Risk, resilience, and natural recovery: a model of recovery from alcohol abuse for Alaska Natives

Addiction. 2008 Feb;103(2):205-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2007.02057.x. Epub 2007 Nov 27.


Aim: The People Awakening (PA) study explored an Alaska Native (AN) understanding of the recovery process from alcohol abuse and consequent sobriety.

Design: PA utilized a cross-sectional, qualitative research design and community-based participatory research methods.

Setting and participants: The study included a state-wide convenience sample of 57 participants representing all five major AN groups: Aleut/Alutiiq, Athabascan, Inupiaq, Yup'ik/Cup'ik and Tlingit/Haida/Tsimshian. Participants were nominated and self-identified as being alcohol-abstinent at least five years following a period of problem drinking.

Measurements: Open-ended and semistructured interviews gathered extensive personal life histories. A team of university and community co-researchers analyzed narratives using grounded theory and consensual data analysis techniques.

Findings: A heuristic model of AN recovery derived from our participants' experiences describes recovery as a development process understood through five interrelated sequences: (i) the person entered into a reflective process of continually thinking over the consequences of his/her alcohol abuse; (ii) that led to periods of experimenting with sobriety, typically, but not always, followed by repeated cycling through return to drinking, thinking it over, and experimenting with sobriety; culminating in (iii) a turning point, marked by the final decision to become sober. Subsequently, participants engaged in (iv) Stage 1 sobriety, active coping with craving and urges to drink followed for some participants, but not all, by (v) Stage 2 sobriety, moving beyond coping to what one participant characterized as 'living life as it was meant to be lived.

Conclusions: The PA heuristic model points to important cultural elements in AN conceptualizations of recovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alaska / ethnology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Alcoholism / ethnology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Inuit / psychology*
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Qualitative Research
  • Temperance / psychology