The Experience of Long-Term Sobriety for Men Ages 55 Through 65 Who Are Currently Members of Alcoholics Anonymous
For several decades, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has played a major role in the lives of people recovering from alcohol dependence. For many, AA is a first-line treatment, while others join AA during inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment programs. Many AA members are middle-aged and older adults. However, in an organization that does not keep formal records, it is difficult to discern what proportion of older members classify as early onset or late-onset alcohol dependents. The research question was: What is the experience of long-term sobriety for men ages 55 through 65 who are currently members of Alcoholics Anonymous? Older adults have historically been neglected in research on AA, as they have been in research on substance abuse in general. A key source of AA’s strength lies in the narratives that members share with their peers. This makes AA members ideal participants for qualitative research on their experiences with alcohol, their motivations for recovery, and the quality of their lives since they stopped drinking. This heuristic study focused on the lived experiences of ten men, 55 through 65 years old, who are active in AA. The analysis of the data revealed eight themes within three broad categories. The first, relationship with self, includes personality changes, changes in lifestyles, engagement in personal interests, and spiritual transformation. The second, relationship to family and friends, considers both connectedness and caretaking, including family members, friends, and other AA members. The third, relationship to community, includes increased involvement in community life, combined with a generative orientation toward life grounded in a desire to extend the benefits that these men enjoyed through AA to future recovering alcoholics. The results of this study may help the field of addiction psychology develop better prevention and treatment strategies for men in this age group. Because this study focused on the experiences of only men active in AA at the time of the study, future research might focus on men with long-term sobriety but not active in AA or women in the same age group active in AA.
About the Author
Dr. Jim Strawbridge is a human resource developer specializing with individuals and their families who are affected by addictions. His syndicated newspaper column and special features have appeared in the Courier News, Bridgewater, NJ; Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA; Senior Coastal News, Savannah, GA, The Record, Wilkesboro, NC, the Miami Herald, Miami, and the Journal-Patriot, Wilkesboro, NC.
A non-traditional student, he received his PhD in Psychology at age 67 from Capella University, a non-traditional accredited university; Masters of Science from Nova University and Bachelor of Science from East Carolina University where he was a scholarship athlete.
He is a member of the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors and the American Psychological Association.