The quest for contented sobriety: a dramaturgical analysis of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous

Murphy, Terry J. (2013) The quest for contented sobriety: a dramaturgical analysis of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This thesis examines the phenomenon of recovery as it is experienced and understood by members of Alcoholics Anonymous in Newfoundland and Labrador. Recovery involves more than just changes in the brains and bodies of the addicted person. It is more than changes in positive affect, mood or personality structure. Recovery is more than the gradual modifications of behaviour associated with learning models. In this dissertation, I present a new and alternative interpretation of recovery by applying insights from the fields of ritual theory and dramaturgy. A qualitative research design, using participant observation and in-depth interviews, were used to generate detailed descriptions of the social processes involved in recovery. Data generated from these methods have yielded new insights into the inner workings of AA not yet described in the existing sociological literature. Data from this study reveal recovery as a dynamic social process wherein the novice AA member, referred to in this study as the penitent, experiences dramatic personal change and transformation through the twelve step program. The experience of working the twelve steps is presented in this study as a personal rite of passage involving three phases of transformation: separation, liminality and incorporation or aggregation. At each stage of this transformational process the AA member must follow certain emotion display rules and learn how to work with others in the home group to become a contributing member of a performance team. The emotions and behaviours associated with recovery are thus strongly influenced by social factors which are unique to the subculture of AA. Findings from this study have the potential to flesh out and expand conceptual models of recovery and to better inform social policy on addictions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 12283
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 268-284).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Sociology
Date: 2013
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Alcoholics--Rehabilitation--Social aspects; Alcoholism--Treatment--Social aspects; Alcoholism--Psychological aspects

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