Lost in the game: Narratives of addiction and identity in recovery from problem gambling

Abstract

This article explores the ways that individuals experience recovery from gambling problems. Arguing against reductive, bio-medical models of addiction, we adopt a broadly interpretive epistemology to analyse gamblers' narratives of recovery. Using data from a longitudinal qualitative study of 'gambling careers' we suggest that processes of behaviour change are embedded in wider social relations and revolve around shifting concepts of self-identity. This involves processes of biographical and temporal reconstruction which are grounded in material circumstances, particularly those relating to money and social relationships. Various configurations of recovery exist, but common to all is a dynamic temporal reorientation and an increased sense of agency and authenticity as individuals move into a future that they feel they have some control over. These narratives suggest that experiences of gambling addiction and recovery, and the self-concepts that accompany them, are fluid and contextual and that 'managing' gambling is about re-shaping the self in culturally appropriate ways. It is hoped that aspects of this analysis may be of relevance for understanding the narrative dimensions of addiction and recovery more generally.

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