Women addicts deal with the same issues as men, yet women experience a double standard with most addictions. They face harsher social stigmas and stereotypes than men do, causing them to suffer more. For instance:
- Women should drink like a lady.
- Women sex addicts are whores; men are just men.
- Women food addicts are fat, while men are hefty.
Women who use sex to support their addictions experience extra shame, self-hatred, and guilt, which may cause them to hide their addictions for years. This is one example of how women have a tendency to feel sensations and emotions more than men do.
Biologically speaking, women and men are different but equal. Women produce less serotonin and endorphins than men, which is one reason why they experience such extreme emotions, and why they are more prone to mood issues like depression. Women also don’t make enough enzymes to process large amounts of alcohol. This can put women at a higher risk for liver disease.
Men don’t stay with addicted women as often as women stay with addicted men. Therefore, women may not have the same emotional support as men, may be limited in their financial resources, and tend to have very realistic concerns, especially about their children. These factors may keep a woman stuck in her addiction and in her dysfunctional (sick) family system longer than she wants. As a result, a codependent spouse may be in denial about their partner’s addiction.
For women in recovery, at least part of the chosen program structure needs to be female-oriented so that a feeling of safety and understanding is achieved. Women addicts need to involve themselves with positive recovering women to act as role models and who offer support in learning to identify and deal with women’s issues.
In recovery activities, women need to refocus on themselves.
Generally, women are more motivated towards recovery for the sake of their children than men are. Yet, women still must recover for themselves first. Similarly, recovery is not a time to worry about looking good or taking care of others. It’s a time to heal.
Women addicts often have a poor sense of self, defining themselves by the external roles they play, such as by their role as mother, wife, or employee. They need to increase a positive self-identity by focusing on the “Who am I?” aspects of themselves that they value. In addition, they need to work on developing self-assertiveness, self-empowerment, and self-esteem, then putting these new traits into action.
Trauma: Many women addicts have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. If you are among them, your program must address these issues once you have built some solid recovery. If past trauma is blocking your recovery, then you must contain it until you are stable enough to deal with.