The Importance of Self-Narration in Recovery from Addiction


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Abstract
Addiction involves a chronic deficit in self-governance that treatment aims to restore. We draw on our interviews with addicted people to argue that addiction is, in part, a problem of self-narrative change. Over time, agents come to strongly identify with the aspects of their self-narratives that are consistently verified by others. When addiction self-narratives become established, they shape the addicted person’s experience, plans, and expectations so that pathways to recovery appear implausible and feel alien. Therefore, the agent may prefer to enact her disvalued self-narrative because at least it represents who she takes herself to be. To recover, the agent needs to conduct narrative work, adjusting her existing self-narrative so that it better supports recovery-directed narrative projections. Reducing cravings, managing withdrawals, increasing self-control, and developing goals are all important for recovery but those approaches will often be in vain if the influence of self-narrative is ignored. If our analysis is correct, addiction treatment will typically be more effective if it incorporates support for self-narrative change.
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DOI 10.1353/ppp.2018.0022
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