Unique Issues Facing Middle-Aged Women in Addiction Recovery

A woman standing in a field contemplating Middle-Aged Women in Addiction Recovery

Contributed by Staff of Timberline Knolls Residential Center.

Drug and alcohol abuse can enter the life of anyone at any time. Although the reasons behind the attraction to chemical substances vary from person to person, the end result is typically the same: addiction. So, what unique issues present themselves for middle-aged women in addiction recovery?

Middle-age women are in no way immune to the lure of alcohol and drugs, especially doctor prescribed pharmaceuticals. In fact, these women may be at the most vulnerable place in their lives. For the purposes of this article, we are defining middle-age as between 39 to 59.

What Are Triggers for Middle-Aged Women?

For many women entering middle-age, it can be a time of great positive reflection. Perhaps they chose the perfect life partner, settled into a good career and/or had the family that they had always intended.

Conversely, others might engage in a similar life review with decidedly dissimilar results. For an aging woman, this negativity could be due to one, or several of the following:

Woman in red scarfRealization that she will not have children. Unlike men, who can produce progeny throughout the lifespan, a woman has a somewhat defined time-frame.

Once a woman reaches a certain age and has not had children, she must accept that her identity may be different than originally planned.

A woman may feel defective, even though remaining childless might have been a life choice.

Sacrificing a career to be a stay-at-home mother. In the beginning, a new mother might relish remaining home with her baby; however, as the years pass, she may feel a loss of identity or unfulfilled on many levels. She can easily feel trapped or resentful.

Pressure of remaining unwed. There is still a tremendous stigma attached to a woman who never marries. People start to question why this is the case when a woman is in mid-life and she is more than well-aware that her prospects are dwindling with every passing year.

One or more divorces, especially if the marriage was long-term. This is especially problematic if she remained at home and became financially dependent on her spouse. The loss in and of itself can be devastating, to say nothing of the fear and anxiety associated with perhaps having to re-enter the labor force.

Empty-nest syndrome. Being a mother is what defines her—her sole purpose is to raise children. Her entire life and self-worth revolve around offspring. When the last one takes flight, she might feel lost, having no purpose.

Physical signs of aging and menopause. The aging process can be depressing and anxiety-provoking, and unfortunately, inevitable. If a woman has been highly engaged with her appearance, the lack of control over what is transpiring in her face and body can cause extreme distress.

Whether related to marriage, child-bearing or the intricacies of aging, each of the above issues results in some sort of emotional upheaval. Depression, anxiety, a sense of worthlessness, envy of younger women, and regret over unrealized opportunities— each one of these shares something in common: they are painful feelings.

How Can We Support Middle-Aged Women in Recovery?

In today’s society, we want immediate relief from discomfort, be it physical or emotional. The easiest and most dangerous response for these women is to begin drinking just a little earlier in the day or take one or two of those pain killers in the medicine cabinet…or both.

Woman in hatSuch behavior is easily justified. “All my friends drink during the day” or, “It IS a legal prescription, so what is the harm?” It is a very slippery slope and by the time awareness dawns, these individuals are frequently fully addicted.

Fortunately, addiction recovery treatment is readily available and recovery is possible. If you or someone you know currently struggles with an addiction to alcohol or any type of drug, please get help.

Thank you to Timberline Knolls for providing this article.

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Timberline Knolls is a leading residential treatment center for women and adolescent girls, ages 12 and older, with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. Located in suburban Chicago, residents receive excellent clinical care from a highly trained professional staff on a picturesque 43-acre wooded campus. An adult partial hospitalization program (PHP) is also available in nearby Orland Park, Ill., for women to step down or direct admit. For more information on Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, call 630-755-5173. We are also on Facebook – Timberline Knolls, LinkedIn – Timberline Knolls and Twitter – @TimberlineToday.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 17, 2017
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 11, 2021
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.