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A study of surrender in the process of transformation for recovering alcoholics

Jane Marie Hart, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The objective of this study was to respond to two primary questions: (1) What is the process of self transformation for the recovering alcoholic? and (2) What is surrender and what role does it play in that process of transformation? Eight subjects were interviewed who have maintained abstinence from alcohol for over ten years and who are active members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Subjects were chosen though two key informants who participated in a pilot study. Key informants were long-term recovering alcoholics and referred the researcher to individuals who could provide in-depth and process-oriented reflections about their experiences. Subjects were asked to tell their story of addiction and recovery in their own terms. An interview guide with focal and follow-up questions insured that each subject gave his/her own authentic and full account of the process of self transformation and experiences of surrender. Grounded Theory guided the collection and analysis of the data generated in the interviews. Analysis of data revealed common themes and patterns in regard to the recovery process and the experiences of surrender. A common pattern of recovery, illustrated as a gestalt process model, involved four components: action, awareness, connectedness, and choice. These components were found to be highly interactive, each contributing to or augmenting the other three. No common sequence was found; instead, any one of the components could serve as an entry into a cyclical, multileveled system of interaction of all four components, in ways that led to crucial experiences of surrender. Although surrender was found to be the necessary and critical core experience in all the sustained recoveries, differing forms of surrender were described, and various names for the experience were identified. All subjects described the process of recovery and the experiences of surrender as what led them to new "ways of being", forms of "knowing", and different modes of consciousness.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology|Personality

Recommended Citation

Hart, Jane Marie, "A study of surrender in the process of transformation for recovering alcoholics" (1988). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8906290.