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Motherhood And Addiction, Part 2

Part 2- Helping Women Heal

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
-Helen Keller

My ability to help women heal from the perils of addiction relies on my capacity to understand what women really need in order to get better. As a therapist, I have heard countless women share with me the messages that they give to themselves regarding willingness, surrender, and acceptance. They say things like, “I can’t go to treatment because my family depends on me” and “I can’t be an alcoholic I am a mother”. The stigma against women and addiction still exists and often keeps women from getting the help that they need. Women are still taught that they are to behave in ways that are “ladylike” and acceptable by society’s standards. They are to drink in moderation and not in excess. They are to handle all of the demands of motherhood, career, relationships and every other task they take on with grace and without stress. If they do experience a sense of feeling overwhelmed they must cope with it in private.

So, as a treatment professional whose job it is to help women recover I am asking women to do the very thing they have been taught not to do. They must put themselves first. They must ask their families to understand so that they can, in fact, help themselves and rely on others to give them the support they so desperately need. They must surrender to the fact that this is one thing they can not control and cannot fix. They must come to an understanding that someone or something outside of themselves are able to help them. They must recognize that they have anger and resentment, fear and shame. They must gain insight into who they are as women, not just define themselves by the roles they play; mother, daughter, sister, wife, worker.

What we know to be true is that women get help much later into their addiction than men and that by the time they do get help their disease has often progressed to the point of major physical, emotional and mental health problems. Women hide their disease for fear of ridicule and stigma. They often believe that the shame of admitting they are chemically dependent is greater than the pain of their addiction. What we also know to be true is that women need a sacred space to heal. They need a staff that understands the importance of safety, respect, validation, and empathy. They need a place where they can be challenged in a loving way and allowed to share openly. They need a place where they can begin to see themselves for who they really are and learn new tools for healthy self-care. Only then can they begin to heal from the disease of addiction.


Sarah Gentry, Lmhc

Sarah Gentry, licensed mental health counselor and certified addiction professional, is the owner of Sarah Gentry Counseling, PLLC, and the director of community outreach for Villa Tranquil. She specializes in working with guests and families with chemical dependency, eating disorders, co-dependency, trauma, and family-of-origin issues.