Perspective: Women in Recovery

Women’s experience of recovery often comes with a specific set of considerations and hurdles; Women’s History Month has been our excuse to dive into the subject.

Dee Young was expecting a man to catch her when she fell, but found that it was the women she met through AA who held her up. In her piece “The Women of AA” she explains how they “surrounded [her] like mother hens” and “treated [her] like their little sister” and eventually became the reason she sought out the all-women meeting that supported through her first decade of sobriety.

In “Women and alcohol: Getting sober, staying sober,” Ann Dowsett Johnson introduces us to the women she met during her first week in rehab and describes that all too familiar feeling of “I want to go home. I’m in the wrong place: I am healthier than these people.” Johnson is also the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, in which she combines extensive research with her own recovery story.

How have your female friendships impacted your recovery journey? Let us know in the comments and take a tour of the Graham Munro Centre, our residential treatment house for women, here.


The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.

Women now drinking almost as much as men

by Ana Sandoiu


Traditionally, alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse have been more commonly associated with men than women. But as more women drink alcohol, a new analysis finds they are catching up with men at an unprecedented rate. This also means women are affected by the same harmful effects of alcohol as men, and the new study highlights the need for women-specific information and educational campaigns in order to reduce the negative effects of alcohol consumption.

Historically, men have used alcohol anywhere between 2-12 times more than women, the analysis reports.

However, the new research revealed a steady decrease in the sex ratio of alcohol consumption, alcohol abuse, and related harms.

In the early 1900s, males were twice as likely to consume alcohol than females and almost four times more likely to develop an alcohol-related condition.

By contrast, in the late 1900s, the gender gap has nearly disappeared, with males only 1.1 times likelier to consume alcohol than females and just 1.2 times more likely to experience alcohol-related problems.

The closing gap is most obvious in the youngest adults, namely those born as recently as 1990 and aged between 15-25 years.

The analysis — published in the journal BMJ Open — examined studies that tracked alcohol patterns in participants born as early as 1891, ranging all the way to 2001. The research collected data between 1948-2014 and included more than 4 million people. Some of the studies considered spanned over 30 years or more.

Health risks of alcohol use

Alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for global disease, together with smoking, pollution, and high blood pressure.

In 2010, alcohol accounted for 5 percent of deaths worldwide and was the leading risk factor in Eastern Europe, Andean Latin America, and southern sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2012, alcohol accounted for 3.3 million deaths, which is 5.9 percent of the global number of deaths.

In the United States, alcohol is currently listed as the fourth preventable cause of death by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Traditional gender expectations and alcohol consumption

Some studies have pointed to the connection between gender expectations and alcohol consumption patterns. Social norms associate drinking with displays of masculinity, while traditionally defined femininity associates women with abstinence.

Because of sex-based social roles, we also tend to judge women more harshly for using alcohol or having an alcohol addiction.

Gender roles perceived in this traditional way might cause women’s drinking problems to be ignored or mishandled. In fact, a study reported that women often feel that the social stigma stands in the way of seeking and receiving treatment, and women were more likely to report stigmatization than men.

Women must be warned of alcohol risks

The analysis conducted by Slade and team questions traditional assumptions and urges relevant institutions to put women at the centre of new prevention and intervention programs:

“Alcohol use and alcohol use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon. The present study calls this assumption into question and suggests that young women, in particular, should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms.”

The study does not provide any explanations for why the gender gap is closing, but speculations include changes in traditionally female gender roles; the researchers point to a study that showed alcohol consumption rates were most similar between men and women in countries where male and female roles were most equal.

The men and women in the analysis were very young and early in their alcohol use, the authors warn. As a result, more studies will have to be carried out as the young males and females age into their 30s and 40s.


Reprinted from Medical News Today with kind permission of the author. To see more of Ana’s work, follow her at


Contributors to Renascent’s Blog share their stories of addiction and recovery and/or their professional expertise.

