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How Men and Women Differ When It Comes to Spirituality and Long-Term Recovery

Men and women are hardwired differently, so it’s natural that they experience addiction, recovery, and the associations that go along with them differently. As DrugFree.org states, biological differences in women means that they can become much more easily dependent on substances; they are also at higher risk of developing health-related issues, such as breast cancer, from substance use disorders (SUDs) compared to men. Women are also more likely to experience co-occurring disorders than men, which is when a mental health condition and a SUD exist at the same time.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that men are more likely than women to use all types of illicit substances, and they’re more likely to experience emergency room visits or overdose deaths related to substance abuse than women are. Men tend to have higher rates of dependency than women, but both men and women are just as likely to develop an SUD. While there are some distinct differences between the sexes when it comes to addiction development, what are some of the differences when it comes to recovery? Better yet, how do men and women experience spiritual components of recovery differently?

Addiction Recovery: Differences Between Men and Women

Dr. Lipi Roy, an expert on addiction, nutrition, and mindfulness, told Forbes Magazine in March of 2018 that when it comes to recovery, women often face greater challenges. They tend to find it harder to quit, and they’re more at risk for relapse – but these risks can be minimized with appropriate treatment, resources, community, and care. Very Well Mind emphasized last year that women can certainly overcome some of the odds that are against them by creating lifestyle that are more conducive to recovery – such as through school, work, community service, and physical exercise.

An article published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights the fact that men must often uphold a “masculine” presentation in American society; they are expected to be “independent, self-sufficient, stoic, and invulnerable.” Due to these societal expectations, men may have difficulties expressing themselves in treatment – which can certainly slow down the process to healing. Men often hold concerns about their privacy, which is why anonymity in 12-Step programs and confidentiality in treatment programs is an absolute necessity. Men can overcome these challenging in recovery, however, by working with a healthcare team who understand where they’re coming from – and by answering questions that lead them to some of their own conclusions and insights about what would benefit their recovery.

Despite the fact that both men and women have some fundamental differences and challenges to overcome in recovery, they are nonetheless fully capable of pushing past these barriers if they seek out and utilize the tools they’re given.

Spirituality Differences in Recovery

For many people in recovery, spirituality is an important topic because it speaks to the mind, body and soul. Spirituality is a pretty fluid concept – and can mean something different depending on the person. Those with addiction often find a sense of void in their recovery, and 12-Step programs, as well as formalized treatment programs of course, combat that by nurturing a person with a support team, a therapist, and a group of people who are also working towards their recovery goals. Very Well Mind, a website that provides information on health, lifestyle, recovery and more, notes several ways that spirituality can be implemented into a person’s recovery:

  •       Prayer or meditation
  •       A sense of connection to others and to the world at large
  •       Greater perspective on one’s problems
  •       Realizing that as humans, we all have weakness
  •       Receiving support and giving support to others
  •       Practicing self-care
  •       Following one’s moral compass by using beliefs, attitudes and values
  •       And more

Spirituality can yield many positive results for both men and women in long-term recovery, but naturally they will experience them differently.  

A 2017 study published Psychology and Religion and Spirituality sought to assess how men and women experienced spirituality over the course of 30 months, with participants ranging in different levels of sobriety. The authors found that between 6 and 30 months, women seemed to uphold forgiveness (of both themselves and others) – an element of spirituality – at a much higher rate than men. Because of this, women were experiencing more positive effects than men were around this time in the study. Furthermore, guilt (“I did something bad and it hurt others.”) was found to be more prominent for men in recovery, while shame (ex., “I am bad.”) was found to be more prominent for women.

What do these results indicate?

Recovery is an Ongoing Process

No matter where you’re at in recovery, it’s still important to check in with yourself on how you’re doing. It’s still possible for you to be holding in painful feelings, or past negative experiences in the back of your mind – and without proper healing, you may be holding yourself back in recovery. Continue exploring your mental, physical and spiritual health. Reach out to those whom you can lean on during times of need. Don’t give up – you’ve already come this far.

This is the year to change your life from suffering due to the disease of addiction to thriving in the sunlight of the spirit of sobriety. As the world’s first 12-Step treatment center, established in 1939, High Watch Recovery is dedicated to educating patients on 12-Step principles, actions, philosophies, and lifestyles, preparing them to live a happy and healthy sober life after graduating. For information on our continuum of clinical care and our compassionate approach to treatment, call us today: 860.927.3772.

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