Amy’s Place: A Women-Only Recovery Home
Singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse was found dead on July 23, 2011 in her London home. For years, Amy was not able to escape the pain of alcoholism and addiction. She would frequently seek recovery, and was in and out of treatment.
On Sept. 14, 2011, Amy’s 28th birthday, The Amy Winehouse Foundation was formed. For five years now, the foundation has aimed to help mend the broken hearts and lend a helping hand to those afflicted by drug and alcohol addiction or mental disorders.
Thanks to the Amy Winehouse Foundation and its partner, Centra Care and Support, women in the United Kingdom (UK) are given extended hope for recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
Nearly five years after the death of Amy Winehouse, the Amy Winehouse Foundation, opened a women-only recovery home for young women between 18 to 30 years of age. Amy’s Place opened its doors on August 22, 2016.
Amy’s Place is a recovery home located in East London. The project director of the Winehouse Foundation, Dominic Ruffy, claims that this recovery home is opening due to lack of women-only recovery services and housing with in the UK.
The UK has only 1 percent of recovery homes centered around women’s needs. Recovery housing is mostly co-ed (non-gender specific) and specified to address the needs of men. Thanks to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, there is now another women-only recovery home located in with in the United Kingdom.
This home offers hope, strength and encouragement to young women who want a chance to start over, fresh. Many women up to this point seeking recovery need a place of safety, compassion and support, but don’t have many options.
Amy’s place is set to have a total of 12 apartments which will hold 16 women altogether. It is designed as a three-month residential program for women, offering treatment through holistic avenues, such as, yoga, skills workshops, education on relapse prevention and reiki.
Additionally, this recovery home will help women with vocational services, such as, employment workshops. The program model is a co-production model and includes attendance to four groups each day.
The main objective of Amy’s Place is to help women get into recovery from addiction and transition back into everyday living without the threat of relapse. Amy’s Place will be of very few women specific recovery homes located in London.
Why Women- Only Rehab is Important?
There is no doubt that both men and women are impacted by the deadly disorder of addiction, but why isn’t there an equality in services?
The mental disorder of substance addiction is certainly not gender specific. However, treatment and recovery ought to be if we wish for people to recover from addiction. From a cultural and biological standpoint, women and men have different traits that need to be addressed as such when getting treatment for addiction.
As someone in recovery from drug addiction, if I was not offered treatment services that address women’s needs only, I would not be where I am today. The opportunity of safe housing and long-term treatment for addiction and mental health disorders came my way and saved my life.
On an International level, rehabilitation centers have inadequately provided support for women seeking recovery from addiction.
Quite frankly, women who want to stop being controlled by drugs and alcohol often have a small window of opportunity to get the help they desire, before the chronic mental torment or obsession begins to resurface and the chance banishes.
Due to the lack of resources, women who seek treatment might not get far. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research shows that addiction treatment needs to be based on gender specifications.
Services for women specially should be centered around acknowledgement of psychosocial needs. Psychosocial needs refer to an individual’s social and psychological wellness. Overall, looking at all aspects of a women’s history, such as, family, age, education, etc.
Additionally, it is likely for addiction to have connected factors, such as co-morbid disorders that can complicate treatment. Co-morbidity mainly centers around health related problems such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.
That said, co-gender rehab facilities really cannot be considered a safe or holistic healing environment for women.
Women’s needs are much different; I do not say this to give the impression that women are weak or not as strong as men. That is just not the case, women actually process information differently and have a different biological make up then men do.
So basically, treating both men and women with the same service plan does no real service for women whatsoever. Research from the co-director of the Institute for Relational Development, Dr. Stephanie Covington, reports that women have a higher likeliness to experience mental health issues that are directly related to their addiction.
Speaking for myself, before getting addiction treatment in a small women-only community, I did not know the severity of my mental health state nor was I able to accept the truth of past trauma that was hindering my recovery.
Some of the most important issues that need addressing are: relationships, hormonal concern, trauma and the list goes on.For women to heal, treatment centers must be safe from physical and emotional abuse.
