Recovering alcoholics who remember positive experiences in their past may be more successful in managing their addiction. This is the finding of a study by Sarah Davies and Professor Gail Kinman of the University of Bedfordshire that was presented on the 16th April 2010, at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon.
A hundred and one members of Alcoholics Anonymous (53 per cent male) completed questionnaires that assessed the extent to which they were oriented towards the past, present or future, and whether this orientation was mostly positive or negative. They were also asked about their spiritual experiences, level of abstinence, compulsion to drink and anxiety.
- The results showed that problem drinkers who were oriented towards the past and who had a positive view of their previous life experiences were more likely to be successful in managing alcohol dependency than those with a more negative focus on the past.
- Participants who held a present hedonistic orientation (focusing on having fun in the here and now) tended to experience stronger compulsions to drink alcohol.
- High levels of spirituality were also found to be a protective factor in helping recovering alcoholics stay sober and manage the anxiety associated with addiction and withdrawal.
Sarah Davies said: "Our findings suggest that therapeutic interventions that help problem drinkers view their past experiences more positively might aid recovery. It is also likely that helping addicts develop a more balanced time perspective, where they are not exclusively oriented towards the past, the present or the future, will be helpful.
"The findings of this study also highlight the important role played by spirituality in helping people recover from alcoholism.
This provides strong support for therapies which emphasise the importance of gaining purpose and meaning in life such as the 12-step approach advocated by Alcoholics Anonymous."
From a press release of the The British Psychological Society