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.


recovery, identity, substance use disorder, collegiate recovery, narrative analysis, qualitative inquiry, grounded theory, six stage model

Author Bio(s)

Naomi Watkins, LMSW, CDC-I, Austin M. Brown, LMSW, and Kayce Courson, LLMSW were part of a recovery science research team at Kennesaw State University from 2016 through 2018. Austin Brown was the Associate Director and head researcher at the Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery, while Naomi Watkins and Kayce Courson were the Graduate Research Assistant's for the program. Since completing this work, all three authors have left Kennesaw State University to further develop their academic and professional careers. Please direct correspondence to Naomi Watkins at naomiwatkins907@gmail.com, Austin McNeill Brown at abrown48@syr.edu, and Kayce Courson at kcourso@icloud.com.


This paper is dedicated to individuals in recovery from substance use disorders, those who have not yet found recovery, and those who have lost their lives to this disease. It is the authors hope that this work provides framework to support individuals in their unique recovery processes and to normalize recovery in our society.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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