The effectiveness of the program will depend on its trauma sensitive structuring. Without a treatment design structured for trauma informed care, the healing component will not exist.
Research from Dr. Covington, has also found that many women with substance use disorder were reported to have experienced trauma from physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Specifically, initial studies focusing on women with addiction and trauma, discovered that about 72 percent had experienced emotional abuse, while 74 percent endured sexual abuse and 52 percent of women had been physically abused.
In more current studies, the majority of women with addiction have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse. With such a high connection to trauma and addiction, women impacted become more vulnerable and receptive to re-traumatization if not treated carefully. Re-traumatization occurs when trauma is “triggered” by psychological, as well as, physical experience.
A healing environment for women has to have an increase of respect for privacy, as well as, the ability to for each woman to make her own choices, without fear of being rejected.
Overall, women’s treatment for addiction recovery must be extensively different than treatment for the male population. Women’s needs simply just are not the same as men.
Addiction and Trauma: The Process of Trauma
According to the Drug and Alcohol Women Network Project (DAWN) One in every four adolescent females are abused sexually before reaching age of 14 years.
Addiction in women often stems from trauma during adolescence. Many women who use substances often have an increased rate of childhood abuse, either sexual or physical, when compared to men or non-substance using women.
In the overall scheme of thing, women tend to exude far greater vulnerability for abuse when living with an addiction, whether she was abused at a young age or not.
Living with addiction, which is a mental disorder that occurs in the lives of many women. “According to SAMHSA, over 15.8 million women have used illicit drugs within the past 12 months.” Addiction resides in the brain and dictates a person’s psychological functioning.
The psychological control happens through a change in brain chemistry. Addiction warps the brain into a “fight or flight” response so to speak, which begins in the Amygdala cortex of the brain. The amygdala, which is responsible for the emotional processing through interpreting sounds and images in the brain- is activated when a person senses danger.
After danger is sensed, the amygdala sends a signal of distress to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus serves as a control and command center that communicates with the body’s autonomic nervous system. Because of this both women and men with addiction are more likely to enter into high risk situations in order to “stay alive.”
A Traumatic Experience
If you do not have personal experience with trauma, you may be wondering what exactly is trauma. Trauma is an occurrence of stress that happens suddenly and forcefully, which creates a feeling of being highly overwhelmed.
Women who have experienced traumatic life events often refer to feeling helpless, fearful and horrified. Women need support to heal from trauma, as well as, addiction, through developing support with others and social connection. Just as substance addiction changes a person’s brain chemistry, experiencing trauma does the exact same thing.
Trauma formed from abuse of any kind damages a woman’s sexuality and sense of self. This is where the co-morbid disorders are more likely to affect a woman’s recovery process. Not only does addiction alone warps one’s psychological make-up, but most women also have severe change in chemistry due to trauma and abuse.
There are many ways a person can experience trauma. Women are at a much greater risk of enduring interpersonal violence than men. Interpersonal violence is defined by violence by an intimate partner, dating, sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.
NIDA states that, for every one in three women (if not more) have experienced violence from an intimate partner.
Violence includes anything from shoving and slapping to being burned, choked, beaten, stabbed or raped. Abuse is not exclusive to physical violence, rather violence is also endured on an emotional, psychological and economical basis as well.
A Deep Impact from Trauma
Experiencing violence on an interpersonal level often times greatly affects one’s health and wellness. Women who survive this kind of violence often feel fearful, alone, confused and do not know how or where to get help.
Women who have experienced interpersonal and domestic violence have an inclined rate for risk of substance abuse and addiction. In addition to other chronic disorders or conditions, such as, ill health, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obesity or pain.
The more intimate effects in women caused by sexual abuse are feelings of being powerless and not having a voice in a relationship(s); mistrust of one’s self as well as others; numbness by the lack of ability to stay in the present moment; shame about being a woman, as well as, body image; and poor judgement in choosing relationships.
With trauma on a criminal level, each woman has a different reaction. Each reaction is personal to that individual and there is not a right or wrong way to react. Every woman’s situation is unique to her experience and complex in nature.
