Drug addiction is a major public health problem and relapse is common. Addiction relapse rates are higher than some chronic illnesses like diabetes and slightly better than others including hypertension and asthma. The focus of this study was to illuminate the recovery experience from the unique perspective of the recovering addict, to identify what helps one choose recovery and avoid relapse. A flexible platform was created in cyberspace, using photovoice, an empowering participatory action research strategy, often used in marginalized and stigmatized populations to promote change. Six recovering addicts voluntarily captured in photos the story of their recovery process and met online to discuss the significance of the pictures to their recovery experience. Confidentiality was guarded through the use of a webmaster, on a secured encrypted server. Identities of participants were unknown to the researchers and each other. All selected their own pseudonyms.
The recovery process was described as a journey with a series of phases including: initiation into recovery, self destructive behaviors, impaired control, stigma and the need to change dysfunctional thinking. This recovery journey evoked multiple emotions triggered by experiences with a recognized need to change over time. Two themes were identified: 1- Recovery as an emotional journey away from dysfunctional thinking, impaired control and destructive behaviors. 2- The journey toward recovery as initiated by self and supported by others to change over time through reflection, realization and reduction of chaos. Limitations and recommendations for the future are discussed.
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