• addiction;
  • hermeneutics;
  • narratives;
  • nursing;
  • secondary analysis;
  • spirituality

Aim.  This paper aims to explore the existential aspects of living with addiction.

Background.  This study arises from data from a previous research project carried out by the author and takes as its point of departure the patient’s perspective. Addiction is described as being related to traumatic experience and to loss of control, shame, guilt and low self-esteem, but also to spirituality. This causes profound suffering and drugs are used as a means of handling this suffering.

Design.  Hermeneutic inquiry was used to explore peoples experiences of living with addiction.

Method.  The first study was based on interviews with people with rich, personal experience of addiction. This study constitutes a secondary analysis of the same data and was conducted using a hermeneutic approach.

Results.  On an existential level the experiences of living with addiction can be understood as a striving to meet and resolve challenges associated with spirituality caused by a person’s suffering and, paradoxically, also by his/her efforts to relieve that suffering through the use of drugs. These challenges are presented as themes focusing on the conflict that must be met; meaning – meaninglessness, connectedness – loneliness, life – death, freedom – adjustment, responsibility – guilt, control – chaos.

Conclusion.  Living with addiction appears as being in the midst of a struggle with existential challenges. Furthermore, the use of drugs is paradoxical as it momentarily relieves suffering but at the same time increases it.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Addressing the challenges will facilitate nurses interaction with addicted persons. When facing challenges, including the motivational aspects, instead of focusing on problems, health can be promoted and suffering relieved.