Men’s Recovery: Men Opening Up and Finding Support Among Loved Ones

Men’s Recovery: Men Opening Up and Finding Support Among Loved Ones

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Opening up about our struggles with addictions is tough for anyone. For men, opening up often means breaking through cultural barriers. Some of these barriers are self-made because culturally, men ascribe to a stoicism that can be detrimental at times. Other barriers men face are beyond their control. The fact is that when it comes to men opening up, men have to be willing to display vulnerability and receive empathy. In the process, they face the possibility of ridicule.

Men face unique stigmas when it comes to displaying their emotions. From childhood on, the idea of showing emotions becomes a source of ridicule and shame. Men are expected to be emotionless. It is the image of men in the media, including film, television, comic books, and more. These unrealistic societal expectations make it difficult when it comes to men opening up about their problems with substance use disorder (SUD).

To facilitate men opening up about their addictions and mental health, men must find an environment where trust is built. Men must know they can set the boundaries and the rules of their environment too, allowing them to break through these cultural quandaries. When men find support networks that foster honest conversations, they can receive understanding and acceptance and begin the journey to recovery.

Breaking Societal Expectations: Men Opening Up About Their Struggles

Almost from birth, men and boys have certain expectations placed on them, often to their own detriment. For example, men are expected to be strong. Part of that strength is expected to be shown through stoicism, an emotionless character trait. However, by not showing emotion, men are then seen as the providers and protectors of those around them. To say it another way, instead of men opening up about their emotions, men are instead expected to “man up.”

The world needs to recognize how dangerous this philosophy truly is. Boys feel the same emotions that girls do. We are all human and we all have feelings. Yet, by boxing boys into this gender role, they do not receive the comfort and nurturance they need. Take, for instance, the boy who falls and scrapes his knee, just to be told, “Get up and brush yourself off.” Boys are expected not to cry or show emotion, even when real physical pain is involved.

These expectations contribute heavily to the reluctance felt by men opening up and seeking support for addictions and mental health struggles. By embracing vulnerability, however, men create environments that build trust and emotional connection with those around them. To do so, men need to find networks and support structures in which they feel safe to create their recovery journey.

Recognizing the Power of Vulnerability

Positive mental health is crucial for our ability to live productive and successful lives. Often, when we have poor mental health, we can feel as though we have in some way failed. However, that is not true. Mental illness is not a weakness. The wellness of our mental health has to be maintained, just like our physical health.

It is true that men face barriers that are uniquely influenced by the societal expectations placed upon them. Men need to reframe seeking help for mental illness and addictions as a sign of strength. It takes courage to reach out and make oneself vulnerable. When someone talks to people they trust, they can find the emotional and professional support they need to become mentally healthy again.

Shifting Perspectives on Men Opening Up About Masculinity

The societal expectations that we have already discussed are so pervasive that there is actually a name for it: toxic masculinity. Though this is a buzzword in the media, it is important to understand what toxic masculinity means. It is a type of masculinity that is toxic, first and foremost, to men, because it prevents men from receiving the health and treatment they need when they need it.

If toxic masculinity is the problem, what is the answer? Instead of seeing masculinity through traditional norms, one must instead view masculinity as the expression of strength through vulnerability. No one is stronger than the person who admits they have a problem. When they do, they can receive the help they need. That is it, the answer to this problem. Masculinity does not have to be toxic or be a barrier to men opening up about their struggles.

Men Opening Up, Building Understanding and Acceptance

The best way one can open up safely is by locating the spaces that feel safe. Traditionally, these are family and friend networks that people so often rely on in their day-to-day lives. But for men opening up, it can be hard to talk to family and friends about problems. Even if they are open to listening, men often feel that they are still expected to be strong and will hold back in those situations.

Trust is an important component of the recovery process for mental illness and SUD. This trust fosters successful treatment and sets a person on the path to a healthy and sober life. By finding the right facilitation, like the care team at First Steps Recovery, men can begin the process of opening up about their mental health.

Utilizing Support Networks for Honest Conversations

Sometimes, family and friends can inadvertently perpetuate unfair expectations, including those of toxic masculinity. It can be helpful to find support networks outside of these native family and friend networks. Finding safe and supportive spaces can facilitate men opening up and receiving appropriate help for their recovery.

At First Steps Recovery, we assist men with talking to their families and friends and helping loved ones support their recovery. It takes a village to break down the societal misconceptions about men and facilitate men opening up about their struggles. When we provide men with a safe space to express themselves, men can communicate their needs effectively and grow through the process.

The process of opening up about addictions is hard for everyone. Each of us faces barriers when we try opening up about our emotions and our problems. Men in particular face unique barriers in seeking help for mental illness and substance use disorder (SUD). Societal expectations create a culture in which men are expected to live according to the tenets of toxic masculinity. Seeking help is often seen as a sign of weakness. However, when men admit their problems, it is a sign of strength. When you need help, do not let those limiting expectations hold you back. Call First Steps Recovery at (844) 489-0836 and discover how we can help you receive the help you deserve. 

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