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The notation after the story excerpts shows the subject's code number, gender (F = female, M = male) and addiction (A = alcohol, P = polydrug, B = bulimia, N = nicotine, S = sex, G = gambling).
Hitting bottom was followed by a period of experimentation, during which the protagonist searched for a solution with the help of professionals or by relying on his willpower. The idea of going to AA emerged, but the thought of joining this "odd group" felt somehow shameful. “It could be a meeting place of some skidrow alcoholics, but he was not one.” (40/M/A) Decisive help could not be found before the person grew humble enough to attend an AA meeting. The change of attitude took place at the very first meeting: senior members of AA seemed to have led a life exactly like his own, yet they had managed to overcome their compulsion to drink.
An important experience was the insight that alcoholism is a disease: “Eureka! Now he knew that he was not a bum but a victim of a disease called alcoholism.” (10/M/A) With the aid of AA the protagonist was able, slowly and painstakingly, to quit drinking and start a "decent life" as a member of straight society. By joining AA he took his place in the chain in which he could receive help from the elders and give it in turn to the newcomers. “During his first sober year Martti went to AA meetings 5-6 times a week and step by step he made progress in the program... Results from his efforts could already be noticed, and he served his one-year anniversary cake to his AA friends on the 20th of October 1980. In the following year he got a job and started to save money for an apartment. Later he got two children, a girl and a boy. He bought a house and a summer cottage. He worked overtime and paid back his loans. Fortune smiled on him, growth continued, AA had become an inseparable part of him.” (19/M/A)
The AA story ends with a moral and an expression of gratitude: “No worship, no worldly acceptance, no obedience to any rules nor sects, nothing that starts from disgrace, but something that is available, free, and demands only the will to relate with others and the will to recover! I owe you much. You have taught me well. Thank you!” (13/M/A)
In the AA story alcoholism is explained as a disease and an inherent feature of the alcoholic. To recover from the disease one has to hit bottom, admit one's helplessness with regard to alcohol, and rely on the help of recovered alcoholics. In the moral sense the AA story absolves the person from guilt, since it does not blame any one for the alcoholic's drinking. After joining AA the protagonist is, however, portrayed as a responsible actor who pursues sobriety by the help of the AA community. However, the gratitude expressed in the narratives implies that the recovery is conceived essentially as a gift, and that the protagonist is not to be praised for his success (Arminen, 1998, ch. VI). On the level of values the "vice" or evil of the story is the individual hubris, a life-style revolving around one's drinking and illusions of control. Good", on the other hand, is the connection with other people and merging into a larger hole with similar aspirations.
Personal growth story
Recovery involved breaking loose from both internal and external boundaries and restrictions, and the gradual opening-up of new possibilities. In the implementation of change help from other people, such as an encouraging therapist, was often needed. They acted as "midwives" in the birth of the new self. Recovery was made possible by the process in which the protagonist was able to find and accept herself, to strengthen her will and find her own voice. This implied getting in touch with her own feelings and desires. “What really made her start to recover was her love for her children and the fear and grief that their emotional lives would become as gloomy and full of anxiety as that of Tuija herself. It was the motivating force and propeller and it is still the same even today. But its meaning may have changed a bit. Now Tuija has a will to live for herself, too, which was totally missing before... During the first year one just somehow learned to recognize, recognize one's own features and characteristics. And in this way Tuija was able to define what she wanted herself.” (7/F/A) Finding oneself was accompanied by emancipation from oppressive relationships. “... and her wish to decide for her own life grew so strong that she did not want to be somebody's puppet any more.” (7/F/A) Through self-discovery it was also possible to create equal relationships with others. Trust in people began to be restored. All this was experienced as a great liberation. “The freedom he felt after cutting his umbilical cord was a totally new feeling for him. He was not aware then that this liberation and emancipation started his new life and meant breaking loose of the old one.” (28/M/A)
The theme of the growth story is the transformation of the person from a victim or a puppet to a consciously acting independent subject. It brings to mind the image of a butterfly that breaks out of a cocoon, unfolds its wings, is startled by their shining colors and takes off to fly. In the growth story the loss of contact with one's true feelings and attempts to please others form the basis of addiction. The conditions of recovery are finding one's goals, attending to one's needs and loving oneself, instead of seeking love from others. In the moral sense the growth story releases the protagonist from guilt by seeing oppressive relations as the cause of the problems. The responsibility for one's life required for staying sober is seen to emerge as a part of the personal growth process. On the level of values, the growth story celebrates individuality, authenticity and freedom. The philosophical roots of this story-line can be traced back to Aristotle and so-called romantic expressivism, according to which every person should be given a chance to actualize his or her own potential. These ideas are also emphasized by humanistic psychology (Rogers, 1951).
From the moral point of view the co-dependence story releases the protagonist from guilt by depicting him as a victim of a curse that extends over generations. He has been led by forces unknown to him. Gaining awareness makes him a responsible subject. The co-dependence story sees secrecy and repression as the main sources of problems, whereas openness and bringing shameful problems into daylight pave the way for a better life.
In its explanation of addiction the love story bears traces of psychoanalytical thinking, according to which an unsatisfied psychological need is redirected on a compensating object. The need for addictive behavior recedes when the need of being cared for is satisfied. The love story releases the protagonist from guilt by depicting her addiction as a justified way of striving for the feeling of security of which she has been deprived. On the ethical level, the love story emphasizes intimate relationships as a basis of the meaning and significance of life. This notion, according to Taylor (1989, pp. 289-292), emerged in the 17th century as a part of the "affirmation of ordinary life", and is still one of the basic moral sources of our life.
The protagonist of the mastery story had two selves: the weak but defiant "smoking self” and the strong and rational "non-smoking self”. One of the techniques of quitting was based on psychological warfare between the two selves. Other people acted various important roles in the mastery story. Non-smokers who demanded that the protagonist should quit provoked more defiance than motivation to quit. Other nonsmokers aroused a feeling of shame, which encouraged not smoking in their presence. Still-smoking peers tempted one to relapse, while those who had quit smoking provided moral support. Finally, their own children created the felt necessity to quit. “The daughter's playful smoking in the country was the straw that broke the camel's back. How could a mother forbid her child to smoke, if she herself did the same?” (54/F/N) Cessation of smoking was rewarding in terms of health, finances, initiative and, above all, the feeling that one's life was in control.
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