6 Unique Challenges Men Face in Recovery

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No one enters rehab thinking it will be easy. In fact, those struggling with addiction know that getting sober will be one of the hardest things they ever do, which makes it all the more admirable when someone finds the courage to turn their life around. Even though recovery is no walk in the park, the benefits far outweigh the challenges each and every time.

That being said, there are some unique obstacles that men face when recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. From societal and cultural norms that expect them to “tough it out” rather than ask for help, to the stigma of mental health care, even admitting they might have a problem can feel overwhelming for most men. While not insurmountable, these obstacles can interfere with the treatment process and make it more difficult for men to achieve a new, sober lifestyle.

At Choice House, our goal is to help men triumph over addiction and be vigilant about maintaining lifelong recovery. Our treatment programs are designed to address men’s unique needs and provide a supportive, comfortable environment where they can find hope and healing in the Rocky Mountains. Keep reading to learn how Choice House helps men overcome six unique challenges they face in recovery.

1. MORE ARE MORE LIKELY TO ABUSE DRUGS OR ALCOHOL

Studies show that men are more likely than women to begin using drugs or alcohol, and tend to start doing so at a younger age. While both genders can develop a substance use disorder and fall into the cycle of addiction, men have higher rates of dependence on alcohol and almost all types of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and opioids. This can be due to factors like peer pressure, easier access to illicit substances and macho or risk-taking behavior, but there is also less stigma attached to men using drugs or alcohol. It’s not uncommon for men to get high with their friends, and being able to “hold your liquor” is traditionally seen as a masculine trait.

Another reason that men are more prone to substance abuse is a higher incidence of co-occurring disorders, but because society tells them to “man up” and ignore their emotions, they’re less likely to recognize a mental health problem or get help. This can lead to self-medicating with drugs or alcohol instead of addressing the underlying concerns. Untreated mental illness can also increase reckless behavior and fuel a harmful cycle of ups and downs that worsens over time.

Given the range of risk factors involved with substance abuse in men, treatment providers should develop high-quality programs that address gender-specific needs. Since untreated mental health problems can interfere with the recovery process, an emphasis on dual diagnosis care is also important, as is increasing access to solutions that appeal to men.

2. MEN ARE MORE RELUCTANT TO SEEK HELP

Compared to women, men are less likely to seek help for pretty much anything, whether it’s asking for directions, putting together furniture or solving a problem at work. Studies suggest that men are just biologically hardwired not to second guess themselves. This helps explain why it can be so challenging to get them to accept the advice or guidance of others, especially when it comes to mental health or addiction. Doing so would be considered a sign of weakness or failure.

A greater reluctance to ask for help means that unless things are falling apart, a lot of men will pretend that nothing’s wrong. That’s why it often takes a significant upheaval or crisis to motivate them into getting treatment — otherwise, it’s business as usual. Legal troubles, financial ruin or medical problems can motivate some into seeking help, while others only agree to rehab as a condition of drug court.

However they get there, getting men to take that first step toward recovery is the most important catalyst for change. Even if they’re not ready yet, being in a supportive environment sends the message that a sober, healthy life is possible. Only after this sinks in can the healing process truly begin.

3. MEN FIND IT HARDER TO OPEN UP

One of the most critical aspects of the recovery process is connecting with others and becoming part of a supportive community. In rehab, this includes both mental health professionals and peers who are on the same path to healing. The more individuals engage with this support system, the more therapeutic benefit they’ll get from the experience.

The problem is, many men are uncomfortable articulating their emotions. In the early days of recovery, they may also feel on guard and have trouble making new friends. This is especially true if they believe their reputation is at stake or they’ve been raised to associate vulnerability with weakness. Although therapy is a safe space for sharing, being unable or unwilling to open up is one of the biggest obstacles men face in recovery.

Gender-specific rehabs are one way to tackle this problem, ensuring a supportive environment free from distraction, judgment or bias. This helps men feel more comfortable and makes it easier for them to speak freely during therapy sessions. The modalities used in this type of treatment also address issues specific to men and tend to resonate better with clients.

Outside of treatment, family and friends of those in recovery can help men stay on track by reaching out and offering them support. Addiction and mental health problems can increase feelings of loneliness or isolation, causing some to fall back into destructive habits if left unchecked. Having a solid support network in place during the good and bad times can help reduce the risk of relapse and ensure lifelong sobriety.

4. MEN HAVE A HIGHER RISK OF RELAPSE

Compared to women, studies show that men have a higher risk of relapse for many of the reasons mentioned above. Because of this, aftercare and ongoing support are crucial to staying sober long after treatment. Transitional periods can be especially challenging, with 30 to 40 percent of men relapsing in the first year of recovery. To combat this, most rehabs offer outpatient care or sober living to help clients readjust to daily life.

These programs provide an opportunity for men to practice new coping skills in the real world, but with a support network still in place. Transitional care makes the sudden lack of structure after rehab feel less jarring and helps clients rebuild their confidence as they learn how to resist triggers or temptations. As they gain more independence and experience, this approach leaves men better equipped to avoid relapse compared to an abrupt end to all treatment services.

5. MEN STRUGGLE WITH POSITIVE EMOTIONS

When we think of relapse, we usually imagine someone in recovery using drugs or alcohol after a major stressor, such as getting divorced or losing their job. While these triggers are often associated with relapse, you might be surprised to learn that positive emotions like optimism, joy or excitement are more likely to present a bigger challenge for men.

How can such positive emotions be a bad thing? They’re typically not, but a study from the University of Pennsylvania found that men report these feelings more often than women before relapsing. Because men are less in touch with their emotional side, it seems that positive feelings can become overwhelming and cloud their judgment. Men are more likely to let their guard down when they feel especially good and convince themselves that they can resume using drugs or alcohol, but in moderation this time.

This is another reason aftercare and ongoing support are so important to the recovery process. Addiction is an insidious disease that can strike when you least expect it, and for men, that seems to be when things are going particularly well.

6. MEN ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE A CO-OCCURRING DISORDER

More than half of those who struggle with addiction also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. The risk factors are similar and interactions between them mean that one can worsen the other, making it more difficult to achieve lasting recovery. While this is true for both men and women, the patterns and types of disorders that affect them vary.

Men are more likely to suffer from serious mental health problems like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, with symptoms beginning at an earlier age. Compared to other diagnoses, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are notoriously difficult to manage and associated with significantly higher rates of substance abuse. Men are also more likely to develop autism spectrum disorders, impulse control disorders and antisocial personality disorder, all of which can increase the risk of addiction.

Dual diagnosis care that addresses both substance abuse and mental disorders in men is essential for achieving lifelong recovery. Without it, difficult symptoms can linger and disrupt the healing process, triggering a relapse or mental health crisis. To make real, meaningful progress toward recovery, men need care that goes above and beyond to treat any underlying disorders and help them manage their symptoms in a healthier way.

At Choice House, our goal is to help men overcome the challenges they face in recovery with high-quality treatment programs tailored to their needs. We believe that nurturing strong bonds among clients is key to encouraging them to open up and truly connect with the recovery process, so we provide a tight-knit community in the Rocky Mountains where men can feel a sense of belonging and ease. Combined with our comprehensive approach to substance abuse and mental health treatment, no stone is left unturned when it comes to helping men find hope and healing from addiction. To learn more about our programs, contact or call us today at 303-578-4975.

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