International Women’s Month: Women and Recovery

women and recovery

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March is International Women’s Month, with March 8th being the infamous International Women’s Day. This day and month exist to celebrate the legacy of so many women that have radically altered how we view and understand women and the continuous fight for women’s rights and gender equality. Until this last century, women didn’t have the right to vote, have access to all the same jobs and opportunities as men, or the right to a personal bank account. So much has happened in the last century for women and gender equality, yet we still have so much more work to do.

What Do Women’s Rights Have to Do With Recovery?

Historically speaking, recovery spaces and communities have all been created and typically dominated by men. The infamous Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) community, the first fellowship to come together in solidarity for the road to recovery, was founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob. Two men who were hopeless in their disease, looking for a way out of their suffering. They discovered a way to do so and wanted to bring people together to alleviate their suffering too. Their ideology and method are still considered one of the most influential in the recovery communities today. Some people feel that these spaces and practices have been created and dominated by men. However, women can benefit from these methods, too. They do it every single day. However, there are significant differences between men and women in their relationship to addiction, sobriety, and getting there.

Addiction in Women vs. Men

For a long time, men were considered more likely to develop a substance use disorder (SUD) than women. When we look at the “traditional” narrative for alcoholism or drug abuse, women are typically put into the co-dependent piece of the alcoholism spectrum rather than the alcoholic themselves. Of course, this is nuanced, but this is partly the reason why stigmatized gender roles can be so dangerous — as they simply are not valid for everyone.

It is only recently that we have begun to fully breakthrough, and break down those dangerous “norms.” Recently, the once large gap between the numbers of men who overdose versus women who overdose has been steadily closing. According to the National Library of Medicine, three percent of women in the United States suffered from a drug use disorder, while 10.4% suffered from an alcohol use disorder. That is a staggering amount of women that only continues to rise. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), research on opioid addiction has shown that women are more likely to develop chronic pain, more likely to be prescribed prescription painkillers, and are typically prescribed higher doses for a more extended period than men. This leads them to the great possibility of developing SUD.

Forty-eight thousand women died from prescription pain reliever overdose from 1999 to 2010. However, in just five years, from 2010 to 2015, over 50,000 women died from a drug overdose (excluding alcohol-related deaths and causes).

On top of all this information, women experience SUD differently than men. Addiction tends to be accelerated in women due to biological components and physiological differences. They metabolize drugs and alcohol differently, and their bodies don’t dispose of the drugs and alcohol the same way as men do. Moreover, culturally, women are much more stigmatized around substance use and addiction due to their traditional gender roles and expectations around being a woman. Due to this, women have different needs and experiences in addiction, sobriety, and recovery.

What Does This Mean For Women in Recovery?

Luckily, there have been many women before us that have recognized the gaping hole in recovery communities where women are not seen. Traditional recovery spaces are becoming more inclusive or attempting to be as they realize the gender norms are not true for most. Communities, resources, and mentors specifically for women in recovery, by women in recovery, are starting to show up all over the world. Most importantly, as a society, we are beginning to understand the complexities of gender and how standardized roles do not fit anyone based on their sex at birth. This allows more space for women to be accepted and supported through their recovery process (and life) rather than ostracized from communities.

How Can We Be More Inclusive?

The all-time question is: how can we be more inclusive for women, whether we are a person who identifies as a woman or not? The only answer is to continuously support women, fight for women’s equality, and recognize that the deeply ingrained structures we have around women and gender roles are simply not real. They are old stories passed down from generation to generation and morphed into more dysfunctional ideologies as time went on. To be more inclusive, we must continue to break down these oppressive conditions that we all have around women, gender, and what it means to be a “man” or a “woman.”

Women’s rights have been a controversial topic for decades, yet it is still self-evident that there are disparities in the way women and men are treated in society. March is International Women’s Month, and it’s important we acknowledge the incredible movement that has given women rights over the last century, even if we are still fighting for equality. At Hired Power, we understand that people are all different and have different needs, especially with something as intimate and personal as recovery. Women have long been excluded from recovery spaces and the sober community, but we believe in creating inclusive communal areas that welcome and support all people. Hired Power is a dynamic group of recovery professionals that provide an empowering range of services in a compassionate and healing environment that gives people the best opportunity for long-term success and happiness. Our Personal Recovery Assistants encourage and motivate clients to become active participants in their own lives. Contact Hired Power today at (714) 559-3919.