Analysis of the emotional experiences of Japanese Alcoholics Anonymous members striving for sobriety

Miyuki Kihara, Kazuyo Kitaoka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Japan's tolerance of alcohol consumption and intoxication pose extreme difficulties for community-dwelling alcoholics who wish to abstain from alcohol and maintain sobriety. Emotional problems triggered in daily life can easily lead to relapse, especially after abstinence. Alcoholics Anonymous places great emphasis on dealing with attendees' emotional experiences. However, the specific nature of this support is not well understood. Therefore, this study aimed to elucidate the emotional experiences of AA members who strive for sobriety while attending AA and to identify suggestions for new methods of support. Methods: The present study employed an interview method. Data were analyzed using the KJ Method, which was developed by Japanese cultural anthropologist Jiro Kawakita. Study participants were 36 men chosen from AA groups in the Kanto and Kyushu regions of Japan. Results: Long-term abstinence was achieved through the following process: 1) gaining objectivity, 2) striving to maintain an attitude of acceptance, and 3) remaining devoted to discipline for one's goals, thereby 4) recovering one's contradictory self. This was an unending process that unfolded as the individual tasks affected each other. To facilitate this process, AA members dealt with risk cues that destabilized post-cessation emotional balance while making daily efforts to regulate their own emotions. Conclusions: To maintain sobriety, AA members strove to regulate their emotions. By doing so, they experienced personal growth and attained a life in which they did not require alcohol (i.e., sobriety). The present study indicated that Japanese nursing and health care workers should be willing to learn from AA members, such as by understanding the 12-step culture. The data also suggest the need to create environments conducive to AA activities, from which many alcoholics derive emotional support.

Original languageEnglish
Article number243
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 6 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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