Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Joe's Voyage of Life Map: Away from Alcohol

Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Joe's Voyage of Life Map: Away from Alcohol

Article excerpt

This paper represents elements of my developing narrative approaches employed with a group of men reclaiming their lives from the negative influences of alcohol and other un-preferred behaviours. Each man was actively using the principles of a twelve-step program and had approached me with questions about their struggles with identity metamorphosis and their transforming relationship with alcohol. I considered that narrative approaches may offer pathways through many of these questions, as well as create a therapeutic community for shared experiences and skills. I suggested that we gather as a group to explore a few of the common issues being raised and this invitation was enthusiastically accepted.

A few considerations

This article endeavours to sincerely convey the men's views and sentiments embodied in our conversations together, and does not intend to reflect any opinions of the twelve-step philosophy. Nor does it intend to endorse nor oppose any of the twelve-step principles; its sole intention is to reflect narrative practices utilised among the men, who embraced a common bond founded in the twelve-step ethos. From our initial gathering, the men established that their time together would be used to seek out more meaningful, cherished, and intentional ways of being and that this would be 'as well as' twelve-step work, not 'instead of it. This paper therefore proposes to illuminate narrative practices as a complement to the twelve-step approach and particularly to expose some of the rich second-story development (White, 2007a) which had previously been cloaked under negative identity conclusions and 'recovery' truths.

As we were a new group without practiced ways of being outside of twelve-step gatherings, I immediately found myself feeling a little overwhelmed by the quantity of amplified and competing issues that are to be found within any multistoried group of people enthusiastic about reinventing their lives. As the group looked to me for guidance, I was mindful that my own consciousness and knowledges risked becoming a principal avenue for group communication, as well as a contributor to imbalance of relations between us (White, 1997). I wanted 'at worst' to be co-author in our interactions and, as the group embodied its own wealth of knowledges and abilities, avoid the risk of mitigating these skills by sidestepping enquiries for seemingly expert opinions (Winslade, & Crocket, & Monk, 1997). It has been a constant challenge for me to strive for a de-centred position and not intimate commonalities with my own recovery terrain, especially when I under-scaffolded inquiries which were then often met with 'what do you think. Not complimenting on perceived achievement or moments of excited secondstory understanding has also presented a challenge for me to not engage in 'one-up / one-down' positioning. As Michael White (1997) maintained, this by its nature intimates that there is a 'debt' somewhere or that I hold some kind of power in the relationship. As a group, we are currently developing deconstruction lenses to view some of the expert discourse and social power positioning that influences our thinking and behaviours (Foucault, 1988) and have established that in the process of deconstruction we are revising our relationship with alcohol, not necessarily eradicating its influence on us (White, 2007).

Our beginning

I suggested that we might first consider what had brought the group together. After debating many concerns that reflected a group of men with vastly diverse and traumatic backgrounds, a more 'macro' perspective emerged: that their work together would not be for their own benefit alone and that their lived experiences - before, in, and after addiction -would be freely shared with others. In response to this, I quoted Myerhoffs (1992) phrase 'not for nothing', which has become a foundation for the group - if we can use our hard-won knowledge to assist others then all we have been through is 'not for nothing'! …

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