There are distinct differences in the way addiction develops between men and women. Whether it’s due to environmental factors, family history, gender-specific expectations, or any combination of influences, men and women ultimately have different needs in recovery.
Often times, their experiences are unique to their gender and they may face different obstacles, influences, and pressures in relation to their addiction and recovery needs. Men often face pressure to adhere to certain gender roles that may influence them to engage in behaviors they would otherwise avoid. They frequently describe feeling pressure to become a successful provider for a family while exercising emotional restraint.
Discussing sensitive topics, challenging gender expectations, and overcoming the need to perform “masculine” behaviors are common obstacles in men’s recovery. Men are often influenced by stereotypes and societal expectations to behave in certain ways to avoid being perceived as weak. These beliefs are so ingrained in society that many perform these behaviors subconsciously, which further perpetuates the negative influence on the individual’s life as well as those around them. In order for recovery to be successful, creating a safe space to comfortably discuss experiences and influences can help clients receive the help they need.
Men’s Needs in Addiction Treatment
Gender-specific treatment is critical to successful recovery. For many, having treatment that can address the specific challenges and obstacles they face can improve the effectiveness of treatment and the longevity of sobriety. Men’s unique physical, mental, and emotional needs must be addressed in order to reduce the risk of relapse following treatment. Rates of substance abuse and addiction tend to run higher in men than women and much of this is due to gender-specific pressures and influences.
One way to successfully address men’s needs in treatment is through the use of single-sexed group therapy. Men are often reluctant to appear vulnerable in front of members of the opposite sex, or even one another. By creating a safe space for men to discuss their needs, they can effectively address more sensitive topics that may be difficult to discuss in a mixed group setting and work together to overcome the influence of gender stereotypes. Some male-specific themes in treatment include:
- Emotional restraints: Men are taught from an early age that expressing their emotions makes them appear weak or feminine. For this reason, many suppress their emotions in order to project masculinity, but this often causes damage. Rather than expressing their emotions openly and honestly, men may choose to use drugs and alcohol to cope with stressors and difficult situations. This makes it especially difficult for men to be open and honest in therapy settings, especially around women. Gender-specific therapy creates a safe space for men to discuss challenges they face with others who can readily relate to their experiences and offer support.
- Gender performance expectations: Men often feel pressure to engage in behaviors that are classified as masculine. They are taught to be aggressive, strong, and fearless, which can cause some to act out through more reckless behaviors to avoid being perceived as weak. Substance abuse often increases risk-taking behavior, which further drives hyper-masculine behaviors. Binge drinking and drug use may serve as “proof” of their masculinity, which only worsens behaviors and leads to dependency. Additionally, men are often under pressure to be providers. If they believe they are not meeting expectations, they may use substances to cope with stress and other negative emotions. Conversely, if they experience success, they may use substances as a way to celebrate their achievements.
- Difficulty in building meaningful relationships: Men are conditioned to view intimacy as a form of femininity, and because of this often treat sex like a conquest instead of an intimate act. This causes sexual acts to become achievements and goals because they’re afraid that anything otherwise would make them appear weak or feminine. These behaviors can make it difficult for men to forge meaningful relationships with other. Men’s therapy is designed to address these barriers and help them develop healthy ways of communicating and relating to others.
- Gender roles in society: Men are encouraged to become self-reliant and take care of themselves. Asking for help can be perceived as a sign of weakness, which can in turn cause feelings of doubt, lessened self-worth, and poor confidence. Societal expectations regarding how men should act and live can cause a great deal of stress. A perceived failure to meet these expectations can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, if gender expectations do not align with how they truly feel, it can cause men to act against their own interests.
Men’s addiction treatment is designed to help remove barriers, encourage introspective thought, and develop healthy relationships with others. Treatment provides a safe place for men to focus on their needs during recovery free from the influence of stigmas and societal pressures that discourage emotional growth. Surrounded by other men with similar experiences and goals, gender-specific treatment can help men build confidence in themselves and establish a healthy support network of like-minded individuals.
About Sober Living for Men
To further build upon the foundations established during treatment, men’s sober living homes provide clients with a safe place to stay as they transition into independent life. Although there is a popular misconception that sober living homes are homeless shelters, they are often nice homes in safe neighborhoods. In most cases, residents do not know that a sober living home is in their community.
Sober living homes assign responsibilities to clients that they would have if they were living on their own. They are responsible for cleaning, doing dishes, laundry, and other related chores in addition to paying for groceries and utilities. These responsibilities are designed to slowly reintroduce clients to independent living without overwhelming them. Through this, clients develop confidence in their ability to be self-sufficient.
In order to keep the home safe, clients must adhere to house rules that include maintaining sobriety, following curfew, and going to school or working. Residents must also continue to meet regularly for group and individual therapy sessions to help manage recovery. As long as clients adhere to guidelines, there is no time limit for how long they can stay at a sober living home.
Sober living homes help clients stay in touch with the sober community and further develop their relationships with sober peers. No matter what challenges they face in the real world, clients take comfort in knowing they have a safe, sober environment to return to every night, free from the negative influences and pressures that threaten sobriety. Sober living homes provide clients with the ability to experience independence while benefiting from the resources available to them through the sober community. Clients have access to academic advisors, transportation, job assistance, and other amenities. Sober living homes allow clients to practice the behaviors and skills learned during recovery in real world situations to further develop into successful, sober adults. With the encouragement of sober peers and staff, sober living homes provide clients with a safe environment and the ability to live a normal life.