Addressing dependence on alcohol or drugs involves much more than merely stopping
heavy drinking or drug use. National and international literature shows that there are many
dimensions to recovering from alcohol or other drug dependence (AOD). Though some of
these aspects have previously been explored in detail there is still insight to be gained
about what makes recovery from alcohol or other drug dependence possible. One of the
fundamental questions that warrants exploration is: what enables people with AOD
dependence to achieve and maintain abstinence and improve their well-being, in the first
two years, within the New Zealand context?
This thesis explored, in detail, the lifestyle changes of 11 New Zealanders with two years
or more of abstinence-based recovery from alcohol and/or other drug dependence. In
particular, it examined what they perceived were the necessary lifestyle ingredients to
maintaining abstinence and improving their quality of life. These lifestyle changes
happened within a recovery community context that supported their need to have
belonging, relating, meaning and purpose.
More specifically, the key recovery ingredients for this recovery population were found to
be: identifying with other people with AOD, following a structured recovery programme
(12-steps), processing challenging emotions, developing high levels of self-honesty,
building relationships with other recovering people, serving others, managing alcohol and
drug saturated environments, experiencing higher power encounters, and establishing
hobbies, interests, and fitness routines.
Involvement in these dynamic recovery communities resulted in a number of behavioural
changes and shifts in participants’ outlook on life that could otherwise take years of
counselling or therapy to achieve.
The treatment field has a lot to learn from these rich community-based alcohol and other
drug recovery fellowships; a number of implications and recommendations for alcohol and
other drug treatment professionals have been identified.