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Identity Transformation Through Substance Use Disorder Recovery: Introducing the Six Stage Model

Naomi Watkins, Austin McNeill Brown & Kayce Courson

The Qualitative Report, July 2021

Narratives of substance use disorder recovery experience can provide useful qualitative conceptual categories and novel theories about the way in which recovery is experienced by individuals. This information can better inform definitions, concepts, and supports for recovery processes. The current study reviewed 30 written personal recovery biographies which were contained within student applications to the collegiate recovery program housed in the Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery at Kennesaw State University. Using grounded theory methodology, common benchmarks, or topographic recovery features were revealed involving the evolution of identity as an inter-negotiated process throughout the addiction and recovery biographies (Charmaz, 2008; Glaser & Strauss, 2017). From this, a six-stage theory model of recovery identity is formulated and explored. The biographies contained accounts from pre-substance use through the full embracement of a recovery identity. This model may help to serve recovery program managers to classify incoming individuals, identify and address needs, and facilitate innovative programming to meet such needs as they relate to the identity transformation process.