Guest blog by Natalie Umesi, MD, MBA, SMART Recovery NYC Women’s Meeting Facilitator
I feel honored to be a SMART Recovery facilitator. I facilitate local meetings with a group of warm, supportive, and dedicated individuals, led by “G” (Matamoros), who is impossible not to love at first introduction. While enjoying our SMART Recovery NYC annual Watermelon Social this summer, we discussed the importance of offering two recovery meetings that meet the needs of our diverse population.
I started SMART Recovery NYC’s first women-only meeting, open to all who identify as a woman. My hope is to create a safe space to address the unique biological and societal challenges that women face in accessing addiction treatment and in recovery from substance use disorders and other maladaptive behaviors. I love the space that we have created in our weekly meeting. We celebrate our collective successes, we support each other through challenging times in a nonjudgmental setting, and above all, we use the CBT-based SMART tools so that we may continue to take agency in our lives.
While I am excited that the meeting attendance has grown and that there are consistent participants whom I look forward to seeing each week, I do wish that there were more opportunities for women to join women-only meetings in the area. I am based in Brooklyn, NY, and have had (online meeting) participants from Colorado, Florida, and even Washington state! There appears to be shortage of these meetings, which limits the opportunity for women to engage in peer-supported meetings where it is relevant and welcomed to discuss topics such as motherhood, hormonal changes, relationship dynamics, intimate partner violence, childhood trauma, and even gender-specific biases in the workplace that play a role in recovery. I am not a “meeting loyalist.” I often tell participants in our meeting to find a program that works, and that if our meeting is not working for them, I will help them find a meeting that does. Unfortunately, there are few alternative women-only meetings.
Fortunately, attention to the importance of access to mental health resources and substance use disorder treatment has significantly increased over the past decade. It is my hope that this attention will also highlight the gender-specific disparities in substance use disorder treatment and promote the increase in gender-specific support groups to function as an adjunct to formal mental health treatment. In addition, SMART meetings provide support for those with financial insecurity and those who are in the process of finding a therapist or psychiatrist. If there are SMART Recovery facilitators interested in starting a women-only meeting, please reach out to the Volunteer Support Department at [email protected] for support and guidance.
Find additional SMART women-only meetings and resources:
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