“The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection” ~ Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs
Making healthy connections is crucial for women in recovery. Without strong connections, it is impossible to feel supported and motivated to continue. But with them, women can draw strength from one another and spur one another on towards their sobriety goals.
The Power of Personal Connections for Women
Women need each other. We need positive friendships that allow us to grow and learn together. We need to know that someone has our back. Without these powerful connections, we’re left isolated and alone. As women, our brains are constantly working. It’s easy to get stuck inside our own heads thinking about everything that has gone wrong, or that possibly could. Do any of the following sound familiar?
- My weight is up again.
- Why can’t I stop spending so much money?
- Why do I eat so much?
- How can I get more sleep?
- I’m not spending enough time with my kids.
- I’m too tired to devote time to my husband.
All too often, we hear compliments from others, but our brains tell us a different story. If our husbands compliment us on our outfits, we’re sure they’re lying. If our bosses congratulate us on a job well done, we can think of a million ways it could have been done better. The Me Too Movement may have gotten its start by facilitating conversations surrounding healing from sexual violence. But those words are powerful and they can be assigned to many different areas of our lives. Someone else is experiencing the same pain. Someone else also has baggage to carry. But when we band together, we become an unstoppable force that can accomplish anything.
Addictions Ruin Relationships
Research has shown that women typically begin addiction treatment with much lower self-esteem than men. There may be several reasons for this, such as:
- Having gone through a traumatic event.
- Suffering from a co-occurring disorder.
- Feeling a responsibility to be there for her children, and failing.
- Having feelings of not being good enough.
- Being unable to overcome the addiction without professional help.
While supportive therapies are important, personal connections carry just as much weight. When a woman suffers from an addiction, it tears her personal relationships apart. She may lose her family, her children, her parents and many of her real friends. The isolation that substance abuse produces is only drives her to use more.
The Benefits of Those Relationships in Recovery
There’s a good reason why family therapy is such a critical part of addiction recovery. Those relationships are so important because people in recovery need support from the ones they love the most. Of course, building connections shouldn’t stop there. As women continue in their programs, they learn how to heal other broken relationships. They also learn how to make new ones. As a result, they get to experience:
- Connecting with other people as a healing medicine for emotional pain.
- Spending time with others who want only the best for them.
- A closeness that results in actually listening to the heart of another person.
- Love, which is just as important for our health and well-being as air.
- A more positive outlook in many other areas of their lives.
A Word of Caution
Gabrielle Bernstein, who is a contributor to Huff Post wrote a dynamic article called, Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection. In it, she says, “Let go of the need to compare and compete. Too often, many of us struggle with the urge to compare ourselves to other women – whether they’re supermodels, our colleagues, or our friends. We compare everything from our looks to our job titles. That constant comparing leads to competition.” Anyone can fall into the competition trap, and it’s a sure way to ruin relationships. It can be hard to push down that voice in your head that tells you that someone is better than you. But when that voice speaks, push back with love. One of the best moves you can make for your sobriety is to create positive relationships with other women. Don’t let comparison steal that from you.
Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Connections
Building healthy relationships is so important for women in recovery. But when you have been damaged by an addiction, it can be hard to tell if a connection is healthy or not. That’s why it’s vital to understand what you should be looking for in a healthy relationship, and what you should avoid. Healthy relationships:
- Are built upon mutual respect for each other.
- Have a strong element of trust. You know you can depend on that person.
- Are honest. You would never hide anything from each other, or lie to each other.
- Are based on healthy compromises.
- Are made up of two individual people with their own likes and dislikes.
- Have good communication, which helps both of you to avoid confusion.
- Often include an element of control.
- May become hostile.
- Are dishonest at least part of the time.
- Are filled with disrespect.
- May result in co-dependent behaviors.
- Can be intimidating, or even lead to violence.
Real relationships require vulnerability and trust above all else. These are the types of connections that can help you stay vigilant in your sobriety.
Types of Connections and Their Benefits
Not all friendships and relationships are the same, and women need different types of connections. For instance: Physical connections – Physical touch is extremely powerful. It can be used to communicate empathy, and it even has a pain-relieving effect. It also brings women in sync with one another, which is critical for their social development. Emotional connections – Connecting with someone else emotionally allows you to build a strong foundation of trust and respect. Intellectual connections – Being able to hold a conversation with someone about something that is mentally stimulating is so important for successful relationships. When you find someone with whom you have an intellectual connection, it can often feel like you were drawn to them instantly.
How Can Women in Recovery Find Healthy Connections?
In addition to re-connecting with family and friends, there are many ways in which women can find new connections. They include:
- Going to therapy – Forging a healthy relationship with your therapists may be one of the best things you ever do.
- Attending a support group – Support groups are a great way to meet others who are facing the same types of situations you are. When you share common circumstances, it can be easy to connect and help each other.
- Finding a sponsor – A sponsor is a person who walks by your side and helps you stay sober. This person can become incredibly meaningful to you, and they can help you stay on track.
- Online support groups – The Internet can be a great place to find all types of support groups. In fact, AA and NA have online options.
- Going to church – Churches usually offer a lot of opportunities for socialization. It’s usually very easy to find a women’s group or another group that’s of interest.
Recovering from an addiction can be difficult; but it is even harder when you try to do it alone. At Women’s Recovery, we can help you get started on your recovery and healing journey, by providing real connection and by helping you mend the connections in your life. Contact us for more information.