OBJECTIVE This report describes a coding scheme developed to analyze how some American Indians changed their drinking behavior and explores the contributions of this approach to our understanding of natural recovery in American-Indian communities. METHOD We analyzed the responses to two open-ended questions about drinking in an epidemiological survey. The first question asked what helped respondents to quit or cut down on their drinking; the second asked respondents what they did instead of drinking when they wanted to drink. Codes were developed using anthropological analyses of content and then refined through analyses of frequencies and attempts to establish reliability. The frequencies of these codes were then examined by gender, age and current drinking status. RESULTS Reliability was attained for the coding of responses to both questions. Their content reflects salient themes in the literature on natural recovery. The distribution of these codes across gender, age and current drinking status reveals interesting insights into what prompts and supports quitting and change for different members of these American-Indian communities, especially for women, older respondents and those who abstain from alcohol. CONCLUSIONS This approach points the way to a consideration of a broad set of factors related to changes in drinking behavior in American-Indian populations that can be applied in future studies, both in American-Indian communities and, potentially, in other populations as well.