Women in Recovery: Self-Care Guidelines to Keep You Strong and On Track
Women battling substance abuse face unique challenges compared to those that men encounter. First of all, many women’s paths to addiction differ greatly from men’s. Women often become addicted to substances more quickly than men. They metabolize drugs and alcohol differently than men do, too, meaning that, on average, one drink affects a woman twice as strongly as it does a man. Women also tend to have more access to and regular contact with those who can prescribe medication. All of this means that recovery from substance abuse for women may offer not only unique challenges, but also some distinct strengths and advantages. While helping yourself thrive and succeed in recovery, keep the following in mind:
Addiction is unnatural—the body and mind want to be free of substance abuse. Connection with others is a powerful remedy for addiction, and the female brain is wired for connection. Twelve-step programs, support groups, and building and maintaining relationships with family and friends are all crucial and effective ways to find strength.
Be realistic and honest with yourself—cravings and temptations are for real, no matter who you are or how strong you are feeling. Know what people, situations, environments, patterns, emotions, or other particulars trigger you. Prepare yourself for the possibility that new, surprising, perhaps unknown, circumstances could trigger you. Most importantly, have a plan for how to handle triggers.
Don’t push it—testing yourself is dangerous. Do everything in your power to avoid your triggers. Purposely exposing yourself to triggering situations, places, or people just to prove to others or yourself that you’re invincible is foolhardy. Leave the tests at school.
Prepare yourself to fail—you will make mistakes. You will have bad days. But these setbacks aren’t permanent. They’re an opportunity to learn and grow.
Get help for anxiety, depression, trauma reactions, or other mental health issues—underlying disorders can interfere with your recovery; in fact, undiagnosed/untreated issues can sometimes trigger or prolong substance abuse. On the other hand, seeking help in tackling such matters can aid in your recovery.
Physical health leads to emotional stability—emotional stability decreases the likelihood you’ll feel tempted to turn to drugs or alcohol during times of stress. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and exercising regularly will go far in bolstering your recovery.
Exercise caution with prescription drugs—even if you don’t have a drug problem, some prescription medications are highly addictive and have the potential for abuse. Anti-anxiety medications, sleeping pills, and pain medications can pose an addiction and abuse risk for anyone, but particularly for those with a history of substance abuse.
Find a new hobby—think of something you’ve always wanted to try. Or revive an old, abandoned hobby. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it interests and challenges you. The diversion you can derive from a hobby, taking a class just for fun, or volunteering with a cause that matters to you can go a long way toward building a new life free of substance abuse.
Make relaxation a high priority—learning and incorporating stress management is a key factor in recovering from substance abuse. Find ways that help you de-stress and practice them daily. Take a walk. Get a massage. Meditate. Go for a swim. Garden. Read a book or watch a movie. Work and family responsibilities will always be there, and you’ll be better equipped to shoulder them if you take time for you.