Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sponsorship in Alcoholics Anonymous: An ethnographic inquiry
by Finneran, John P., Ph.D., Union Institute and University, 2007, 219; 3289573
Abstract (Summary)

Alcoholics Anonymous (henceforth AA unless in direct citation) is a mutual help organization that has a long history of assisting people in overcoming their addiction to alcohol and to lead productive and meaningful lives. A key concept of AA's therapeutic mechanisms involves the notion of Service, any legitimate action taken that relieves the suffering of a fellow alcoholic and that helps him or her to find recovery from alcoholism. One of the most important aspects of Service involves the use of the Sponsorship relationship. This study utilized a qualitative research methodology of ethnographic inquiry to examine this phenomenon of sponsorship from the perspective of AA members (N=7) with long periods of continuous recovery (range of 15 to 35 years). Using a semi-structured questionnaire and in-depth interviews, stories were elicited from participants in four areas; entry into AA, finding a sponsor, becoming a sponsor, and the impact of sponsorship upon recovery. Data gathered from extended interviews (minimum of three hours per participant conducted in hour or hour and a half sessions) was transcribed and returned to each participant for review prior to follow up interview. Each participant was given transcripts of their sessions and feedback or comments were encouraged.

Data was organized into four areas according to the Journey Model proposed by Joseph Campbell. This model identifies three broad components of Separation, Initiation, and Return as parts of the Hero's Journey. A fourth area examining the nature of the Gift or Boon acquired as the result of taking a journey was included. These components were matched to the previously identified areas of joining AA, finding a sponsor, and becoming a sponsor as each incorporating aspects of the Journey Model within themselves and at each phase of the sponsorship relationship.

A key finding of this study identified the importance of entwining in the development of the sponsor relationship and to recovery itself. Entwining is both an intrapsychic and interpersonal activity that unites the sponsor and sponsee within the sponsorship relationship. It appears to involve the capacity that first unites the events and experiences in the sponsor's own life and in a self-reflecting way. The sponsor then shares or presents his or her own story to the sponsee in the form of story or the telling of lived experience. This communication regarding the sponsor's integrated experience of alcoholism and recovery allows the sponsee to grasp the sponsor's "experience, strength, and hope" in such a manner that allows the sponsee to identify something similar or possible within his or her own life and creates the possibility of a course of action towards recovery.

This study concluded that application of the Journey Model and its stages, and the concept of Entwining may be very useful in providing a better understanding of sponsorship in Alcoholics Anonymous. Application of the stages of the Journey Model to participants' stories furnished a wealth of perspectives on the nature of alcoholism, recovery, and the cultural world view embodied within AA. Together, the insights derived from this study have important implications in assisting health care professionals and others to work more effectively with persons who happen to have alcoholism and addictive disorders.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McAndrews, Robert
Commitee:
School: Union Institute and University
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-B 68/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Mental health, Social psychology
Keywords: Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Ethnography, Hero's Journey, Sponsorship, Twelve steps
Publication Number: 3289573
ISBN: 978-0-549-32772-1
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