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Women's Recovery Blog

November 27, 2010
by Carol Ackley
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My name is Carol Ackley and I am the executive director of River Ridge Treatment Center in Minnesota. I have been working with women in all stages of recovery for over 20 years. I have found the work to be exhilarating, challenging, difficult at times, and ultimately very rewarding. I have been fortunate to have had many mentors and peers throughout my career, who challenge me and help me work with women and their families with both tried and true evidenced-based material as well as the pioneering work which has helped us develop the evidenced-based methods of tomorrow. You will be hearing from some of these mentors and peers as guest bloggers and I hope that you find them as inspiring as I do.

The women and their families that we serve as substance abuse counselors and other behavioral health professionals have complex lives and often times their road to recovery is difficult and challenging. Many of the women that we work with have co-occurring disorders and have had traumatic experiences and abusive relationships which further complicate their ability to heal. As I'm sure most of you are aware, most medical research, including most of the original research on addictive disease, has been done with white, middle class men. In fact, the Jellinek study, (1942, Baldwin Research Institute Inc.) from which the Jellinek Curve was developed, was a research project that AA, through the Grapevine magazine, ordered from Dr. Jellinek. Dr. Jellinek found that approximately one-third of the answers to the questionnaire about the path to addiction and the path to recovery were very different from the other two-thirds, and so, for purposes of research, he did not use those answers. As we now know, those were the answers from the women. Therefore, most of our treatment modalities, until the 1990's, were developed by men, for men, using research from men's experiences. While many of the women in the early days of AA managed to find recovery, many more found it difficult to find meaning for themselves in rooms full of men, listening to stories about men's addiction and recovery. Thanks to pioneers such as Marty Mann, Dr. Ruth Fox, Lois Wilson, and in the last 25 years, Dr. Stephanie Covington, Melody Beattie, Dr. Judith Herman, The Stone Center, Claudia Black, and Janet Woititz, to name a few, we now have a much better understanding of how addiction impacts women and how to help them on their path to recovery.

My hope is that this will be a very interactive blog. I've found through the course of my career that when networking with other women, the wealth of experience and knowledge is deep, broad, and inspiring. I hope that we can share our successes and challenges with each other and support each other through our own experiences, strength and hope.

I'd like to start this blog discussing women and relationships. Many women define themselves in the context of their relationships, relationships with themselves and other important people in their lives. A lot of women have not had much experience at developing healthy relationships and this becomes one of the tasks of recovery for most women. I would like to open up the dialogue about how you have helped women define unhealthy and healthy relationships and some of the material that has been helpful to you including books, experiential exercises, trainings and storytelling.

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Great topic...Although in my position I don't really dive into much about relationships, we have put together a curriculum that deals with a multitude of health and body image issues. One of the questions we ask our ladies to answer is...list people in your life that help you define your self-esteem (both positive and negative).

And just a short story about recovery for some of the women we work with...Recently we had the pleasure of providing a professional photographer came in an took family photos at a residential women's substance abuse center (with their children). The excitement of the girls when they got these photos back was priceless. Just having other girls around them saying they were beautiful from looking at their photos was an amazing experience for some of these girls who may have never been told that in their life (or don't think their beautiful anymore based on their current appearance in recovery).

Hello- I am thrilled to see the topic of your blog. Always a welcome focus. I'm a woman in recovery and a student of counseling (co-occuring disorders specifically). Thank you and I will look forward to what you have to share.

Well i have major issues when it comes to the relationship that ihave been in for more the 10 years now, we are no longer together however I cant seem to break free>he was so verbally abusive through out the years whlie we were using now im in recovery but im still comunicatig with him an being abused when hes loaded I need to stop comunicating with him but its really hard

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Carol Ackley

Carol Ackley is Executive Director of River Ridge Treatment Center in Minnesota. She has created...