During the early stages of recovery, when nagging cravings for drugs seem capable of tripping up even the most stable of people, a loving partner can make all the difference in the world. For example, in an article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers found that men in recovery were less likely to return to alcoholism nine years later when their partners had low levels of alcoholism-related problems. Even more startling, the partners of these addicted men tended to drink less as the men healed, regardless of the amount these wives drank before the recovery began.
Studies like this seem to demonstrate that partners can lift one another up and promote a robust recovery process that can persist in the years that follow treatment. But when addicted people aren’t in committed relationships, they might have a completely different path to follow in order to heal. In fact, they might need to steer clear of the opposite sex for a time, so they can focus on their addictions in an exclusive manner. The lessons that men and women need to master in recovery can also vary dramatically, and meeting those needs can be hard in mixed company.
For these reasons, gender-specific sober living can be an excellent option. These facilities provide care during a crucial time in the recovery process, and by providing care that’s sensitive to the needs of the gender, they could promote robust healing.
A sober living community is designed to put a person who is new to recovery in touch with a group of peers who have the same sorts of experiences and the same sets of sorrows. This group can function as an impromptu family, sharing stories and providing intensive support that’s based on experience. While anyone who has an addiction might be a welcome addition to this family, research suggests that men and women have slightly different experiences as they walk down the path of addiction, and as a result, they may approach the healing process in slightly different ways.
In an article in Addiction Treatment Magazine, experts outline the following ways in which men and women have slightly different addiction-related experiences:
All of these small factors, when added together, seem to suggest that men and women don’t really see eye to eye when it comes to substances of use and abuse. This could, in a sober home, cause significant problems.
In a shared home, for example, men may wonder why their female counterparts developed addictions just months after starting drugs, when it took them years to get to the same place. They may see the speed of the decline as a sign of weakness, and they may be unable to relate to the idea that the woman’s issues are both real and severe. These differences could become evident in group meetings held in the home, and women might feel less likely to speak as a result. Men might also feel irritation at an inability to relate to their housemates, and they might be less likely to share.
Some gender-based differences are easy to spot, and they can be cause for serious misunderstandings in a sober home.
But there are some sources of conflict that are buried so deep that even the participants can’t see them. If the genders aren’t kept separate, these issues could also impede a robust recovery.
For women, these issues might involve physical abuse. A study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs indicates that women are more likely than men to endure physical or sexual abuse on their path to an addiction. Some women experience these episodes in childhood, but others fall victim as adults. Women who survive an episode like this might be wary and watchful when it comes to men, and the idea of living in close proximity to men could fill these women with terror. These anxious feelings could quickly lead to a relapse, and the mixed company of the sober home would play a role.
Additionally, men who grow up watching frequent episodes of abuse can grow up with a twisted sense of responsibility, as though they should be brought to task for their inability to stop the abuse once it had began. In mixed company, men like this might be totally focused on the needs of women, even if that means the needs of the self are left behind. These men might also get less help out of group meetings, since they might be so focused on the needs of the ladies in their company.
When the genders do get along, and everyone is sharing and growing in a family-type setting, other concerns may follow. For example, some people may choose to pair up and share far more than they should. There are no formal rules about whether or not people can or should date during the recovery process. In general, though, it tends to be frowned upon, as people who are dating are quite focused on the needs of other people, as opposed to the needs of the self. They’re trying to make a partner happy, when they really should be focused on what might make them feel happy and content.
It’s easy enough for a relationship to spring up in a mixed-gender sober living home.
The group tends to share a lot of information, including both stories and histories, and residents are in close proximity to one another almost all the time. They might eat together, clean together, head off to work together and then participate in the meetings together in the evenings. They share together and grow together, and in no time at all, they might be committed to one another.
Again, emotional commitments aren’t necessarily a bad idea, but they can make recovery difficult, and when they take hold in a communal living situation, they can make life a little awkward for everyone involved. For people in danger of falling in love with someone of the opposite gender, a sober home that’s restricted to their gender might be a better fit.
In addition to providing a safe and sober place to recover, gender-specific homes can also provide the kind of help that men and women would find most meaningful as they attempt to pull their lives back together. The help they might get in these homes can be radically different.
A study published in the Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community suggests that women have larger financial gains and losses as their addictions have progressed, when they’re compared to men. As a result, women might be left with tumultuous lives that are difficult to improve without intensive help involving:
Homes for women might provide courses on these topics, or they might be sprinkled in the meetings women attend each week. Women’s homes might also provide a plethora of community program connections, so clients can work with funded programs that can provide the help they need.
Men might also have these needs, but they can also struggle with the concept of friendship and connection in a world that’s clean and sober. Since they’ve always used substances of abuse as an icebreaker in social situations, they may be unaccustomed to forming friendships that don’t involve drugs or alcohol, and they may find real intimacy hard to develop and maintain. These are the sorts of lessons that might infuse the group work in a men’s sober living home.
Some of the work that’s done in a sober living home might not change by gender, as most experts agree that counseling, group meetings and work are the cornerstones of healing in a sober home. These are the aspects of care that might be emphasized in any home, regardless of the gender that’s being served. But the subtle shift of attention in group meetings and in the rules of the home might be vital to a tailored and comprehensive healing program, and that’s the kind of care a gender-specific facility can provide.
It’s relatively easy to find a sober living home that’s segmented by gender, as this is the model that most homes follow. Experts suggest that this is the right kind of care, so it’s the sort of program that most facilities strive to provide. However, those who have specific concerns about the people they’ll be living with should be sure to bring up the issue of gender in their interviewing process. A few simple questions can help them to ensure that the program they’ll be using is right for them.
We can also help you to find the sober living home that’s right for you. Our database is filled with homes we’ve verified, and we provide a significant amount of detail on our site about whom the homes are designed to serve and how they work. Please browse the site and call us so we can help connect you with the best option for your situation.