The Five Stages of Addiction Recovery

Alcohol and drug abuse can tear families apart and transform loving and successful individuals into desperate, lonely husks of their former selves. Even though the impact is devastating, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Those suffering from as addiction disorder can overcome addiction with the help and guidance of a substance abuse treatment program.

Understanding the five stages of addiction recovery can be useful for addicted people and their family members. It’s an integrated theory that’s compatible with most evidence-based and holistic treatments, like the 12-step program and behavior therapy.

What Is the Transtheoretical Model?

Prochaska, DiClemente and Norcross created the phases of change or transtheoretical model in 1983 to help people quit smoking. It was then updated in 1992, when it started being used in clinical settings for a variety of behaviors. By studying various mental health and substance use disorder treatment options, Prochaska, DiClemente and Norcross noted patterns that occur as people progress through a major behavioral shift.

The different stages of addiction recovery aren’t necessarily linear, and people don’t stay in them for a set amount of time. Of course, some addicts sail quickly through the process, in perfect order. Plus, there are certain principles that addiction experts and therapists on rehab programs can use to guide clients through the recovery process.

It can also be helpful for the addicted person themselves to gain self-understanding using this model. Insight is a powerful tool for change because it makes it easier to be mindful of the decisions you’re making in your life.

What Are the Five Stages of Change?

The 5 stages of addiction recovery are pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. Read on to find out more about the various stages.

1. Precontemplation Stage

People who are in this beginning stage aren’t yet ready for treatment. This phase is characterized by defensiveness and endless justification of their behavior as if they are in legal trouble representing themselves. There’s a clear lack of insight into the negative impact of excessive drug or alcohol use and a strong focus on the positive effects they experience from using their drug of choice.

People suffering from substance abuse might remain in this first stage due to a lack of information about addictive behaviors. Another reason we regularly see people struggling in the precontemplation stage is disappointment with multiple failed attempts at recovery. Most individuals in precontemplation feel that the recovery process simply isn’t possible for them. The truth is that anyone can recover from any stage.

2. Contemplation Stage

The next phase is characterized by contemplative readiness. This means the person is ready to bring about change in the future, but not immediately. Unlike the previous stage, they’re aware of the pros of becoming drug-free.

However, they are also still acutely aware of the benefits they perceive as they continue to abuse drugs and alcohol. This is a critical stage for family members, support system and treatment providers because the person is more likely to listen to reason and take the huge step to admit themselves to inpatient care treatment. By avoiding blame, judgment and accusations, it’s possible to guide them to the next stage.

3. Preparation Stage

When it comes to the preparation phase, the individual is building a sense of urgency regarding their desire for sobriety. They’ve usually made steps toward taking action, such as intending to join a gym, seeing a counselor, looking up treatment facilities or attempting to quit by themselves without attending a residential treatment center.

It’s normal for people in this phase to go for a day or two without turning to drugs or alcohol abuse, but it’s also not unusual to see people jump back to contemplation or precontemplation in case triggers or difficult emotions arise.

4. Action Stage

During the action stage, the person has made significant changes in their lives, would want to seek treatment and is committed to change. This stage of change is characterized by prolonged periods of abstinence and the inclination to turn to an addiction specialist, self-help programs or medical professional for help before or after relapse.

It will not simply be a case of halting the destructive behavior; change will be apparent in multiple aspects of their life. Self-care and self-understanding are both present in this stage of early recovery, but counseling is required to keep them on the right path.

5. Maintenance Stage

During the maintenance stage, the individual has finished their treatment program and is working hard to prevent relapse. They’re also keeping up the lifestyle changes they made, like getting regular exercise, paying attention to sleep hygiene and attending support groups. They don’t feel the urge to relapse as frequently as people in the earlier stage of action, so their confidence grows and they truly believe in their ability to maintain sobriety long term.

This stage can last from six months to five years, depending on the severity of the substance use addiction and the individual’s genes and experience. It takes a small minority of people six months of abstinence to reach the point where they don’t go back to their addictive behavior. However, for most people, a commitment of two to five years is necessary to truly break the habit, solidify change and get their life back.

The Importance of Aftercare

Even when someone has reached maintenance, it doesn’t mean they’re cured of substance abuse and addiction. Like diabetes or heart disease, it’s a chronic condition that requires major lifestyle changes to keep under control. As such, it’s crucial that people in the late stages of recovery make continuous active efforts to maintain sobriety. Complacency or a sense that the work is done once you reach maintenance is often a one-way ticket to using addictive substances again.

Aftercare helps you stay on track and keep practicing what you learned while in rehab, thus preventing relapse. Whether it’s individual therapy, family therapy, support groups, 12-step meetings or outpatient rehab, we recommend staying in some form of aftercare to many clients for at least one or two years after you complete a course of rehab or treatment process.

Find Out More About the Five Stages of Addiction Recovery

If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse, East Coast Recovery Center can help you every step of the way. Call us today at (617) 390-8349 to find out how to enroll in one of our alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs.

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