"The journey that lies ahead is nothing compared to the strength that lies within:" a thematic analysis of the journey from substance addiction to flourishing in recovery.
Purpose Substance addiction and its effects on the individual and society are widely observed and reported. Like addiction, it is widely accepted that recovery is an individual, and multi-faceted process, with commonly shared elements, and for which many treatment models and options are accessible. In addition, it is frequently reported that individual quality of life increases over time with abstained substance use. Nonetheless, little previous research has attempted to identify the conceptual elements involved in the search and drive for personal well-being throughout the recovery pathway. The aim of this research was therefore to identify major themes emerging from in depth, individual accounts of the journey from substance addiction to well-being in recovery. Background Participants in this research were eight adult individuals who had been previously addicted to one or more illicit substances and had been free from substances for a minimum of 12 months, in addition to being free from substitute medication for at least six months. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted over a one-month period to ascertain the subjective experiences of participants’ journeys from addiction to recovery and their development and enhancement of personal well-being. Participants were recruited from one of two community drug treatment services where they had previously accessed support. Interviews lasted on average for one hour and were conducted in a familiar location by one researcher. Methods The research question - “How do individuals previously addicted to an illicit substance recover from addiction and develop, increase, and sustain wellbeing?” was explored using an inductive qualitative approach, where meaning was searched for and themes identified. Thematic Analysis was used to interpret the data, thus allowing themes to emerge, which captured individual experiences and demonstrated how participants assigned meaning to their recovery journey. Six themes were identified, reflecting a chronological journey: From desperation to responsibility; Support and help from others; Developing new strategies and preserving recovery; Acknowledging strengths and achievements, comprising three subordinate themes: Self-belief, positivity and confidence; Identifying future goals, and; Giving something back. Conclusion The findings firstly provide insight into the concepts involved that enabled previously addicted individuals to progress through recovery, to develop, sustain and maximise wellbeing, and therefore to flourish. Secondly, the findings demonstrate the continuous, distinct, and detailed relationship between the recovered drug addict and their individual well-being. The development of many of the key conceptual components of psychological well-being identified in contemporary theory and previous studies was apparent throughout participants' accounts of their journeys. Notably, positive emotions, engagement, relationships with self and others, meaning, and accomplishment were common elements in all accounts, indicating how a previous addiction can be overcome, that well-being can be achieved, and that individuals can, and do flourish in recovery. The impact of this research may be interpreted as instrumental, via the potential inclusion of well-being interventions in treatment settings aimed at drug users; also, as contributing to theoretical and lay understanding of the importance of developed and sustained well-being in recovery.
Citation : Sefton, R. and Wildbur, D.J. (2013) "The journey that lies ahead is nothing compared to the strength that lies within:" a thematic analysis of the journey from substance addiction to flourishing in recovery.
Research Group : Health Psychology
Research Institute : Institute for Psychological Science