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.