By: Kaleigh Nobbe, Clinical Intern

Historically, women have faced demands and poor resources in their path to recovery. In the North American culture, women struggling with substance addiction have carried social representations of depravity, sexual promiscuity, and deviance, and systematically prescribed more medication (e.g., opioids, antidepressants, etc.) than men for conditions such as moodiness, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Even research shows that women’s needs in recovery from substance use frequently remain undetected as their reluctance to seek support is elicited by barriers including lack of childcare, fear of losing their children to child protection services, guilt, shame, stigma, etc. It’s been indicated that women’s stories of recovery give voice to themes of “vigilance” that affirm their need to remain watchful for dangers to their recovery process through acts of remembrance, being careful, and seeking community.

The achievement of wellness is not a self-contained pursuit. Mothers with a history of substance use disorder (SUD) described their pursuit of wellness as a process of “holding it together” where consolidating their place in the family system and anchoring a sense of home proved effective in grounding a healthy sense of identity and self-confidence moving forward. Processes involved in women’s sense of wellness in the context of recovery from SUD require opportunities and resources present at personal (e.g., personal agency, self-esteem, etc.), relational (e.g., social support, solidarity, etc.), and collective (e.g., freedom, equity, etc.) levels.

With this, wellness approaches to women’s recovery from SUD benefit from consideration given to potential for relapse as part of the process. Studies in SUD treatment bring forward the notion that difficulties in emotion regulation mediate the relationship between wellness and days of relapse. According to these studies, counseling services with a wellness focus aimed at building self-regulation skills (e.g., accepting and processing one’s emotions) may translate into improved overall wellness for persons in recovery.

Studies on women transitioning from recovery to parenthood draw attention to the fact that the process of reestablishing a sense of self and belonging is continuously impacted by family and community support, as well as sociocultural and systemic challenges. For many women, close family and/or community environment carry numerous stressors, posing risks to the process of recovery through developmental and intergenerational traumatic histories of adversities, poverty, chronically stressful living conditions, domestic violence, gender-based violence, and social stigma.


If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, you can contact 1-800-662-4357, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline.

To learn more about substance use, follow this link.



To learn more about how we can support you or a loved one struggling with substance use,

call Owens & Associates at (847) 854-4333 for a free 15-minute consultation.