Video: Five women share their stories

More than 90 overdoses have occurred since Tuesday, August 23, 2016 in the city of Cincinnati alone. A local news channel spoke with five Cincinnati women who have overcome their addiction. The women share their stories about recovery and offer help to those who need it.

The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.

Perspective: My Mom, My Sobriety and Me

by Joanne P.

The recent passing of my mother this year has got me to thinking about many things, one of which is how our relationship changed during my continued sobriety.

My sobriety date is December 30, 2006 and I came into the rooms of AA in 1999, so that should tell you how I struggled to get this thing. Like many of us, I did not come into the rooms willingly. And perhaps like most of us, it is interesting now upon reflection to see how a mother always knows what’s going on long before we do.

Nothing is as precious as a mother’s instinct and my mother always knew when I was lying or trying to hide the truth, even when I didn’t know myself. Uncanny, really, how she could coax things out of me. As a matter of fact, she was the one who sent me a copy of our Twelve and Twelve with the inscription “Maybe this will help you, Love and Good Luck, Mom.” I still chuckle over that.

To give you a brief history, I was born in a small town in Newfoundland with four other siblings and am the youngest twin to my twin sister. (My twin sister never let me forget about that one!) Both of my parents were alcoholics and I swore I would never drink!

I never knew what I was walking into at home and life was very unsettled and unpredictable. I don’t remember a lot of family time or hugs and kisses and certainly not long discussions of what was going on at the time, or even how I was doing. It may have happened, but to be honest I really don’t remember it that way.

My father died at the young age of 53. Prior to that, my folks had split up. My mother felt she had to take control of the situation and place us in a healthier environment so she decided to leave dad and start over. At that time and being in such a small community, my mother had a lot of courage and strength to do this. The funny thing is that this is when my mother’s drinking really kicked in. I won’t go into the sordid details, but I think you get the picture.

The good news is that my mother managed to get a number of years of continuous sobriety herself (she never disclosed) and died sober. Not living in the same province as my mother made it difficult for me to see how she was really doing. She struggled, I do know that much, and I remember at least one intervention by one of my sisters in the States. To be honest, I was so busy doing my own drinking that I really never totally understood what was going on or how serious this disease can be.

But things changed in our relationship when I got sober. First things first, I was actually picking up the phone to call my mother on a regular basis. After making a thorough amends to her, I was able to share honestly how I was feeling or, better yet, get her to share how she was feeling.

Unfortunately my mother’s choice was to isolate and she never attended any AA meetings. To this day I think this would have eased her loneliness, her depression and her anxiety. It has been my experience that when I get to a meeting (even when I don’t want to go) or help someone else, I definitely get the benefits of participating more in life.

In my sobriety, instead of asking for money to bail me out of my own financial dilemmas as a direct result of my own drinking and lack of responsibility (of which there were many times during my drinking, trust me!) I was able to have money in the bank and fly home and see my mother on four occasions before her death and see where I could be of service and, frankly, be the daughter and grown woman my mother so deserved.

Interestingly enough, my mother was able to make amends to me for the neglect that her drinking career caused, and for that I am very grateful. Our relationship not only grew as a daughter and mother, it transformed into a solid loving relationship. Forgiveness and empathy for another human being are the greatest gifts of this program, simply by one alcoholic sharing with another. It is truly a powerful, magical thing that I hope I will never take for granted.

During my last visit at home in December while my mother was in hospital, I shared with her that it was my AA birthday of eight years that day. A calm moment of silence. Then my mother told me that I had helped her. Bewildered, I asked how? She said that she told herself, “If Joanne can do it, I can do it” and that was what had kept her sober for the last eight years of her own sobriety. With that, she fell into a peaceful sleep and I was left in a world of amazement. I still am. Mom passed away three weeks later and there was nothing left unsaid between us.

We just never know where we are going to get or give the message and how we can be of service to others. In this case it came full circle. Amazing Grace, to be sure.

Members of Renascent’s alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email