Alcoholics Anonymous first started in 1935 in Ohio. The first AA meeting in the UK took place on Monday, March 31st, 1947. Within a couple of years, there were over 100 members in AA groups and meetings were being held in London every Tuesday and Thursday. Today, there are over 50 meetings in London each week and many, many hundreds in major US cities such as New York City or Los Angeles – oftentimes occurring around the clock. Membership is growing as more people seek out their services, or are urged to attend meetings by family, friends, or peers. Soon after AA’s success, Narcotics Anonymous sprung from the AA program, following the same 12-step program to recovery and helping countless people fight against opioids and other drugs.
Despite the booming growth of these programs, millions of people who need addiction care services are not receiving the care they deserve. A large portion of those without care are being inhibited by sociocultural elements: guilt, shame, and social stigmas. “Several studies have identified stigma as a significant barrier for accessing health care”, preventing millions of women and men from seeking a positively life-changing experience. This is especially important in the case of mothers and pregnant women, who deal with some of the most severe stigmas of all. It’s difficult enough to admit when you need help, let alone when you have children depending on you. These mothers are going through the most difficult of struggles and we need to do everything we can to help them overcome their addiction by seeking professional help.
The importance of helping mothers recover can’t be expressed enough—because for every mother that enters recovery, her entire family system will begin to recover. We prevent generations of a disease from spreading by serving a single woman. The addiction can stop with them. So many parents are ashamed they can’t overcome their addiction and get sober, and then try to keep their disease away from their families. But your family can be one of the most important elements of your recovery. Your children can be a beacon of hope for you, a shining light to help you move forward and overcome. Programs such as New Directions for Women emphasize the importance of family and positive social circles in recovery. Understanding a woman’s struggle with addiction means understanding and incorporating her family, friends, and who she surrounds herself with—these are all important elements in providing her with the long-term, empowering care that will help her transform her life.
But despite our best efforts, we only understand so much. “In 2013, an estimated 22.7 million Americans (8.6 percent) needed treatment for a problem related to drugs or alcohol, but only about 2.5 million people (0.9 percent) received treatment at a specialty facility.” This means we’re failing to reach millions Americans in need of recovery. We’re missing something critical in understanding the men and women who need our help.
With our friends in the UK, there is a similar epidemic: “The prevalence of drug use increased with age. 6 (Six) per cent of 11 year-olds said they had tried drugs at least once, compared with 24 (twenty-four) per cent of 15 year-olds”. Likewise, “in 2015 there were 2,479 registered deaths related to drug misuse. This is an increase of 10 (ten) per cent in 2014 and 48 (forty-eight) per cent higher than 2005.”
Thousands of lives are lost are lost each year to addictions that are entirely preventable. We need only to understand them better, and to be able to reach out to those who are most exposed. The loss of life gets worse each year, and will continue to do so until we are better equipped to protect our community members, particularly the women and families we serve, who are most at risk to the negative effects of addiction. These women, pregnant women, and women with children are also the most likely to be suffering with addiction as a result of, or in addition to traumatic experiences.
Helping so many afflicted people is an enormous task, one that has the potential to pave the future of many nations, not just the UK and the US. Yet we are stagnating. We need to work together. We need to combine forces (legal, medical, spiritual, etc), and understand each other’s needs and difficulties. We need to combine metrics, analyze our cultural differences, and find strengths in our similarities. We need to understand what our women need and what we can do to get them to take their first steps.
If you’re interested in participating with New Directions for Women in our quest to understand the nature of addiction and how we can stop it, one family at a time, we urge you to connect with us on our Facebook. If you’ve battled addiction, let us know: what held you back in your journey to recovery? As always, if you or someone you love are looking to transform your life through recovery, do not hesitate to call us at (949)548-5546 or contact us using the form to the right of this page.