Promoting Recovery Identities Among Mothers with Histories of Addiction: Strategies of Family Engagement


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Changes in identity are critical to managing transitions to recovery from substance and alcohol addictions. Identity change is particularly important for mothers, whose recovery processes are often in the context of critical but complex family relationships and societal expectations. But research and practice often underestimate the relational dimensions that promote or inhibit changes in one’s identity during recovery. Here we analyze data from a study that involved interviews with 30 formerly incarcerated women participating in a community-based substance use treatment program in the Midwest. Drawing from Constructivist Grounded Theory Methods, our analysis identified three factors shaping levels of engagement with family members: (1) the relational consequences of a shared past; (2) ascribing permanence to the old identity of “addict” versus the ability to see women’s capacity to change; and (3) the current provision of caregiving support to participants’ children. Our analysis supports and extends existing research by highlighting how family can both promote and inhibit a recovery identity process. We discuss potential implications for theorizing “recovery” and “identity” as relational and identify key elements to support practices more attuned to the hidden complexity of family support.

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