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Recovery experts talk challenges of female addiction

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MEDINA — Women in recovery and the particular struggles they face came up in a recent Medina County Opiate Task Force meeting.

“We started asking some questions, and we didn’t feel that we had folks in the room who might be able to answer that for us,” Krista Wasowski, health commissioner at the Medina County Health Department.

Those questions were addressed with a presentation from Denise Engelmann and Anna Smyczek of Alternative Paths at Friday’s task force meeting.

“It’s a thinking disease,” said Smyczek about addiction. “It’s not just something that comes onto someone unexpectedly. It’s the way people think. It’s a maladaptive way of coping.”

Engelmann shared that, in some cases, a woman will replace one addiction with another one. For example, she said that she’s heard women say that they aren’t on heroin anymore only to find out that they’ve switched to alcohol or another drug.

She said this relates to the idea of a thinking disease because they have the idea that they won’t die from heroin anymore, even though they are harming themselves with some other form of substance abuse.

Engelmann said that another reason that women struggle with recovery is because of transportation issues as well as the availability of sober houses.

Those who suffer with addiction often have lost their licenses or do not have access to a vehicle.

As a result, they can’t get to the recovery centers or make it to their drug-testing appointments. Also, the county has a limited amount of recovery centers for women, which means they have to travel outside the county to receive help.

Child care is another big issue. Many of these women, Engelmann said, don’t have access to child care and have lost ties with their relatives, making the recovery process more difficult.

Smyczek said that women who suffer addiction also suffer from low self-esteem because there is a tendency in our society to devalue women battling addiction because they don’t fit into the idea of a “good woman” or a “good mother.”

She continued, saying addiction serves as a coping mechanism for their trauma and this can affect them in recovery.

She also said that trauma can be related to the issues that women face in recovery.“A lot of times, women have a higher rate of trauma … children are abused because of their vulnerability and they’re seen kind of even, boys and girls. And then, we look at how trauma transpires, and an adult woman because that trauma doesn’t really diminish as much as it does for men.”

“Trauma isolates and addiction isolates,” said Smyczek. “You can’t engage.”

For more information, visit www.alternativepaths.org or www.medinamentalhealth.com/Opiate_Task_Force.html.

Contact Reporter Alyssa Alfano at (330) 721-4063 or aalfano@medina-gazette.com.
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