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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Empowering Women Throughout the Recovery Process

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself”
-Hannah Gadsby

What is “Empowerment” and Why Does it Matter? 

In recent days, the idea of empowerment has become a bit of a buzzword and rallying cry heard on the frontiers of social justice. Historically as well, the idea of “empowerment” has been used to reclaim and inspire incredible change in combatting societal and cultural systemic oppression of marginalized identities. We’re often encouraged and empowered to use our voice to join the cause. 

But what place does empowerment have for women in the substance use recovery process? 

Reclaiming Your Power

Although the first step of any 12-step group like Alcoholics Anonymous or its cousins (NA, CA)  involves admitting your own powerlessness to overcome your addiction to drugs or alcohol, like many important constructs, this must be held in a balance with the idea of your own innate power to create change in your life. 

Thus, it is important, and for many, it is healing, to acknowledge the power that substance abuse has in disrupting and controlling aspects of life and well-being. However, it would be a disservice to not explore and utilize the healing potential that lies in empowering women to see the strength that lives within them as they journey through the recovery process. 

Empowering women throughout the recovery process also involves helping them to find their unique voice, to increase their confidence, ability to advocate for themselves, and to understand the cultural and community context of their recovery. 

You Are More Than Your Substance Use

Utilizing an empowerment approach through the recovery journey separates the individual from their substance use. Empowerment in this context says, “You are not defined by your substance use - you are much more than that!” Your worth as a person is not based on your struggle with substance use. 

From this perspective, we understand that using substances is a coping mechanism that develops as an attempt to deal with overwhelming or uncomfortable feelings, oftentimes as a response to trauma. When one’s feelings, thoughts, and relationships are not providing them with authentic and genuine fulfillment, it can lead to shame, pain, confusion, anger, and a host of other complex experiences. Substance use is a survival tool to try to numb this chaos and feel satisfaction, temporarily

Viewing substance use through this lens allows for easier separation of substance use from the individual. It can be powerful and inspiring to understand that using substances is a result of an unmet need and that there is a way to reclaim that control and power without relying on substances to meet those needs. Focusing on our individual unique strengths and tapping into the fullest potential within the self allows us to move towards wholeness. 

Using your Voice to Power through Recovery

As discussed in this study, there are three important ways we can benefit from empowerment in recovery: intrapersonal, interactional, and environmental.
  1. Intrapersonal: our internal experience

Exploring and understanding the internal factors that contribute to using substances can lead to a deeper awareness of self. This insight empowers us to heal from trauma, pursue passions and goals, and develop greater self-assuredness, all of which can be immensely valuable on the road to recovery. 
  1. Interactional: our relational experience

Our relationships and interpersonal communication serve as another area of focus when considering the effects of empowerment in the recovery process. This can include boundary setting, identifying the impact of crucial relationships during childhood on current self-concept, surrounding oneself with supportive people, and prioritizing accountability in close relationships. 
  1. Environmental: our community experience

Community resources are an integral part of the recovery journey, particularly for women. Research has shown that a lack of resources and access to these limited resources exists for women in recovery. Barriers include “a lack of services and resources to address pregnancy and/or childcare, economic barriers, comorbid psychological disorders, trauma histories, and a lack of social support from partner and/or family”. This is one of the many places where we at The Haven see a need and work to collaborate and provide supportive resources to women to empower them through their recovery. 

Self-acceptance and self-worth

As Dr. Charlotte Kasl states in her 16-step approach for discovery and empowerment, “Empowerment is based on love.” This includes self-love, rooted in self-acceptance and self-worth. 

The more we are able to practice self-awareness, the more compassion and acceptance of all parts of ourselves we will discover. This allows us to identify the limiting beliefs that our past experiences and trauma have instilled in us, and how these beliefs contribute to a weakening of our sense of self-confidence.

As we reconstruct and develop a unique internal belief system that aligns with our true self, we are able to reclaim the power within us. Finding the power in self reveals wisdom, truth, acceptance, commitment, compassion, and empathy - all of which are mighty agents of change throughout the recovery journey.

Women-Specific Recovery at The Haven

There is specific intentionality that drives the staff at The Haven towards developing a greater understanding the experience of women, and what their unique needs may be throughout the treatment process. By seeking to further empower them with a new narrative about themselves, as well as resources and tools we are able to help these women create lasting and sustainable recovery. Learn more about our transformational treatment programs or give us a call at 1-805-202-3440 to get connected today!