The role of ultrarunning in drug and alcohol addiction recovery: An autobiographic study of athlete journeys


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Abstract

Purpose:There is contentious understanding of the role of sport in adult recreational drug and alcohol addiction recovery. This study explored athlete autobiographies as cultural sites of analysis in relation to the role that one sport (i.e., ultrarunning) plays in addiction recovery capital pathways.Design:Working at the intersection of an autobiographical approach grounded in relativist narrative inquiry, a social constructionist narrative thematic analysis was conducted of two autobiographies--Catra Corbett and Carlie Engle—about addiction recovery through ultrarunning (i.e., distances of 43 km or more). The narratives used to construct life transformation and recovery capital in relation to ultrarunning were centralized in the analysis using Frank's (2013) work on illness narratives and the body.Results:Two narrative themes threaded athletes' addiction recovery journeys: chaos narrative and quest narrative. Two sub-themes related to fluid identity transformation intertwined with ultrarunning were identified within these narratives: 1. ‘addict-runner’ (chaos) and 2. ‘addict runner to ultra-runner’ (quest). Nuanced meanings of suffering were connected to identity transformation and running and two forms of addiction recovery capital: human (e.g., psychological adjustment, life perspective) and social (e.g., family connection, community).Conclusions:The research findings provide insight into the role of sport in psychosocial aspects of addiction recovery using an autobiographical approach grounded in narrative theory. This study also extends work in sport psychology focusing on autobiographies as research and pedagogical resources to learn more about athlete mental health.HighlightsUnderstandings of addiction recovery for athletes are extended.Chaos and quest narratives threaded athletes' addiction recovery journeys.Identity transformation through running linked to human and social recovery.Insight into psychosocial aspects of addiction recovery and sport are gained studying autobiographies.

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