Most people in recovery have heard Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change, but what about the monthly cycle. I have spoken to many women whose periods stopped during their using but came back with a vengeance when they started their recovery journey. “I mean as if us women don’t have enough emotional shit to deal with.”
Let me take you back to before the drugs – My periods and mood swings have plagued me for years and had gotten notably worse after having kids, but I’d learned to live with them. My emotions and body could fluctuate like a frigging swinging pendulum. One minute I could be calm, collective, rational and feel great. I’m in a mental place where I am happy to accept my body, stretchmarks, and all the wobbly bits. The next minute, I could be an emotional wreck, I would mentally tear strips of myself. The self-hatred and self-loathing thoughts were made worse with the fluctuating weight gain, which left me feeling like a fat fucking Umper Lumper.
A plus sides of using – is that I didn’t suffer any of the emotional crap that came with the dreaded monthly cycle, let alone everything else that was going off for me. Using had become my coping strategy. It helped to numb my feelings. I was a hollow shell. I didn’t care about myself, let alone anyone else – well, that’s what I’d told myself. I now realise that behind the face of every addict, is in fact, someone who cares deeply but doesn’t know how to cope with their feelings.
A downside of recovery – There was one particular day. I remember the day well like it was yesterday.
I was in the psychiatric unit and into the second day into withdrawing from amphet when I came on my period. All was going well; I felt the usual sense of physical relief enveloped me like it had every month for the past few years. I felt that good. I even wondered if the doctors might have misdiagnosed me and wondered if I had been suffering from a “VERY BAD time of the month” instead of drug-induced psychosis!
Earlier that day, I’d been on the phone with my ex earlier and asked him to send some Tampax with mum when she visited later that day. I’d been frustrated during the call because all he was concerned about was when I was coming home. I vividly remember reminding him, and he “promised” not to forget before replacing the phone.
I was in a good place, much to the relief of Mum when she arrived. (the poor cow was still coming to terms that she had to visit her daughter in a psychiatric unit) So, when I asked after the Tampax and realised he’d forgotten, I totally lost my shit.
And I mean, I literally lost my shit…
I was kicking chairs in the canteen area and was about to throw one of them before a staff member came to try and calm me down. The emotions were overwhelming. I was shaking with rage; I couldn’t control myself; it took me ages to try and calm down. The staff suggested Mum should leave. I could tell she was shocked, scared and worried. I couldn’t blame her; I mean, who reacts like that over a Tampax!
“Me that’s who”
Looking back, I now realise that it wasn’t the Tampax, but that at that time, the last thing I needed to deal with was my hormones. My head was already fucked from withdrawing from the drugs, my life was a mess, and I was already emotionally raw.
It’s been years since that incident happened, yet I still remember it like it was yesterday. I have worked in the recovery field for over 25+ years. In all that time, I have hardily heard a professional have conversations that took into account women’s hormones, especially in recovery.
Emerging research suggests that some hormones may enhance the likelihood that some people will become addicted to a substance or behaviour or will struggle more with addiction in general. In particular, the hormones a woman produces during her menstrual cycle may make women more vulnerable to addiction and relapse than men. – That’s not an excuse to use every month, by the way…
Over the years, as well as having to deal with all the cause and effect of my using, I have had to learn to understand and come to terms and try managing ‘That time of the month’, and it has not been easy. I am not ashamed to say that I have to take Prozac, I have done for years to help manage my symptoms. I just wish more people talked about periods, peri-menopause/menopause, hence why I am sharing this.
There is an old saying in the recovery community.
‘The best thing about recovery is you get your feelings back, and the worst thing about recovery is you get your feelings back.’
So, to all you women out there, who are smashing recovery, please remember that as well as being kind to yourself every day be, extra kind to yourself especially at “that time of the month‘
Thank you for taking the time to read.
Remember I don’t write for financial reward or gain, I just want to help share my lived experience with others in the hope that it helps. And I just love to write, so if ya fancy getting the occasional email with the most up to date blogs from yours truly, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the main page.