An exploration of identity change in post-detoxification alcohol dependent individuals

Caitlin Notley, Ben Houghton, Vivienne Maskrey, Richard Holland, Anne Lingford-Hughes, Bhaskar Punukollu, Theodora Duka, Christos Kouimtsidis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Dependent alcohol use is a severe addictive disorder with significant enduring consequences for health and social functioning. This study aims to inductively explore the process of identity change for alcohol dependent people progressing through a “pre-habilitation” intervention, alcohol detoxification and post-detoxification recovery support. Design/methodology/approach: Qualitative study as a part of a process evaluation situated within a UK feasibility trial of a group-based intervention in preparation for structured alcohol detoxification. Semi-structured qualitative interviews (face-to-face or telephone) collected self-reported data on experiences of treatment provision as part of the feasibility trial. Thematic analysis of transcripts and iterative categorisation of identity-related themes and concepts was conducted with verification of analysis undertaken by a second coder. Findings: Identity change was revealed in participant narratives around the meta themes of external (social-identity) and internal (self-identity) concepts. External influences impacting social identity were key, having influenced initiation into alcohol use, influencing acceptance of the stigmatised “alcoholic” label and then being central to the treatment journey. Internal influences on self-identity also impacted on the process of identity change. In recovery, there was hope in discovering a new “normal” identity or rediscovering normality. Originality/value: Analysis demonstrates that moving from regular alcohol use to problematic use is a journey of identity change that is influenced at the macro (cultural), meso (group) and micro (relational) social levels. Throughout the treatment journey, social influences in gaining a new non-drinker identity are key. Findings suggest a need for long-term support through treatment and community-based groups specifically to foster positive identity change that may not have been addressed previously.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-61
Number of pages14
JournalDrugs, Habits and Social Policy
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2022


  • Alcohol treatment
  • Detox
  • Identity
  • Qualitative
  • Recovery
  • Relapse
  • Social science

Cite this