The purpose of this study is to understand how recovering alcoholics manage stigma and conduct facework when disclosing their alcoholic identity to a romantic partner. While studies analyzing other contexts, including the workplace and parties, show topic avoidance as a successful approach to alcoholic disclosure, topic avoidance does not work in romantic relationships due to the need for a higher level of intimacy. Therefore, recovering alcoholics must approach the disclosure in a way that both maintains privacy, to minimize stigma and illustrates honesty, to increase intimacy. To better understand how alcoholics manage this tension when disclosing, this study utilized Craig and Tracy’s (1995) Grounded Practical Theory (GPT) and conducted a discourse analysis of thirteen semi-structured interviews that focused on how participants constructed disclosure as problematic, their stigma management strategies, and ultimately, their underlying beliefs about good disclosure. The three ideal practices of “good” disclosure, established from participants’ construction of disclosure, are to be vague, casual and confident. Vagueness in disclosure involves omitting the negative aspects of one’s alcoholic identity and past. To be casual, participants include subtle wording and allow the disclosure to arise naturally in the conversation. Lastly, confidence in disclosure includes a direct style, self-assured non-verbals and a firm tone. Overall, using Grounded Practical Theory, this study identifies participants’ ideals about discursive strategies that save face through managing particularly stigmatized identities. In conclusion, the ideals described in this study provide recovering alcoholics with successful disclosure practices that can be used to manage the tension between privacy and honesty when disclosing their alcoholic identity to a romantic partner.
Musselman, Grace, "“Obviously, I Kept it Slightly Vague”: An Analysis of How Recovering Alcoholics Disclose Their Alcoholic Identity to a Romantic Partner" (2018). Communication Undergraduate Honors Theses. 2.