Celebrating Women in Recovery for Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month — we saw this as a perfect opportunity to raise awareness about some of the remarkable women who have helped shape the course of recovery history. 

In this article, Cottonwood Tucson honors some of the most influential women in recovery and their contributions to addiction treatment and sober culture. 

Lois Wilson: Founder of AL-ANON

Without mentioning Lois Wilson, a list of great women in recovery wouldn’t be complete. Lois altered the course of recovery history when she founded the 12-step support group, AL-ANON in 1951. Unique among 12-step groups at the time, AL-ANON was developed by Lois and Anne B. to provide support not for people with alcoholism, but for their loved ones. 

As the wife of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder, Bill Wilson, Lois knew all too much about the trials of being married to someone addicted to alcohol. But she had nowhere to turn for support. So, she courageously took steps to remedy that by gathering together the wives of the men who were attending her husband’s AA meetings. 

AL-ANON began in Wilson’s humble kitchen with Lois as a community organizer and her friend and second member of AL-ANON, Anne B. as the group’s first secretary. Today AL-ANON has over 24,000 groups worldwide in 118 different countries. The mission of AL-ANON is simple. Lois recognized that AL-ANON members were, in fact, women in recovery too — just as much as any female AA member at the time. 

Lois’s story has been told a few times, but her autobiography, “Lois Remembers” published in 1979 is the most authoritative source. We also recommend “The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough” by William G. Borchert and its companion Hallmark made-for-TV film by the same name. 

Facts about Lois Wilson and AL-ANON:

  • Lois Wilson founded AL-ANON in 1951 at her kitchen table.
  • Lois published an autobiography in 1973 and inspired a TV movie about her life.
  • AL-ANON was the first support group for family members of people with addiction.
  • Today AL-ANON has over 24,000 groups in 118 countries around the world. 

Marty Mann: A True Recovery Warrior and Advocate

Born on October 15, 1904, Marty Mann isn’t famous, outside of hardcore AA aficionado circles perhaps, but her life and her work have had a profound influence on the history of women in recovery.  Mann is considered by many as the first woman to achieve long-term sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). 

Her personal experiences with alcohol addiction led her to become an influential advocate for the understanding and treatment of addiction as an illness rather than a moral failing. Marty got sober in 1939 and went to work soon after as a tireless advocate for those with alcohol use disorders. 

Much of her advocacy focused on helping to reduce the stigma associated with alcoholism, as it was then known. She founded the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism in 1944. This organization still exists today, now called the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), and continues Mann’s important work. 

Dr. William Silkworth, author of The Doctor’s Opinion chapter in the AA text often gets the lion’s share of the credit for the widespread recognition of addiction as a treatable disease. But the truth is that Marty Mann was arguably the person who was most singularly responsible for advocating and promoting that view.

Throughout her life, Mann remained committed to supporting others on their recovery journeys, and sponsored dozens of women in AA, successfully bringing them through the 12 Steps. 

Dr. Stephanie S. Covington: Pioneer in Trauma-Informed Addiction Treatment

Renowned therapist and author, Dr. Stephanie S. Covington has made significant contributions to the field of women’s addiction treatment. Unlike the other women on our list, her contributions are more in the area of psychology than advocacy, but they are of course every bit as important. 

Dr. Covington is perhaps best known for developing an innovative, gender-responsive, and trauma-informed approach to treatment, expressly tailored to the needs of women and girls. Her work led to the creation of the “Helping Women Recover” program, which has been widely recognized for its effectiveness in aiding women in their recovery journey.

 Dr. Covington was also a workshop chair for the Women’s Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) published by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Her own experience in recovering from alcohol use disorder served as her inspiration for her life’s work. We’re proud to honor her accomplishments and contributions as one of the truly great women in recovery. 

Other Influential Women in Recovery

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony was an advocate for women’s rights, including the right to vote. She is also well known for her work in the temperance movement of the early 20th century, which likely wouldn’t have happened at all without women. The temperance movement eventually led to Prohibition. While Prohibition failed, the work of the temperance movement changed America’s relationship with alcohol forever and brought alcohol addiction out of the shadows. 

Dr. Lisa Najavits

Dr. Najavits is probably best-known as the author of “Seeking Safety” a treatment manual for trauma and addiction that is in widespread use in counseling centers and dual-diagnosis drug and alcohol rehabs today. She currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School and the Director of Treatment Innovations.

Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias

Dr. Rodriguez-Trias was a tireless advocate for disadvantaged women and women of color. While her focus was more on women’s rights as a whole — she was deeply involved in women’s health issues, including protecting women with addiction from forced sterilization among other indignities. 

Judy Collins

Singer, songwriter, and best-selling author, Judy Collin has been sober since 1978. She has used her personal experience with alcohol addiction and her fame to advocate relentlessly for women in recovery and in support of sobriety. She has written several recovery-related books, including “Craving”. Her broad reach and fearless, unflinching honesty made her very influential for recovering women. 

Holistic Addiction Treatment for Women in AZ

We regret that our list of great women in recovery only scratches the surface. This is undoubtedly a topic that requires an entire book to cover — one article could never hope to encompass it all. But we do hope it has helped whet your appetite and inspires you to learn more about influential women in recovery.

Remember that you don’t have to look to history to find remarkable women in recovery who are making waves and saving lives. There are miracles all around you. In the rooms of AA and NA and elsewhere. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol or another substance use disorder or any mental health challenge — Cottonwood Tucson wants to help. Our private luxury treatment program is situated on 35 serene acres in the foothills of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and is nationally recognized as one of the very best of its kind. 

You and your loved ones deserve the type of expert, innovative care that only Cottonwood Tucson can deliver. Let’s begin a conversation today. Call us anytime at  (888) 727-0441.

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