Providing recovery support women is important to Angie. She knows firsthand the challenge of getting loud and asking for help.
Angie Geren likes to joke that she’s been around addiction since she was in utero. She’s never known a life not surrounded by addiction and/or disordered drinking. At 30, Angie was drinking heavily and suicidal. She realized that her relationship with alcohol was not normal. Her recovery journey started. Now, she’s a recovery advocate and the founder of Addiction Haven, an education and advocacy organization that has morphed into Arizona’s only Recovery Community Organization. Addiction Haven’s mission is to empower individuals and connect communities affected by addiction and to create recovery ready communities by changing the conversation surrounding substance use. They do this through advocacy, peer support, collaboration, and community events.
Providing recovery support women is important to Angie. She knows firsthand the challenge of getting loud and asking for help. She said, “One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a woman is combatting the internal bias I have held that women need to stay small, soft-spoken, and not rock the boat. I’ve always been outspoken. However, over the years I have been conditioned through abusive relationships to ‘tone it down.’ Finding my voice back and standing firm in my convictions has been the biggest challenge I have faced.”
Now, Angie is an advocate for others as well as herself. From a recovery programming perspective, a “one size fits all” approach may not be inclusive for women or other underserved groups. Women in particular face challenges that men do not. Women are in desperate need of community and safety. Gender specific and responsive programs are a must, as well as programs that will include children. Many women Angie knows are single mothers with relatively little outside support. The option of residential treatment is not possible for them because they can’t leave their children. Once home, they are often isolated with children, which is where the support is needed the most.
Angie said, “Empowering and encouraging women to find their voice and know their value begins long before recovery starts. I feel that having strong role models is crucial for women’s recovery.”
Many women in recovery have other outside issues as well that need to be addressed. The majority of women in active addiction have experienced trauma, so Angie tries to tailor Addiction Haven’s program structure, flow, and access to a trauma-informed model that also addresses parenthood and the struggles that come with parenting while in recovery. One of the woman-friendly features of their program is that it doesn’t require a residential setting, but is a supportive, structured program that supports women to enter recovery while also being home with their children.
Angie said that more female role models and more female leadership in the recovery community space would also help. She pointed out that men tend to hold the podium as CEOs, Executive Directors, and so on.
“As more women identify with substance use disorder, we need to step up as women and create safe spaces for them to recover,” she said.
Although her work on the front lines of the national drug epidemic is stressful and sometimes sad, Angie says she wouldn’t trade it for anything. She said, “Seeing someone who initially felt hopeless and watching their faces light up as they realize that there are people that care is priceless. My personal life mission is compassionately to empower the collective to be connected and authentically themselves. This work allows me to do that!”