Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Nursing


The aim of this study was to explore the meaning that women who live with alcohol-use disorders attributed to their decisions to engage with drug and alcohol services. Women, alcohol and alcohol-use disorders are under-researched topics when compared to the abundance of studies on male alcohol consumption and its related harms. In particular, there is nearly silence on the discourse about the lived experience of women who consume harmful levels of alcohol and live with alcohol-use disorders (AUDs).

In order to understand and interpret the essence of meaning behind the reasons why the 15 women participants made their decisions to engage with services, a phenomenological approach was used. More specifically, van Manen’s (1997) methodological framework provided a structure and a guide to the phenomenological enquiry into the lifeworld’s of the women participants.

The research study was designed in a way so as to answer the question: ‘what does it ‘mean’ for a woman with an alcohol-use disorder to engage with services’. So as to encourage the women to share their stories and uncover meanings in their experiences, semi-structured, one-on-one interviews were the methods used to collect the data. NVivo 10TM data analysis software was used to capture the interview transcripts and to analyse and explore the 15 texts. van Manen’s (1997) method for isolating thematic statements formed the basis of this analysis.

Within the women’s story-telling, an exploration of the essential, unified themes were uncovered and portrayed These themes, which follow, centre on the women discovering their ‘Dislike for Alcohol’, ‘Overcoming Barriers’ to service engagement, prevailing over a ‘Sense of Enforcement’ to engage with services and bouncing back from reaching ‘Rock Bottom’. Deeply embedded within the scenes in the women’s story-telling was the essence of their experiences – the meaning that each woman ascribed to her decision to engage with services. This essence was found to be the woman arriving at her ‘conceptualisation of the need for change’ in terms of her service-seeking behaviours.

Implications for researchers and drug and alcohol service providers’ explore the subjective views of women with AUDs. In particular the unique, contextual factors that characterise a woman’s lifeworld in terms of her developing and living with an AUD should be understood and privileged.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.