“Why a womens-only recovery center?”
It’s one of the most common questions we get asked and, as much as we like to point out the many benefits of the New Directions for Women approach, there are so many reasons for doing our work in a gender-separate environment that it’s a topic that’s always worth revisiting.
Addiction is at its core a pattern of behavior that harms us (or others) and which we have surprisingly little control over.
At the same time, addictions often take different paths for women and men. Female addicts in particular have to face not only the effects of their behavior on themselves but also on their children, making a speedy and effective recovery particularly crucial.
Yet the differences go deeper — the factors which lead to addiction and the effects on the woman are often very different. As a result, a womens recovery center is, at least in our experience, much better able to help.
Factors Which Lead To Addiction
Addictions happen for many different reasons. Often they begin because there is a stress-filled time in our lives, where they decide it’s easier to avoid our feelings than it is to deal with them.
Replacing our feelings with substance use or an activity like gambling allows us to avoid these feelings — at the cost of developing a problem.
Yet for women, other factors often contribute as well.
It’s true that some men are sexually abused, but it’s more common that young girls are molested or raped beginning at a young age. While they might not even remember the trauma, the feelings that result are still present.
Using a substance to cover them up is very tempting. If they do, healing the addiction means they usually have to come to terms with and learn to deal with their past as part of the recovery process.
Effects of Chemical Dependency
Addictions cause problems for anyone, but for women there are two factors which represent significant issues above and beyond the baseline. First, there is her body: when a woman uses alcohol or drugs, they produce physical harm at a far faster rate than they would for a man.
A woman who has been drinking for a given period of time will show the symptoms of a man who has been drinking the same amount for much, much longer.
Second, there’s family. While addictions produce family problems for both men and women, the lack of trust which families tend to feel towards an addict tends to cause the bonds between them to break down.
This can be devastating to women with children. Compounded with the guilt which many feel as a result of putting their own needs above the needs of their children, there can be significant emotional issues associated with the addiction itself.
How Do Women Overcome Substance Use Disorders?
Overcoming an addiction can be done many ways. It’s our experience that it’s best to combine multiple levels of help, on the physical, psychological, and spiritual levels.
Attending a womens recovery center is particularly helpful here because a facility like New Directions will blend many different options into an integrated program. (And if withdrawal symptoms are an issue, we have trained staff and detox facilities who can help.)
Sometimes it’s not just a matter of counseling, going to group therapy, or participating in 12 step meetings. For example, it can be powerfully effective to replace the addictive behavior with something the client feels passionate about.
This is one of the reasons we encourage our women to participate in experiential therapies like equine therapy or rock climbing.
Physical activity, in particular, helps them start feeling better health wise while giving them a powerful (and healthy) “rush” from the physical exertion.