A qualitative case study of a Korean former addict’s existential self-interpretation and identity transformation

Sun Kyung Kang, Seungnam Shin, Chong Ryel Sang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explored the case of a former addict, focusing on his existential self-interpretation and identity transformation process. This study began from the question of whether philosophical processes related to existential self-interpretation could lead to the formation of the concept of bottoming out and of identity transformation. To answer this question, the study analyzed the case of a male in his mid-forties who was addicted to drugs for approximately 30 years and has only recently maintained abstinence. The study used the phenomenological approach to determine the meaning drugs held for him in each stage, and what drug-related identity he had in each stage. Further, this study identified the integrative implications of these meanings in terms of existential self-interpretation and identity transformation. The four different identities the man identified for the four stages of his life were juvenile delinquent, gang member, half-gangster, and breadwinner, and the associated meanings drugs had for him during each period were “glue,” “filthy,” “leeches,” and “abstinence,” respectively. Finally, this study elucidated the integration of these meanings through the hermeneutic circle, identified the social welfare implications of the findings, and developed educational recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-84
Number of pages9
JournalAsian Social Work and Policy Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF‐2017S1A5B8057479).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd


  • abstinence
  • drug addiction
  • existential self-interpretation
  • identity transformation
  • qualitative case study
  • recovery


Dive into the research topics of 'A qualitative case study of a Korean former addict’s existential self-interpretation and identity transformation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this