Women in Recovery
Alcoholics Anonymous, the primary program of recovery from addiction amongst substance abusers worldwide, was founded by – and initially exclusively for – men.
Men would gather for coffee and conversation as their devoted wives met separately and figured out how to cope with the emotional distresses their husbands had caused them over the years. While some of these women undeniably struggled with excessive consumption themselves, it was their duty as wives to support their husbands as they overcame addiction, keeping up the home and caring for the children.
In 1935, the societal role of the female in any matrimonial relationship was relatively cut-and-dry. It was a woman’s responsibility to fulfill expectations of being a good wife and mother, and sweep any personal hindrances under the rug. As times began to change and women’s liberation gained momentum nationwide, ladies began speaking up and seeking help themselves.
While the first female member of Alcoholics Anonymous, Florence Rankin, joined the fellowship in March of 1937, females did not heavily infiltrate the program until the 1960s.
The first women in recovery displayed absolutely astonishing amounts of courage, and helped to pave the way for decades of recovering women that came after them. The initial role of women within the fellowship was complicated by numerous factors, and sadly, many wives and mothers found it easier to simply perpetuate the allocated role of committed homemaker than to rattle societal standards.
Not only did gendered structure assume an alcoholic to be male, but there were also fears revolving around the alleged sexual behavior of drinking women – a stereotype that has trickled down for years since and shaped the current prevalence of women in the rooms.
While the innumerable benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs in the lives of women have been proven time and time again, less than one-third of all fellowship are females. This is due, in large part, to the misguided stereotypes that have followed women throughout history. While these pigeonholes are constantly being disproven, many women fail to seek treatment based on fear of disapproval or the general stigmas relating to women in recovery.
Fortunately, in recent times, being a woman in recovery is not only accepted – it is celebrated! Female-exclusive treatment centers have been established nationwide, and the importance of addiction recovery amongst females has become exceedingly clear.
As women, the only current barriers we face are self-imposed. We are strong, we are capable, and we are deserving. Slowly but surely, the role of women in recovery is growing, and as it does, more and more ladies are casting the hindrances of shame and stigma aside and giving themselves the chance at the fulfilled and joyous lives they so warrant!
This essay was written by Cayla Clark, a woman in recovery and writer for many top south Florida drug rehabs!