Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Arthur P. Bochner, Ph.D.


Alcoholism, Autoethnography, Intimacy, Recovery, Storytelling


In this dissertation, I explore the question of how women alcoholics achieve sobriety. Using narrative inquiry, I focus on the identity transformation that must occur in order to maintain sobriety and how a drinking self is deconstructed and reconstructed as a sober self. Today, alcoholism is still viewed as stigmatizing in our society and in all Western cultures. The stigma of alcoholism makes it difficult for alcoholics to communicate their experiences to people who have not had similar experiences. However, storytelling in the presence of supportive people has been shown to be a prominent factor in the process of recovery for women and men. Over a period of a year, three women and I shared and reconstructed our experiences of living an alcoholic life, comparing and contrasting that life to our experiences we went through as we struggled to achieve sobriety. I elicited and listened to stories of drinking experiences, family, dating, turning points, and commitment to creating a sober lifestyle. I also reviewed and analyzed the stories told in memoirs written by three alcoholic women. Through narrative, my participants and I made sense of why drinking was central to our lives and how our life stories were reconstructed and reframed as we tried to achieve sobriety. Our stories challenge the canonical narrative of the alcoholic, providing multiple perspectives on these issues and giving voice to such silenced experiences as how to cope with shyness, the self-defeating thought process associated with the contradictions inherent in a drinking life, the turning points that can inspire women to give up drinking for good, and the relational consequences of committing to sobriety.The experiences shared in the stories told by these women give texture and depth to our understanding of the lived experiences of women alcoholics and the road they must travel to achieve self-respect and self-love through sobriety.