5 Common Dangers for Women in Recovery

Article contributed by Lorraine Quintana-Prieto, MSW of Lakeview Health System

Life was unbearable when you were in active addiction, but when you begin recovery everything changes. After completing rehab, you feel accomplished and confident about staying sober, but you soon learn that recovery is harder than you thought, and may be even harder for women. So many challenges in life can threaten your recovery. Knowing how to spot trouble and learning how to deal with it in a healthy manner increases your chances of having a long lasting and successful recovery.

5 Reasons Women Relapse

You have so much riding in the balance; you have to make sobriety work. But, certain situations can jeopardize your recovery. Some of the major reasons women relapse include:

1.      Getting into a Relationship at the Beginning Stages of Recovery

A new relationship can be a wonderful thing. The new feeling of the relationship and learning about each other is exciting and fun. But, starting a relationship during the early stages of recovery poses risks to your progress. Relationships are time consuming, thought consuming, and can easily get you off track in your recovery. The situation can worsen when you experience conflict in the relationship. The stress and extreme emotions you experience when you argue can trigger women to drink or use again.

2.      Replacing One Addiction for Another

Now that you are not drinking or doing drugs, you might have felt the urge to fall back into something else. Just because it is not alcohol or drugs, does not mean that it cannot cause problems for you. The longer you use these other things to help you cope with stress, anger or pain, the closer you are to relapsing. If you are relying on sex, food, gambling or anything else as a crutch, it means that you still have underlying issues–such as low self-esteem or self-worth–that need to be addressed.

3.      Undiagnosed or Misdiagnosed Mental Illness

Having addiction and one or more mental illnesses is referred to as having a dual diagnosis. For many women, addiction and mental illness goes hand in hand and is common. Although many women struggle with both, the mental condition may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. The symptoms of a mental illness can be mistaken for symptoms of alcoholism or drug addiction. A woman runs the risk or relapsing when she is not getting the right treatment for her dual diagnosis or is not treating her mental illness at all. The untreated mental illness can exacerbate her cravings and she might self-medicate with alcohol and drugs.

4.      Not Asking for Help or Support

Women have many roles and responsibilities to fulfill. Some women feel they have to jump right back into their balancing act when they complete treatment. Being able to take on their previous roles of wife, mother or career woman without slowing down or needing help from others shows they have their life under control. Juggling these roles, responsibilities and recovery can become overwhelming and if taken on without help or support, can lead to a relapse.

5.      Lack of Healthy Coping Skills

Up until now, you have used alcohol and drugs to help you cope with stress, anxiety and emotional pain. Although you were able to numb the feelings briefly, drinking and doing drugs did not really work. They actually caused more problems. Now that you are in recovery, your previous coping skills are not going to fit your new way of sober living. Women who don’t develop healthy coping skills are in danger of relapsing at the first signs of stress.

5 Tips to a Successful Recovery

There are many situations and challenges that can be a risk to a woman’s recovery. The best thing to do is to know how to identify these situations and cope with them in a healthy manner. Here are some tips to avoid a relapse:

  • Surrounding yourself with family and friends who support your recovery can help you keep from falling into these relapse traps.
  • Continue working with your counselor to help you stay on track and improve your coping skills.
  • Attend AA/NA meetings and meet with your sponsor to get insight and perspective from others who have been in similar situations.
  • Set attainable goals and work toward them. If you are in considering getting into a relationship so quickly, ask yourself if the relationship is going to help you reach your goals. You may find that it will distract you from your goals.
  • Ask for help when you need it. This does not take away from you being a good wife, mother or career woman.

Recovery is not always easy to navigate but with support, knowledge and awareness, you can have a successful and long-lasting sobriety.


Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 2, 2013
Published on AddictionHope.com, Online Help for Addictions

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.