The construction of meaning in alcohol addiction: A narrative study of socially excluded people’s stories about alcohol

Line Lund Eriksen*, Bente Hoeck


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The aim of this study is to illuminate the experience of living with alcohol addiction from the perspective of socially excluded people outside the healthcare system. It presents the results from a qualitative study of five personal narratives from socially excluded men living with alcohol addiction in Denmark. The group is rarely heard and often underprioritised in the Danish healthcare system, contributing to the social inequality in public health. Therefore, giving them a voice will contribute important insight into the individuals’ own experiences and understandings of their situations.

Five semi-structured interviews were conducted with socially excluded people living with alcohol addiction. Positioned in a narrative methodology, the focus of the study was on the construction of meaning on a structural, performative and thematic level of the narratives of addiction, as told by the person with addiction.

Social identities as “alcoholics” were constructed across the narratives; however, there was a distinct difference between the different informants’ own positions. Some constructed meaning in their addiction by including an identity as a stereotypical “drunk” defined as a certain type of unhealthy, unkempt, low-income addict. Others distanced themselves from this identity. Furthermore, alcohol was presented with a double meaning, being associated with positive memories and relationships as well as negative consequences and bad experiences, complicating a potential wish for sobriety.

The study illuminates the individual perspectives in the identity construction of socially excluded people with alcohol addiction. When relating to the characteristics of the stereotypical “drunk”, the individuals’ self-perspectives may differ from the common understanding. The constructed identities reflected the participants’ lived experience with addiction, with alcohol as an unavoidable life companion, consequently creating individual meaning in one’s addiction.
TidsskriftNordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)76-88
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2022


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