The present research examined whether the production of a narrative containing self-redemption (wherein the narrator describes a positive personality change following a negative experience) predicts positive behavioral change. In Study 1, we compared the narratives of alcoholics who had maintained their sobriety for over 4 years with those of alcoholics who had been sober 6 months or less. When describing their last drink, the former were significantly more likely to produce a narrative containing self-redemption than the latter. In Study 2, we examined the relation between the profession of self-redemption and behavioral change using a longitudinal design, by following the newly sober alcoholics from Study 1 over time. Although indistinguishable at initial assessment, newly sober alcoholics whose narratives included self-redemption were substantially more likely to maintain sobriety in the following months, compared to newly sober alcoholics who produced nonredemptive narratives; 83% of the redemptive group maintained sobriety between assessments, compared to 44% of nonredemptive participants. Redemptive participants in Study 2 also demonstrated improved health relative to the nonredemptive group. In both studies, the effects of self-redemption on sobriety and health held after controlling for relevant personality traits, alcohol dependence, recovery program involvement, initial physical and mental health, and additional narrative themes. Collectively, these results suggest that the production of a self-redemptive narrative may stimulate prolonged behavioral change and thus indicate a potentially modifiable psychological process that exhibits a major influence on recovery from addiction.
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