Addiction recovery doesn’t impact just men or just women, but when it comes to addiction, there are sometimes differences in the way alcohol or substances affect us, and the way that we handle addiction and recovery, that are different between men and women. For that reason, it’s important to think about some of the unique challenges than men might face when trying to overcome alcohol or drug abuse.
For many decades, people have assumed that substance abuse was pretty exclusively a problem that affected men, which means that a lot of studies have been done on the challenges and problems that might come up during treatment. A recent focus on female addiction has shifted some of the spotlight away from helping men, but there are still some hurdles that men face.
In our culture, men are expected to be “strong and silent” types—people who deal with their problems quietly and privately. The stereotype of the man who can handle it all, without any help, puts added pressure on men who are facing addiction because they are afraid of looking weak if they reach out and ask for help.
A man’s biological makeup also means that he is able to use drugs and alcohol for longer periods of time, or in higher quantities, before it has a detrimental impact on his physical health, which means he may be able to hide it longer.
One of the main reasons that women cite for putting off addiction recovery treatment is family—if a woman is the primary caretaker of children, a spouse, or aging parents, she may not feel like she is able to leave for an extended period of time to go through recovery. For men, the shame and guilt might come from the fact that they are the primary breadwinner, or one of the breadwinners, in the family. Leaving for an extended addiction recovery treatment program might seem like a financial impossibility.
Finding a treatment center that is close to home, and one that offers different program lengths, can help alleviate this stress. You may also be able to achieve success in an outpatient program versus inpatient, which would allow you to continue working through the treatment.
Men (and women) often go through treatment and successfully recover from addiction only to find that upon leaving the inpatient program or lagging in their participation in outpatient recovery options, they fall back into the same bad habits. Men who have friends that consume alcohol or use drugs recreationally might find it difficult to resist the peer pressure to join in on these activities, even after a successful recovery. Studies have shown that men have a higher risk of relapse, so it’s important to find a program that offers the right aftercare—such as mentors and support groups—to prevent this from happening.
Finding the right program is important to ensure men get the help they need to overcome addiction.