There is no denying the benefits of substance abuse treatment when the individual applies what they learn while in treatment. However, for the addict in early recovery, the challenge of staying focused on themselves and applying the tools they learn is immensely difficult. This arises for several reasons. It could be they are not interested in recovery, or that they have an intense fear of facing the reality of who they have become. However, there is another distinct reason, that is more common than one might believe. Studies show that the number one thing addicts cross addict to in early recovery is romantic relationships.
There are several reasons why an individual may chose to distract themselves with a romantic relationship while in early recovery. The first is the most obvious one. People with addiction have repeatedly gone against their moral compass while intoxicated. They would do things while intoxicated that they would have never done if sober. When the addict sobers up most come to reality with the actions they have taken while in their addiction. Taking a hard look at oneself is not an easy thing to come to terms with. Therefore the addict in early recovery will chose to engage in a romantic relationship for the sheer purpose of focusing on another person instead of focusing on themselves. This is obviously inherently selfish, as well as unhealthy. In order for someone to successfully recover from addiction they must repeatedly take a hard look at themselves, and be willing to continue to amend their behaviors.
Another reason is because addicts, by default have a low self-esteem. Due to this, the addict will become involved in romantic relationships, because they derive a sense of validation and worth from the relationship. Building a sense of self-esteem and self-worth takes time, and is not an easy task. There are many things the addict must face and overcome to do so. Since people with addiction tend to avoid their problems and want instant gratification, they will usually try to find another way to achieve their goal – which almost always ends up in avoiding the problem, or dismissing it outright. Therefore it is not surprising that the addict in early recovery will use romantic relationships the same way they used substances. Substances provided a way for them to avoid dealing with reality, and to escape pain. It is the same with unhealthy relationships in early recovery. They will use the relationship as a source of self-worth, thus avoiding both the true work needed and the pain of growing. This is particularly dangerous because they do not do the necessary therapeutic work needed to recover from addiction. Furthermore, the addict in early recovery tends to have enmeshment issues, and will often times establish their identity based on another human being.
Hence why gender specific programs are becoming more and more of a mainstay in the treatment industry. If an individual chooses to attend a gender-specific program, they will not have the opportunity to distract themselves with a romantic relationship. These programs also offer a more comfortable environment for the individual to become vulnerable with both their peers and staff. For example, not many men care to open up and be emotional around women, because it might make them feel week. Or vice versa. Not many women would feel comfortable talking about abusive relationships they have had with men, in a room full of men. Gender specific treatment not only removes the distractions, but also allows the individual to learn how to form true friendships with their fellows, and gives the addict a safe place where they feel comfortable opening up and being their true self.