From alcoholism to sobriety: Four Native American women from a Plains Indian Reservation

Blanche Ridgely
Curriculum & Instruction, University of Wyoming
July, 2010


The purpose of this study was to examine how four Northern Arapaho women came to be sober. They had undergone treatment that provided Western-based and Native American-based treatment. The women shared their experiences regarding alcoholism, sobriety and the maintenance of their sobriety. This work motivated me because of my capability to quit abusing alcohol through spirituality, since then, I've always believed that Native American people can find recovery from alcoholism in order to sustain tribal nations. I also wanted to find out what experiences led to sobriety for these four women. As I pursued the study, other themes emerged such as Colonization and how it impacts Native American people in general. Because of Colonization there is higher risk for relapse and it paves the way for other health-related disparities that Native Americans have to contend with. The study results proved to be significant not only for the four Northern Arapaho women but all Native American people. Out of the four women three became sober primarily through the Alcoholics Anonymous program. In conjunction with the AA program they utilized the Native American strategies/cultural ceremonies such as the sweat lodge and talking circle. One participant became sober utilizing the sweat lodge ceremony. Implications for the study was positive, hopefully other Native American alcoholics will apply this model to their lives.