May 8, 2013

Societal pressures driving mothers to seek comfort in drugs and alcohol

The pressures on mothers today are extraordinary. Experts share tips daily on how to “be a better mom” and “have it all.” While this wealth of information can be valuable, it also sets an impossible standard for mothers to achieve.

To cope with all the pressure, mothers are at increasing risk of developing destructive coping mechanisms, the most common of which are drug and alcohol abuse.

A recent survey conducted by Caron Treatment Centers, a nationally recognized non-profit provider of alcohol and drug addiction treatment, found the top five contributing factors to addiction for mothers are stress or anxiety, romantic relationships, pressure from family or friends, traumatic experience and a general feeling of boredom.

“I kept telling myself that as long as everything looked perfect from the outside, everything would be okay,” said Colleen Greene, a Caron alumni, mother of two sons, and chair of Caron's National Alumni Leadership Council. “But it wasn't. I was slowly dying and I'm certain that tragedy would have ensued if I'd continued on that path.”

Addiction is a brain disease that requires clinical treatment. Many women, however, especially moms, hesitate to seek help. With Mother's Day as the “official” time of year to honor moms, the best gift to give her is that of wellness and the ability to be present for herself and her children.

“Women often tell me they knew they had a problem long before seeking a solution,” said Cheryl Knepper, a vice president at Caron Treatment Centers. “Our survey reveals that many mothers carry a lot of shame, guilt and denial, which prevents or delays them from seeking help. They are naturally concerned about leaving their children. However, those who do get help, along with their families, find their ability to parent greatly improves.”

The survey, conducted anonymously in April 2013 among 100 alumni treated within the Caron Treatment Centers Continuum of Care, showed:

  •   46% of respondents are currently between 46 and 55 with a household income over $100,000.
  •  78% were married when they went to treatment; 74% had two or more children.
  •  88% of respondents abused alcohol in their own homes (as opposed to a bar).
  •  More than 44% abused prescription drugs (23% benzodiazepines, 21% opiates).
  • More than 70% did not use alcohol or drugs while pregnant.
  • 60% of respondents drove under the influence every week prior to recovery.
  • Over 30% of respondents were reluctant to seek treatment because they were worried about leaving their families; however, over 55% sought treatment at the request of their families.
  • 83% said emotional availability for their children greatly improved after treatment.

“Addiction does not discriminate; however, there are unique issues women face in addiction, treatment and recovery,” said Dr. Harris Stratyner, a vice president at Caron Treatment Centers. “Women's distinctive physiology, mental health, life circumstances, as well as hormones, may affect their experience in addiction.

Some common signs that you or someone you know may have a bigger issue with addiction include forgetfulness, abrupt changes in mood, changes in physical appearance and the inability to control drinking in social situations.”

With the help of individualized treatment and recovery plans for themselves and their family, Caron Treatment Centers' alumni, like Colleen, feel empowered, self-sufficient and healthy.

“Knowing you're not alone is comforting. There are so many wonderful women who suffer from the disease of addiction. They do not have to continue living in constant fear or pain. There is a better way of life, a new life called recovery,” said Colleen, who is excited to celebrate seven years of continuous sobriety on May 8.

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