Journey metaphors

Journey metaphors are often used in the drugs field to explain people’s own personal experience of drug use and problem drug use, to explain the role of services and other interventions and to describe experiences defining or contributing to recovery. Journey metaphors are particularly common in recovery discourse (The Road To Recovery, for example) and in mutual support and other settings where people share their experiences of problem substance use and recovery. (see personal narratives)

A journey metaphor may include a starting point, a route of some kind and a destination. However, this common method of relating complex narratives has significant issues because such metaphors are simplifications and incomplete accounts of a person’s experience.

  • At what point does the journey begin?

  • At what point on that journey does a person ‘have a drug problem’ and at what point

    are they ‘in recovery’?

  • Does that journey have a fixed path or a fixed destination?

  • What does it mean if a person’s ‘journey’ stalls or they take a ‘backward path’?

  • Does the journey ever end?

  • Is the person still on a journey? and, if so, will their perspective on their experiences

    change again in the future?

  • At what point did the person begin to think of these experiences as a ‘journey’?

  • Are a person’s own experiences being described and explained by other people using

    a journey metaphor?

    Journey metaphors are useful but there are significant issues. They can obscure the complexity of what actually happened to people. They may imply that there is a simple process in moving from problem substance use to recovery which is not necessarily the case. By focussing on the individual, they can remove the societal, community and family aspects of people’s experiences both in terms of the root cause of problems and how they are addressed or resolved. (see personal narratives).