Recovery Month: Women and recovery

As part of Recovery Month this month, the Caymanian Compass is featuring a series of specials from the Department of Counselling Services which will each focus on an aspect of substance abuse recovery.

This week’s article looks at women and recovery.

Over the last 20 years, the world has been paying closer attention to addiction among women. However, there is still reluctance to acknowledge women as addicts or alcoholics – and there is still the tendency for women themselves to remain in denial about their alcoholism or substance abuse.

Perhaps this is why a review of both local and international trends suggests that women tend to enter treatment at a later stage of the process than men. According to Department of Counselling Services’ statistics, about 21 per cent of the clients who seek substance abuse treatment through its programmes are female.

To develop a better understanding of substance abuse among women, it is important to recognise that it crosses all boundaries of race, religion, income, education, and social status. All women are at risk.

Very often, women have specific issues that must be addressed in treatment, such as past trauma, violence, sexual abuse, societal stigma, and gender or role issues. These are usually strong motivators for entering treatment.

Locally, the Cayman Islands has taken a two-pronged approach to treatment. Women who decide to enter residential treatment at Caribbean Haven’s women’s centre, or outpatient care through the Counselling Centre, receive individualised treatment plans that will also address gender-specific issues.

For example, a counsellor may decide in consultation with the client that group counselling sessions are needed. Group counselling sessions usually consist of stress management, relapse prevention, parenting classes, treatment aftercare, process and psycho-educational support.

Regardless of whether the counselling is in an individual, family, or group setting, the goal is to provide education, prevention and support to newly recovering women, thus providing them with the tools they need to manage their many roles in the community.

Women who enter treatment have supports and structures to assist with their re-entry into the community. Government agencies such as the Empowerment and Community Development Agency, the Department of Counselling Services, the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Employment Relations work toward assisting women in recovery and their families.

There are also a number of community resources that offer services to encourage female clients on their journey to recovery. These include professional associations like the Legal Befrienders Club, self-help groups and church and community groups.

Women who have successfully completed treatment and are embarking on the journey of recovery have shifted from seeing themselves as substance abusers, to seeing themselves in a place where they find self-acceptance, belonging and empowerment.

Through this newfound empowerment, recovering women can take responsibility for themselves, and also advocate for others.

It is always helpful for women in recovery to continue educating themselves about substance abuse. This is vital to experiencing a measure of control and remaining proactive with their recovery. Videos, articles, and books are available to the women through local book vendors and various governmental agencies.

Women in recovery may also find it beneficial to reconnect with the community. They can join charitable or professional organisations, or show responsible citizenship in some other way.

For personal fulfillment and economic stability, many women in recovery find suitable employment in order to build a work history, and/or they may choose to pursue scholastic endeavours with the hope of upward mobility.

It is also important for a woman in recovery to pursue meaningful leisure activities, such as exercise or a hobby. Leisure time may also be spent forming healthy relationships, and building a positive social network of support.

Pursuing spiritual fulfillment is also another aspect of recovery that is vital to good mental and emotional health. Women in recovery often develop broader perspectives and relationships with a higher power as a means of developing strength, hope, faith, peace and understanding. This enables them to share their experience, strength and hope with others when the opportunity arises.

But, like everyone going through recovery, women also need the support of an understanding community to press on towards their goals of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The Department of Counselling Services provides residential and outpatient treatment for drug and alcohol misuse. Staff members also offer individual, family and specialised group therapy, as well as prevention and educational workshops to promote healthy lifestyles.