As we observe this year’s International Women’s Day, Recovery Unplugged wanted to take a moment to recognize the unique aspects of addiction and recovery specific to women. Vicki Quintero, our Production Coordinator, was a client here at Recovery Unplugged in 2015 and has been clean ever since. She is a queer, Latinx woman who faced struggles and great success unique to her identities. Vicki has volunteered to write a piece about her experience with addiction and recovery.
Addiction In Women
Although men use drugs and alcohol at greater rates, women have been following close behind in the last few decades. In the 1980’s, studies showed that men were five times more likely to be addicted to alcohol than women, but a study published in 2011 showed that the gap is closing – the ratio of men to women with alcohol-use disorders is now three to one. Women are also more likely to become dependent on substances than men. Women try substances at a younger age than men and are more prone to relapse than men after attempting to get clean. Women in the LGBTQ community, especially transgender women, experience substance abuse at higher rates than their heterosexual and cis counterparts as well.
Specific Factors That Drive Addiction In Women
Some of the more common factors that drive addiction among women include the ages-old issues of trauma, increased vulnerability to sexual violence and assault and enduringly consistent rates of discrimination in practically every area of life. The reality is that we live in a largely patriarchal society in which women or anyone perceived as feminine face extreme struggles and disparities in many areas of life that have immense effects on humans such as wages, job security, housing, and education.
This is known as the theory of minority stress which can cause people in minority groups to use substances to cope and become addicted at alarming rates. I know that as a queer woman, I grappled with these struggles and allowed them to take me to depths I never thought I could reach. Even through the rockiest of bottoms, I continued to dig my grave.
Recovery In Women
Although the above facts make the chances of recovery seem bleak, women CAN and DO recover every single day. As a woman with three plus years in recovery myself, I truly believe that women deserve treatment tailored to our needs.
Many of us come to treatment not trusting other women or believing that we’re “different than the other girls” which oftentimes leads us to becoming dependent on men not only in addiction but also in our recovery. Attending women’s groups for therapy can get us out of these toxic thought patterns and into a place of trust and love for other women. Working with women therapists and psychiatrists can allow us to open up and process our past and current issues free of judgement and full of understanding. Learning to uplift and encourage other women can help us with our own self-esteem issues which may be leading us to continue the cycle of addiction in our lives.
Coming into recovery, I needed a space where I could share freely and vulnerably about my issues and why I kept relapsing. Women’s meetings, groups, and communities granted me such that place. I felt safe enough to share about the things that kept me using, such as my romantic relationships with men and women, the changes in my body during menstrual cycles, and the utter lack of self-esteem I possessed that lead me to seek attention from men instead of work on myself.
Power In Women
It is a very powerful thing when women come together in the spirit of uplifting and encouraging each other. To this day, I have chosen to stay involved in my recovery community and attend a women’s mutual support meeting every week – it’s honestly the highlight of my week, where I get to see women whose company I genuinely enjoy and share with them exactly what’s going on with me.
When attending co-ed mutual support group meetings, I seek out the women, especially those new to recovery, and try to show them the same love and motivation shown to me when I began my journey of recovery. There is great power in spreading love to those who are so desperately in need of it – I know I was in the beginning.
In a society where women are still often held back due to entrenched power dynamics, including the world of recovery, any area of our lives in which we can gain power will help us succeed. For me, the key to unlocking the power within myself was on the keychains of other women and I will forever be grateful to all the women who have recovered before me and the women who are just now starting their journeys.
Recovery Unplugged would like to extend a sincere and resonant Happy International Women’s Day to women everywhere, and remind those who are currently struggling with substance use, that you’re strong enough and worthy enough to recover.