Sustainable recovery: The self-transformative power of storytelling in Alcoholics Anonymous

Linda Lederman, Lisa M. Menegatos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The present study builds on Robinson's (1979) research on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the United Kingdom and his finding that storytelling was an important part of the recovery process in AA. We surveyed 178 members of AA in the United States and asked them how sharing their story of recovery with other alcoholics helped them stay sober. Thematic data analysis reveals storytelling impacts the storyteller in five primary ways: being reminded of a painful past, reinforcing one's recovery, losing the sense of terminal uniqueness, developing one's relationship with one's self, and helping others. Drawing on Fisher's narrative paradigm (1984) and Denzin's (1987a, 1987b) conceptualization of the role of self in the alcoholic's recovery, we argue the stories are a form of selfpersuasion that help AAmembers sustain their sobriety. In recovery, alcoholics develop a better understanding of themselves, replace their alcoholic selves (Denzin, 1987a) with recovering selves (Denzin, 1987b), and begin to have a sense of themselves that we refer to as the "aspirational self."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-227
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Groups in Addiction and Recovery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011


  • Alcoholic self-narrative
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Aspirational self
  • Communication
  • Recovering self
  • Recovery
  • Self
  • Self-persuasion
  • Sobriety
  • Storytelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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