Holly Wilson: Finding entrepreneurship on the road to recovery
Women’s Recovery has drug and alcohol treatment centers in Denver and Dillon
Every entrepreneur's journey to business ownership is different. Crested Butte-native Holly Wilson’s started with finding sobriety after years of struggling with alcohol addiction and dependency. Today, Wilson owns two drug and alcohol treatment centers in Colorado (one in Denver and one in Dillon). The centers, under the name Women’s Recovery, offer trauma-informed addiction treatment for women.
Prior to seeking treatment at a facility in Utah, Wilson had worked as an executive assistant to several CEOs and had appeared on reality TV show, The Hills. However, after getting sober, she dedicated herself to a career in treatment and recovery.
“I got so much freedom and my life changed for the better in such a short period of time from committing myself to the process of recovery that I just wanted to do that for a living,” Wilson says. “I started working in that treatment center in Utah and worked my way up gradually.”
Starting as a psych tech and working her way to being a recovery coach, Wilson was quickly promoted to the position of program director at the facility. However, she wanted to do more.
“I started to feel really strongly that it was really important for me to start a gender-specific treatment,” Wilson says. “ So, I moved back to Colorado and started to work towards opening my own program.”
Women and Addiction
While there are many reasons Wilson wanted to open a gender-specific treatment program, the primary reason was that more men seek treatment than women, even though the occurrence of addiction is similar in men and women. With Women’s Recovery, Wilson and her team sought to determine what barriers to treatment women were experiencing and work from there to get them the care they need.
One of the primary barriers they found was women prioritizing motherhood and providing for their families over their own recovery. In order to accomodate mothers struggling with addiction, Women’s Recovery now offers outpatient treatment with programs during the day and in the evening. This way, women can attend a daytime program if their children are at school or an evening program so the women can maintain their jobs while seeking treatment.
In addition, according to Wilson, there are many aspects of addiction — psychological, physiological and social — that disproportionately affect women. This ranges from the telescoping effect, which refers to the biological ways alcohol affects women differently than men, to a 90-10 rule, which refers to data that shows 90% of marriages will survive a man going to treatment, while only 10% will survive the woman entering treatment.
Currently, Women’s Recovery only employs female staff. While this is unintentional — Wilson says she’s only ever had one male apply for a position — having it be an all-female environment better serves women who have experienced trauma.
“Particularly for women with trauma, it can't be really challenging for them to be in a coed environment,” Wilson says. “If we look at trauma like past sexual assault, having a man in the room can keep them from wanting to share about their experience or opening up to address it. And if they’re not addressing core wounds as the reason they started their addiction, then when they exit [treatment], that’s still going to be a festering wound.
Because Women’s Recovery is a gender-specific program, it is required by the state of Colorado to offer five additional treatment components that co-ed centers do not have to offer. These five components are: trauma, nutrition, parenting issues and child safety.
“That doesn't mean that other centers aren't doing those things, but they're not going to be held accountable as closely as we will,” Wilson says.
Wilson and her team opened the first Women’s Recovery in Denver in February 2017. Just recently, in April 2019 they opened a second location in Dillon.
Both facilities offer intensive outpatient (IOP) and general outpatient treatment programs. These programs include individual therapy, psycho-education, sober housing, vivitrol services, medication management, trauma and mental health treatment, nutrient therapy services as well as case management, which Wilson describes as a personal assistant for your recovery, which includes assistance for a number of life areas including health, legal and other assistance. .
Each of these services is created to ensure wellness and recovery for its patients as well as its employees. “We make a real concerted effort to come from a place in empowering our clients, rather than a more shame-based approach,” Wilson says.
As the business expands, Wilson has worked hard to ensure this remains at the heart of her operations. “When you're in an industry where your job is to help people, sometimes people can get a little bit caught up on making sure that the business is profitable, but at the end of the day I firmly believe that if we are taking care of our people and we are focused on what's best for them, then the business will take care of itself,” she says. “It all comes back around.”
Empowering women in the treatment industry
While WIlson works hard to empower women through sobriety and recovery, the future of Women’s Recovery, she hopes will be in empowering her employees and other female recovery professionals.
“There are so many women who are running and at the heart of great treatment program, but they're not business owners and so I would really love to create more female business owners,” Wilon says. “So, in my business model, we’re creating an internal leadership program that can help [women] work toward opening their own centers and bring them on as a partner.”