According to statistics released in a Columbia University study, women resort to drug and alcohol use for reasons that are different from men and one of the reasons is physical abuse in a relationship. Women who are caught in abusive relationships are more likely to develop low self esteem, depression, guilt, shame and loneliness, all of which play a significant role in the substance use that women develop.
In traditional drug and alcohol rehab treatment and recovery programs such as 12 step recovery where there is an emphasis on powerlessness to the addiction, women are further subjected to this idea that they are incapable of overcoming another relationship: the relationship with their substance use. 12 step programs promote the idea that drug and alcohol use are a disease that is genetically passed down from generation to generation in families and that there is no cure. Further, 12 step programs suggest that the only treatment is surrendering the substance use to a higher power, meetings for the rest of their life, abstinence and of course the powerlessness aspect.
There is a problem with this process in that if a woman turns to drugs and alcohol to escape the fact that she is being victimized by a partner, spouse or other family member, does the disease theory appropriately describe the situation? What's more, using words such as disease and powerlessness to describe a woman in this situation are not words that inspire anyone to try to get out of their circumstance. If anything it might work to drive them deeper into their substance use. In this respect, 12 step recovery does nothing to help women gain self confidence or self esteem that will motivate them to rise above their situation and realize that it is not hopeless and they are not helpless!
Another consideration is given to the idea that most women who are substance users came from families where excessive and chronic drug and alcohol use was prominent. There is also the belief that many of these women were also physically and psychologically abused in the home by males who were in a dominate role and help power over the female. This idea is applied to the lives of women who have substance use issues as far back as early childhood.
12 step recovery programs use a form of therapy that address the women's past and places an emphasis on traumatic events that are most likely the root cause of their drug and alcohol use. Instilling an idea of powerlessness, does nothing to build up, especially while digging into the past. Women who come from traumatically abusive situations have learned certain coping mechanisms, substance use being one of them; that helps them to forget about the past or their situation.
St. Jude Retreats offers an alternative to 12 step recovery in a six week cognitive behavioral education program. Guests learn to use self change and self assessment to make productive choices and decisions and to create positive habits and behaviors that increases self confidence and self esteem.