by Penny Hauser
Beyond the importance of healthy human relationships, a spiritual process in which a woman embeds her recovery in her relationship with God has proven essential for helping her move into the peace and joy of sustained recovery. Her relationship with God gives her the strength to continue on the journey to recovery and leads to an acceptance of the incredible gift of grace.
The social stigma of being a woman addict can be the greatest barrier to a woman’s acknowledging her disease. Understanding this stigma and overcoming fears related to it are important for a woman’s path to recovery. In my clinical work I use a helpful acronym—STIGMA—which outlines the issues women identify as primary traps in their addiction and triggers for relapse:
G=Grief and loss (or) Guilt and shame
A=Anger and abuse
These issues are best explored with a supportive and empathetic therapist, a support group, or a knowledgeable minister. It can also be done as part of personal reflection in conjunction with other treatment. We are powerless over our addiction but not over our recovery.
Naming, transforming, sustaining
A woman beginning the path to recovery should explore each STIGMA issue with reflection, openness, and awareness. This is accomplished in a three-stage process in which she names the issue, transforms her thinking and behavior, and sustains that transformation in her relationship with God.
Though it is critical to name and transform to move into long-term recovery, the most important stage in the process is sustain. This stage really begins the first time a woman utters the prayer, “My God, what am I going to do about this?!” This cry leads to the gift of grace, to spiritual willingness to be open to a new way of thinking and being in a relationship with God. Openness begins in name and transform. It is our knock on the door. The door opens and leads to a sustained recovery that is no longer a struggle, but one in which we have moved from fear and darkness to peace and light.
To move closer to peace and light requires that a woman acknowledge her loneliness and the God-shaped void that lies at the core of her addiction. Most of us like to think we are open to new ideas and experiences, but when it comes to a new relationship with God, we don’t know how to begin. If a woman is willing to examine each of the STIGMA issues in light of her relationship with God, if she is open to reflection, then there is hope for her sustained recovery.
Penny Hauser has worked in the mental-health field for thirty years. Since 1985, her clinical practice has focused on substance abuse in women. For more information on her book Broken by Addiction, Blessed by God, visit liguori.org or call 800-325-9521.