Narratives of recovery from addictive behaviours

Addiction. 1999 Dec;94(12):1837-48. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.1999.941218379.x.


Aims: The purpose of this study was to look for the ways in which people who have recovered from various addictions understand and present their change process.

Materials: The research material consisted of 51 autobiographical stories of people who had been able to quit their addiction to alcohol, multiple drugs, binge eating, smoking, sex and gambling.

Methods: The basic logic of each narrative was first defined. The narratives were then categorized according to what they presented as the key to recovery. Composite stories were then constructed and analysed with regard to their emotional, causal, moral and ethical meanings.

Findings: The analysis revealed five different story types among these self-narratives: the AA story, the growth story, the co-dependence story, the love story and the mastery story. All of them helped to make the addiction and recovery understandable, they released the protagonist from guilt and had a happy ending by which the values of the story were realized. Each story type was told predominantly by representatives of a particular gender and addiction.

Conclusions: As there are several ways out of addictive behaviours there are also several ways to construe the change. People who try to quit addictive behaviours could be encouraged to make full use of the cultural stock of stories in creating an account that fits their own experience of defeating their particular addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Projective Techniques
  • Self Disclosure
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*