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Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

The Journal of Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues

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Volume 32, Issue 3 (Jun 2015)


Former heavy drinkers’ multiple narratives of recovery

Anne-Sofie Christensen
  • Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research
  • Email:
/ Karen Elmeland
  • Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research
  • Email:
Published Online: 2015-06-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/nsad-2015-0024


AIM – This article explores the multiplicity of former heavy drinkers’ narratives. The focus lies on turning points from heavy drinking among people who have recovered through self-change and among those who recovered by participating in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings.

DESIGN – We conducted 42 qualitative interviews with media-recruited informants in 2009–2013. The interviews allowed the respondents to narrate their life histories of drinking and quitting drinking, including accounts of causality and order of events.

RESULTS – These narratives are enactments shaped in the practice and context in which they were experienced. It is argued that the multiplicity of drinking narratives results not only from the fact that people have different experiences while drinking nor only from different people having different ways of recovering from a problematic consumption. The multiplicity is also the result of the very enactment of recovering and the lives lived after the recovery. The multiplicity is created in practice and is revealed in the narratives.

CONCLUSIONS – The narratives and the enactment of the narratives of one’s past, present and future that occur when making momentous changes in one’s life – such as stopping drinking – are all essential for the process of quitting alcohol and the life to be lived hereafter. We should therefore pay more attention to the multiplicity that is created in the enactment of narratives in the process of recovery.

Keywords: narratives; complexity; life histories; Alcoholics Anonymous; self-change; multiplicity


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About the article

Received: 2014-06-18

Accepted: 2014-12-18

Published Online: 2015-06-22

Published in Print: 2015-06-01

Citation Information: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN (Online) 1458-6126, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/nsad-2015-0024. Export Citation

© Anne-Sofie Christensen et al.. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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