How Can a Woman Leave Her Family to Come Into Treatment?


How can a woman leave her family to come into treatment? This is an emotionally loaded question, often asked by family members, friends and neighbors. And most especially, by the woman herself. While the answers to the question can be varied, they may also have many similarities.


Address Feelings With Respect…

Women come into treatment because they are tired of feeling sick, guilty and powerless. They may feel exhausted and broken. They might have what we call the “Water Syndrome” –  H20 –  Helpless, Hopeless and Overwhelmed. Others may be angry. Mad at their families for pushing them away. Angry at themselves for damaging behaviors and feeling like a failure. As experienced treatment providers, we are sensitive to the feelings of guilt, anger, and shame of women and their families and work to address these feelings with respect.


One reason women hesitate to enter a treatment center or go to AA or NA meetings, is that on top of feeling guilty about their drinking or using, they may also feel guilty about taking time for themselves and spending less time with their children. The rationalization that women can’t take time to leave their children, is sometimes countered by the reality that they have already emotionally abandoned their children by their use.


Even the youngest children, who cannot tell you what is going on in a family, can communicate by pictures and playacting, the dynamics of family members. Children are great observers of behavior and often turn out to be wonderful truth-tellers. As painful as it may be to hear their truths. By taking the time to recover, women begin to understand how they are more available to their families.


The Gift of Role-Modeling

Other women fear their admittance of failure to their families, especially their children. They worry that their failures will negatively impact their relationships with their loved ones. I frequently tell women, “Showing your children how to ask for help and having courage to do the difficult thing is the greatest gift of role-modeling that you can give.”


I tell them that their children will make many mistakes in life. And witnessing how their parents honestly handle life difficulties, is far more important than looking perfect in their eyes. It takes responsibility and love to admit our mistakes…


Coming into treatment can mean making painful choices and sometimes having painful options. However, for women who understand the value of the choice, it can be one of the best decisions they will ever make. A decision made with love and an eye to a bright future. To lead a life of recovery, and one of fullness, richness and vibrancy…





Author Christine Walkons (MA, LPC, CAADC, CCS-M) is an emeritus Clinical Director for Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers. She has been working in the addiction field for over 30 years, developing residential treatment, outpatient and intensive outpatient programs. Christine lives in Elberta, Michigan among the scenic dunes of Lake Michigan and divides her time between Grand Rapids and her small northern village.