Environmental Events Surrounding Natural Recovery from Alcohol-Related Problems

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Abstract

Environmental events influence relapse and recovery patterns in treated alcoholics, and the present study investigated the role of events in recoveries achieved without treatment. Subjects were 21 abstinent and 18 active problem drinkers; none had received treatment, and recovered subjects had abstained an average of 6 years. During structured interviews, event occurrences were assessed during a 3-year period that began 2 years before the attainment of abstinence by recovered subjects and were compared with event occurrences during a matched 3-year interval for active drinkers, which equated the groups on the length of recall. Collaterals verified subjects' reports of their drinking practices, events and absence of treatment. Recovered subjects showed (1) heightened health concerns and a relatively stable work situation during the year preceding initial abstinence, (2) a reduction in health events following resolution and (3) a decrease in legal events and total negative events across the 3 years surrounding resolution. Although qualified by the relatively small sample and the retrospective, correlational design, these findings suggest that (1) changes in several areas of functioning evolve over time to motivate initial abstinence and to maintain continued resolution, and (2) variables that motivate initial behavior change differ somewhat from those that maintain it.

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