A qualitative analysis of the epiphany experiences of chemically dependent women in recovery
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Alcoholism and drug addiction are among the most significant concerns of our nation today. The families of the addict are helpless and perplexed by the seemingly unexplainable, often bizarre, and self-destructive behavior which so often physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially destroys the lives of those afflicted with this grave disorder. Our society has traditionally viewed alcoholism and substance abuse as disorders that predominantly affect men, even though statistics suggest otherwise. The purpose of this study was to document common themes of the addiction and recovery process among women recovering within the framework of a 12-step fellowship related to alcoholism and other drug abuse problems. Naturalistic, or qualitative inquiry, and interpretive interactionism was considered to be the most appropriate method for this study. Interpretive interactionism specified the method of qualitative inquiry, while the feminist theory informed the framework for the study. Data were collected through life history interviews with women who were self-proclaimed addicts and/or alcoholics who had been clean and sober between 5 and 22 years, and who participated in one or more 12-step programs. Five themes emerged from the data. Theme I, caught in vicious cycles, refers to the abuse and/or violence, mental illness or addiction exhibited first by the participants’ parent(s), and then later by the participants, and their efforts to conceal this aberrant behavior from the outside world. Theme II indicates what the women endured and how they adapted to the environment in order to survive. Theme III characterizes what happened to the participants as their worlds began to crumble. Theme IV encompasses the initial stages of learning about a new way to live. Theme V embodies the process of becoming whole. This process includes the importance of finding other individuals who had found a different way to live without the use of alcohol or other drugs. This process also includes the importance of finding other women, in particular, who seemed to provide the women with a level of identification that ran deeper than just recovering from chemical dependency. The process of becoming whole also includes transforming moments or events that occurred in the lives of the participants that helped them develop faith and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. The culmination of this theme was the synergy that occurred as a result of the women putting the pieces of their shattered lives back together, to form a whole person, much greater than the sum of the parts.