Friendships, Connections, and Challenges for Women in Recovery

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While addiction is a universal issue that does not discriminate based on gender, it’s important to recognize that women often face unique struggles during their recovery journey. These challenges can range from societal stigmas, the impact of motherhood, dealing with co-occurring disorders, past trauma, and financial strains. Understanding these unique challenges can help us approach women in recovery with more compassion and acknowledge that each person is dealing with many different experiences.

The Power of Female Friendships in Recovery

Friendships play an essential role in recovery. They provide a support system, a sense of belonging, and a way to share experiences and insights. For women in recovery, forming and maintaining these friendships can be a powerful tool in their journey toward long-term sobriety. In the recovery journey, companionship is crucial in providing emotional support and motivation. However, establishing such bonds during this sensitive period can be somewhat intricate. The friends you make during recovery can significantly impact your sobriety goals.

Reasons Why Making Connections Can Be Difficult

Despite the significant benefits of forming friendships in recovery, women often face several barriers. Transitioning from old habits to new ones during recovery can present several stumbling blocks. These may include resistance to change, hesitancy, and confusion. Understanding these hurdles can help you better navigate your social life during recovery. Below are some barriers women face, with tips to overcome them.

Overcoming the Stigma of Addiction for Women

The stigma associated with addiction can be particularly severe for women. Societal expectations, such as being a great mom, being successful, and “keeping up with the Jones” are stereotypes that can put undue pressure on women, leading to feelings of shame and guilt. This can make it more difficult for them to seek help and form supportive friendships. Social media can also be troublesome to look at sometimes. However, remember that people only post happy things on social media.

Friendships women already have may be toxic because the other friend is still using drugs or alcohol. Once you get sober, it’s best to “love from a distance” or end the friendship if your friend or family member is actively using or drinking. Self-care is important here; you must think of your own well-being first.

Under different circumstances, severe damage may have occurred in a friendship because of addiction. Losing friends in sobriety is a possibility, but with long-term sobriety and effort, you may be able to repair some past friendships and relationships.

However, with all these things in the back of a woman’s mind, the willingness to form new friendships might be there, but the stigma can cause fear, making creating new friendships seem impossible.

Impact of Motherhood on Recovery

Motherhood can present unique challenges for women in recovery. The demands of caring for children can make it difficult to prioritize self-care and recovery. Additionally, there can be fear and anxiety about losing custody of their children, which can further complicate the recovery process. Mothers may not want to admit their newly found (or even long-term) sobriety to others because of the fear of a DCF report. Trusted female friends—especially mothers—can help you tackle the challenges in motherhood and be a listening ear when you’re struggling.

Role of Co-occurring Disorders

Women with substance use disorders (SUDs) often also struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These disorders can complicate the recovery process and make it more challenging to form and maintain friendships.

Many women in recovery have experienced trauma, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, or homelessness. These traumatic experiences can lead to feelings of isolation and make it difficult to trust others, hindering the formation of supportive friendships. A history of trauma can make it incredibly difficult to trust anyone, even other women.

Depression and anxiety can also dwarf new friendships as well, leading to canceled plans, not picking up the phone, and general avoidance.

Other women may struggle with conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or autism (ASD), which can make forming female friendships even more difficult. Young adults who are neurodivergent are more likely than their peers to develop alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to a study at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Financial Strains and Recovery

Financial struggles can pose substantial barriers to women seeking recovery. The cost of treatment, coupled with the potential loss of income during recovery, can create significant stress and hinder the formation of supportive relationships. It’s natural for anyone to compare themselves to others, but you can also be very proud of your own accomplishments—you just decided to get sober! With continued sobriety, financial hardships tend to improve.

Practical Tips for Building Friendships in Recovery

Despite these challenges, women in recovery can employ several strategies to form and maintain supportive friendships. These include leveraging social media, engaging in hobbies, and participating in recovery groups.

The Role of Social Media in Forming Friendships

Social media can be a valuable tool for women in recovery to connect with others who share similar experiences. Private groups, chat rooms, and online communities offer a safe space for women to share their stories and form supportive friendships. Finding friends in local groups can also lead to in-person friendships.

The Importance of Hobbies in Building Friendships

Engaging in hobbies can provide opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and form friendships based on shared interests. Whether it’s yoga, art, literature, or outdoor activities, hobbies can serve as a bridge to connect women in recovery. Many of these activities typically don’t involve or serve alcohol, so having hobbies is a great way to connect with other women, regardless of whether they’re in recovery or not.

Although, there is a flip side to this. Some women may feel anxiety with people they don’t know very well during social events when the inevitable question arises – “What would you like to drink?”

In early sobriety, try to opt for hobbies where alcohol isn’t a focal point. For example, you may not want to see your favorite band when you’re two weeks sober. If you are going out with friends who are not in recovery, remember: You never have to give a reason for declining a drink. However, if you feel more comfortable with a quick excuse, the caloric factor in all alcohol is enough: “No, thank you, I’m watching my weight, so I don’t drink.”

The Significance of Recovery Groups

Recovery groups can offer a supportive environment for women to share their experiences, gain insights, and form lasting friendships. These groups can provide a sense of community and belonging, which is crucial for long-term recovery. These can include traditional 12-step support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and other groups as well, such as SMART Recovery (secular), Celebrate Recovery (Christian), and Recovery Dharma (Buddhist).

The Benefits of Therapy for Women in Recovery

Therapy can play a vital role in helping women navigate the complexities of recovery. It can provide strategies to manage co-occurring disorders, process past trauma, and build healthier coping mechanisms. Therapy can also provide a safe space to explore the challenges of forming friendships in recovery.

Recognizing High-Risk Situations for Women

Women in recovery should be aware of high-risk situations that may trigger a relapse. These can include stressful life events, exposure to substances, or interaction with individuals who do not support their recovery. Recognizing these situations and having a plan can help you maintain your sobriety. Remember, you want to cultivate and maintain healthy friendships—if you have a dear friend who is still using, it’s better to love from a distance. Being too close to dangerous situations can place you at risk for relapse.

Final Words of Encouragement

The journey toward recovery can be challenging, but with the right support and resources, women can navigate these challenges and build a fulfilling life in sobriety. Forming supportive friendships can play a crucial role in this process. Despite the barriers, remember that you are not alone, and help is available. Keep pushing forward, and remember – each day is a step closer to long-term sobriety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.