Risk, resilience, and natural recovery: A model of recovery from alcohol abuse for Alaska Natives

Gerald V. Mohatt, Stacy M. Rasmus, Lisa Thomas, James Allen, Kelly Hazel, G. Alan Marlatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Aim: The People Awakening (PA) study explored an Alaska Native (AN) understanding of the recovery process from alcohol abuse and consequent sobriety. Design: PA utilized a cross-sectional, qualitative research design and community-based participatory research methods. Setting and participants: The study included a state-wide convenience sample of 57 participants representing all five major AN groups: Aleut/Alutiiq, Athabascan, Inupiaq, Yup'ik/Cup'ik and Tlingit/Haida/Tsimshian. Participants were nominated and self-identified as being alcohol-abstinent at least five years following a period of problem drinking. Measurements: Open-ended and semistructured interviews gathered extensive personal life histories. A team of university and community co-researchers analyzed narratives using grounded theory and consensual data analysis techniques. Findings: A heuristic model of AN recovery derived from our participants' experiences describes recovery as a development process understood through five interrelated sequences: (i) the person entered into a reflective process of continually thinking over the consequences of his/her alcohol abuse; (ii) that led to periods of experimenting with sobriety, typically, but not always, followed by repeated cycling through return to drinking, thinking it over, and experimenting with sobriety; culminating in (iii) a turning point, marked by the final decision to become sober. Subsequently, participants engaged in (iv) Stage 1 sobriety, active coping with craving and urges to drink followed for some participants, but not all, by (v) Stage 2 sobriety, moving beyond coping to what one participant characterized as 'living life as it was meant to be lived. Conclusions: The PA heuristic model points to important cultural elements in AN conceptualizations of recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-215
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Alaska Natives
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Mindfulness
  • Natural recovery
  • Stages of change

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