Seeking support and help often feels unsafe and an overall threat to one’s well-being. Reaching out for help might prove frightening, women need social connection and a supportive network in order to heal.
Although living in addiction is not the only connection to domestic violence or physical and sexual assault, the life style of addiction presents a higher risk of vulnerability, which leads to an increased chance of experiencing violence.
The potential for a traumatic event and reoccurring events in women with substance use disorder drastically increases in comparison to others who do not have a substance disorder.
Stepping into deeper truth about women, addiction and trauma; sexual exploitation and trafficking of women is brutal reality for many women who live with addiction.
Addiction is often found in survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Prior traumatic experiences of abuse and violence is known to increase the risk of trafficking.
Drugs: Connection to Trafficked Women
So what is the connection really between drug addiction and human trafficking, especially trafficking of women?
For starters, I understanding this is not an exciting or settling topic, but this is our reality as women and it deserve attention and recognition. The first connection is that the drug and human trafficking world are very close in business and practically co-exist.
From a global stand point, adolescents and women are the largest subset of sex-trafficked victims
Human trafficking through forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation is ranked the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry worldwide after the drug dealing industry.
To address trafficking of women, specifically, The United States Department of State also claims that an estimated 80 percent of victims of trafficking are women and young girls.
Additionally, within the United States, as well as on an international level, U.S. citizens involved are victims as well as perpetrators of trafficking.
So, what exactly is human trafficking? Human trafficking is a devastating violation of human rights. Trafficking of persons is characterized by the exploitation of an individual for economic purposes, through fraud, force and/or coercion.
As reported by The Department of Health and Human Services, human trafficking victims are often found to have Substance Use Disorders and addiction.
International studies of traffickers from Mexico, Thailand and India, found that forced drug use was used in form of coercion. In the United States, traffickers use substances and addiction as a way to control their victims.
The victims of this tremendously inhuman living environment may seek drugs during captivity or as a continuum after escaping a trafficker, to escape from reality, the mental torment or to numb the overall pain.
From personal experience, the person who trafficked me used my drug addiction as a coercive hook and capitalized on my vulnerable state of being. Prior to being trafficked and sexually exploited, I had been deep into a heroin and club drug addiction.
Traffickers prey on vulnerable women and capture them for financial gain, regardless of whether she is living with an addiction prior to being sighted or not. If a victim does not have a prior history of addiction, traffickers often drug women and girls for the power and control over their lives.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), research has found that the majority of traffickers in women obtain their victims in many different ways. Traffickers use trickery to physical violence and brutalization for gaining trust in relationships with victims and their families to enable exploiting them.
Traffickers may come from domestic and interpersonal relationships, such as, the family, an intimate relationship, a friend, acquaintance or even a stranger.
If a woman makes it out alive from the torment of her trafficker(s), as many do not, the impact of physical and mental anguish is astonishing.
Trafficked women suffer severe physical and psychological consequences that have the potential to be life-threatening and life-long. Psychological problems after trafficking is very complex and not easily understood nor diagnosed.
Underlying the complexities of trauma, women often experience post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic depression, self-harming behaviors, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, traumatic brain injuries, neurological issues, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, panic, disassociation and sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
Complex trauma is connected to extended lengths of time in captivity, such as, hostage situations. This kind of trauma is associated directly with trafficking.
Women who are exposed to trauma such as this, pose a high risk for self-harm, self-destructiveness, risk-taking behavior and re-victimization.
Women who have survived trafficking also have a hard time with relationships in a whole, including intimate relationships, as well as, every day interpersonal relationships.
That said, aside from the crushing impact of being property of another person, survivors of trafficking can and do heal. Healing is contingent on having a safe environment that can connect with women on an individual level.
Healing from Addiction: A Brighter Future Ahead
Hope for the future of women-only addiction support and recovery services is bright. Although Amy Winehouse is missed by many, a great thanks is owed to her and her family.
In addition to the UK finally adding another recovery home designed for women-only, I believe that the publicity of this cause will bring women on an international level a brighter future for recovery. Salute to the Winehouse family, for such an incredible honoring of Amy’s life.