Date of Award

Spring 2002

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Garrett McAuliffe

Committee Member

Linda Bol

Committee Member

Perry Duncan


The research on recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction has generally focused on the causes of relapse. Although the study of the causes of relapse is an important endeavor, the results of this focus remain inconclusive. Understanding the process and themes of recovery is also an important question that remains a significant challenge.

This study attempts to explain, in part, why it is that one person can have many relapse indicators and still thrive in recovery, while another who has multiple layers of support and opportunity for recovery, succumbs to addiction. This study also attempts to determine if and how the recovery process is different for participants who approach their recovery in the following three ways: (1) those who recover in a traditional manner by being professionally treated for their addiction and by using Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous to support their treatment (the AA group), (2) those who were professionally treated for their addiction, but did not use AA or NA to support their recovery (the TX group), and (3) participants who spontaneously or naturally recovered without the use of treatment or the support of AA or NA (the SR group).

Methodology of this study was the use of a naturalistic inquiry. Seventeen participants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview format.

Findings of this study include the emergence of a new model of the process of recovery that was common for all 17 participants. This model included the following fours phases of recovery: the Initiation Phase, the Adjustment Phase, the Relapse Phase (eight of 17 participants had experienced a relapse), and the Transformation Phase. This process of recovery and associated phases emerged from 11 recovery themes and 56 categories or topics. There was no discernable difference in quality or level of recovery based on how the participants obtained or sustained their recovery. What is different is how the transformation took place. For example, members of the TX group rejected AA or NA, but found alternate support in family, community, their faith or internal processes, or a combination of the above. Members of the SR group tended to be more self-directed, and possessed a measure of clarity that facilitated their transition from active addiction to recovery in a rather smooth manner. Finally, members of the AA group used spirituality more extensively than the members of the TX or SR.


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