Young men's experiences of recovery and self-change in NA

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

The aim of this study was to understand young men’s experiences of recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol. A qualitative method was used to explore participants’ perception of their process of recovery on a day-to-day basis whilst examining their sense-making structures. The sample consisted of five young men between 18 and 30 years of age recruited from Narcotics Anonymous meetings in London.  In-depth interviews were used to collect the data. The interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using interpretative-phenomenological analysis. The emerging themes of the data reflect how participants are making sense of the process of self-change within five experiential dimensions: ‘motives for drinking and using drugs’, ‘challenges of beginning the process of recovery’, ‘maintaining abstinence’, ‘ambivalence towards disclosure’ and ‘making sense of recovery’. This paper is focused on the theme of ‘challenges of beginning the recovery process’ which unfolds the initial difficulties that participants experienced whilst transitioning into a life-style without drugs and alcohol use. Participants’ accounts display their efforts to sustain abstinence whilst experiencing a fear of disclosure during their first NA meetings. Identification with NA members took place as they experienced acceptance and relational easiness while disclosing their experiences. As participation in the program became attractive for them, participants engaged with more of the 12-Step program suggestions, helping them to reappraise their identity as young men. NA activities facilitated a set of organized actions to follow when drugs and alcohol stopped being part of their life-structure. Findings from empirical studies report that young adults have more relapses than adults and that the process of recovery has remained unclear (Mason and Luckey, 2003; Leighton, 2007). This study contributes to understand how the process of recovery and self-change in young adults has come to be.


Leighton, T. (2007). How can we (and why should we) develop better models of recovery. Addiction Research & Theory, 15(5), 435-438.

Mason, M.J. & Luckey, B. (2003). Young adults in alcohol-other drug treatment: an understudied population, Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 21(1), 17-32.


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Dr Lymarie Rodriguez