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Women in recovery; We’ve come a long way baby!

We’ve come a long way baby!

Women of a certain age will remember this slogan attached to a cigarette made just for us. The ad went on to remind us of the strides we had made in society. We no longer needed to feel less than, left out, or invaluable. We were inching closer to equality with our male counterparts. We had gained (and recently lost) the right to decide if and when we might have a child. Birth control was freely accessible, and the responsibility of the woman, of course. It was becoming apparent that women are not wired the same as men. Society as a whole began to understand that men and women were, and still are, vastly different.

These differences are alive and well and living in the rooms of recovery. Depending on the recovery program you are working, the language is written by men and for men. My program and the steps to recovery were first written in 1939 by two men, the basic text is sacred and will never change. Nor should it, however, as a woman desperate to understand how to get clean and sober, it was a mental block for quite some time. It was obvious the men who had written this program did not write it with me in mind. How could they possibly know how I felt? It was a big problem for me and other women in early recovery. As I would read the text, it would feel as if I was getting farther away from what they were trying to teach me. I couldn’t grasp what they were preaching. I didn’t FEEL the same way.

The male approach to recovery is unlike the female approach. We women immediately take on everyone’s feelings. Trying to pluck apart the feelings of ourselves from the feelings of the family we have so desperately let down. We feel compelled to take care of those around us to the detriment of our own recovery. We are caretakers. We try to love our way out of the mess we created. This approach will not work in early recovery. We need to find sober women to love us until we can love ourselves. Once we can begin to love ourselves that female love will benefit families and by default, society. It has been my personal experience that women “fall in love” with their drugs and alcohol.

Using them and letting go of them is like letting go of a lover or best friend. There is a strong emotional attachment to them. Once they are given up, that “love” must go somewhere. In the best of circumstances, it is freely given to those closest to them. Their family, be it biological or recovery, will benefit most from our new freedom to love and to heal. The unselfish caretaker comes to the forefront. Women in general, feel the need to heal not only themselves and their families but the world. The very emotions that for centuries have labeled us as weak, are our biggest strength.

Women in recovery will nurture the newcomer with kind words and an unselfish outpouring of pure love. Female love. A quiet, gentle and guiding love. The same love that took the hands of our children and guided them to adulthood. There are several books regarding recovery that speak to a woman’s heart. Where the gender is specific only to them and the unique needs we share. Afterall, recovery is steeped in the like minded approach. Reading recovery material designed for my female psyche is comforting and familiar. It just makes more sense to me. Reading words that describe how I feel is the core of recovery. The male oriented basic text of my program will not change and I can live with that. We females have a knack of finding what works for us. It makes me wonder how the men would feel if that sacred basic text was written in the female.

By Celia Ferrand


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