An occupatiobnal perspectice on the journey of recovery from substance abuse among young Zimbabwean men

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Substance abuse is a rising global health and social problem that is associated with serious medical, psychiatric, family, occupational, legal, financial and spiritual problems. While recovery from substance abuse is possible, it is a subjective and contested process. To date, the recovery process has not been explored from an occupational perspective in Zimbabwe, where as many as 60% of all readmissions at Zimbabwe’s psychiatric referral centre during the period from January 2010 to December 2011 were secondary to substance-induced disorders, and less than three percent of these patients moved into long-term recovery or sustained sobriety with rehabilitation follow-up. This qualitative narrative inquiry explores the journey of recovery from substance abuse among young adult Zimbabwean men. The aim of the study was to investigate how occupations played a role in the recovery journeys of each of these men. Three young adult men identified as former substance abusers were purposively selected for the study. Data generation occurred through in-depth narrative interviews with each participant. Principles of trustworthiness and validation emphasising the persuasiveness, coherence and pragmatic use of the narratives were applied throughout the research process, and ethical issues in narrative research were upheld. Ethical clearance was applied for and granted by the University of Cape Town’s Human Ethics Research Committee and permission to do the research was sought and given by the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe. The findings of the study — explanatory stories — were produced through narrative analysis. These stories revealed substance abuse to be an occupation associated with both positive and negative consequences. Recovery from such abuse emerged as an ongoing occupational transition negotiated through participation in other occupations, and influenced by both personal and environmental factors. The way in which occupations were abandoned, modified and newly adopted during the process of this occupational transition is discussed. The construction and reconstruction of a positive occupational identity was seen as central to the process of occupational transition. The study concluded that engagement and participation in ‘engaging occupations’ was an intricate contributor to the recovery journey for young adult Zimbabwean men, and that narrative interviews should be used in generating data to explore the occupational nature of life and its events.

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