Volume 83, Issue 2 (2019), pp. 1–19
Women’s alcohol dependence is a serious concern for the whole of society, negatively affecting not only various important areas of the lives of women themselves, but essentially the mental health of future generations. Researchers have attempted to address the main problems associated with women’s drinking; nevertheless, their findings are still incomplete. Moreover, relatively little scholarly attention has been paid to exploring idiosyncratic alcohol-dependent women identity development processes. This study aims to fill the existing gap in the literature, by conducting an empirical study that would help elucidate the main psycho-social aspects contributing significantly to the identity development of alcohol-dependent women. Ten self-identified alcohol-dependent women participated in the study. Data was collected through life stories and in-depth interviews. The constructivist grounded theory approach (K. Charmaz) was used as a methodological strategy to explore how alcohol-dependent women develop and express their identities in their life stories. In this study, we present internal and external identity development processes, revealing the dilemma of internal detachment by alcohol-dependent women developing an illusory identity. The main aspects of this theoretical structure include compensatory adaptation, power seeking, and avoiding helplessness, which create a vicious triangle, with the need for acceptance and the fear of rejection at its core, all contributing to the development of an illusory identity. Moreover, based on traditional theoretical frameworks, the study builds on the premise that such internal detachment is linked to self-integrity problems, which is further associated with participants’ pursuit of a search for self-meaning in important others. The findings provide new insights about alcohol-dependent identity development processes, discuss the limitations and strengths of the current study, suggest directions for future studies, and highlight the need to see alcohol-dependent women’s problems from the perspective of identity, which is different from traditional psycho-pathological views.