continue with after-care at a women’s sober living home for many reasons.
First, addiction itself is the result of powerlessness, an experience that is common for women in Western society. For this reason, women (and men) with addictions typically have an external locus of control. They believe that there are parts of their life that they cannot control, and that pattern is made manifest in the disease of addiction – defined as a sickness of losing one’s power to alcohol or drugs. Women seeking sobriety is already a step in reclaiming their power. However, if she has patterns of feeling powerless in the presence of men, which is common for some women with histories of abuse, a women’s sober living home may be the only post-rehab option.
Furthermore, if those underlying issues, such as co-dependency, unresolved trauma, feelings of powerlessness, or unworthiness resurface during recovery, chronic relapse is likely. Another frequent concern for female adolescents, particularly those who are co-dependent, a common relationship pattern that comes with powerlessness, is the influence of romantic relationships. When a woman is intimately involved with someone who is already using drugs, she can also easily develop an addiction. But that relationship may be a drain on her if she is progressing through the stages of sobriety. Furthermore, the co-dependency creates a dynamic in which she believes that she needs her partner to make it in the world. When this pattern is playing a role, she might be unwilling to change or let go of her addiction in order to avoid losing the relationship.
A sober living home that caters to women can be exactly what some women need. In fact, it might be the only choice to be able to finally break through the cycle of addiction and experience the freedom of long-term sober living.
If you are reading this on any blog other than Transcend Recovery Community or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit. You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert Come and visit our blog at http://TranscendRecoveryCommunity.com/blog