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Addiction Recovery Stages

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The addiction recovery process is a marathon, not a sprint. It involves significant lifestyle changes, hard work, real conversations, and support from healthcare providers, family members, friends, and their community.

If you or someone you love is going through addiction recovery or beginning the process, you may be wondering what that entails and what to prepare for.

In this post, we’re sharing the five stages of addiction recovery and how you can support a loved one as they face their substance abuse addiction.

The Six Stages of Change Model

The stages of change, also known as the transtheoretical model of behaviors, is the idea that an individual experiences different stages of recovery as they attempt to change their behavior and live a life that is alcohol or drug-free.

The transtheoretical model assesses an individual’s readiness to make a change in their behavior and evaluates the feelings and experiences they may encounter during each stage. It’s a helpful tool for therapists and family members to understand what the patient may be going through as they go through treatment and recovery.

Addiction is a personal experience, and everyone lives with it differently. While many who struggle with substance use disorders know the negative impacts it is having on their life, they are unable to control their substance abuse.

As individuals seek support and treatment options and explore the possibility of recovery, they will go through the following stages as they try to imagine a new life without drugs and alcohol.

The 5 Stages of Addiction Recovery

The stages of addiction recovery are similar to the stages of change, but it’s important to remember that these stages are not always linear. You or your loved one may jump back and forth between stages, go forwards and backward, and experience multiple stages at once.

The five stages of addiction recovery include the following:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Exploring Recovery
  4. Early Recovery
  5. Active Recovery & Maintenance

Let’s break down each stage of recovery so you can fully understand what it will entail and what to expect.

1. The awareness stage of addiction recovery

The awareness stage, also known as the precontemplation stage, is the stage where an individual’s addictive behavior may not be apparent to them yet. In the early stages, people view the addictive substances in their daily lives as a tool to make them happy and enjoy life more, rather than seeing the significant changes they’ve endured since becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. They may deny having a drinking problem or avoid talking about their drug abuse because they view their use of substances as a recreational activity.

The first stage of recovery does not present itself in a way to an individual as a problem; the negative consequences of alcohol or drug use have not been experienced yet. Because of this, people in the pre-contemplation stage are usually not open to hearing about therapeutic interventions or ways they can overcome addiction because they truly don’t believe that anything is wrong.

Eventually, however, they will feel the negative effects of their substance use disorder, which can often propel them into the next stage, which is contemplation.

2. The consideration stage of addiction recovery

In the consideration or contemplation stage, an individual is aware of their addictive behaviors and is thinking about stopping, cutting back, or finding other ways to cope. Those in the contemplation stage are open to learning about rehab programs, addiction treatment, family therapy, and other steps they can take to deal with their drug addiction.

While many in the second stage are not ready to stop using drugs or alcohol, they are actively researching treatment facilities and exploring their options. They may be open to discussing with others their drug abuse and what they hope to gain in an addiction treatment program.

3. Exploring recovery

Exploring recovery, or the preparation stage is when an individual starts to put plans in place to not only treat their drug or alcohol addiction but to ask for help and support from others. This may include support groups, therapy, self-help groups, or even reaching out to a rehab program for information.

In the preparation stage, the individual may not use drugs or alcohol as they find inspiration and hope in the recovery process. However, researching treatment options may trigger strong emotions and fear in many addicts, so it is normal to fall back a step or two in this phase.

A person may also begin noticing their triggers and begin working to remove them so they can be more successful in recovery. This process can be uncomfortable but can prevent relapse and help them in the next phase.

4. Early Recovery

The early recovery, or action stage, is different from other stages because the individual begins to focus on changing their addictive behaviors and staying sober. While a crucial stage, that action stage can also be stressful for anyone with a substance use disorder as they navigate life without drugs or alcohol and try to maintain sobriety.

The action stage happens in a substance abuse treatment facility for many patients as they enter a detox program. Many will attend a treatment center and work with healthcare providers to start overcoming addiction.

One of the most important parts of the action stage is having a support system in place for the person recovering. Supportive family members and friends in the individual’s life can make the discomfort of detox and treatment much more manageable.

Whether the individual is cutting back on their substance use, attempting abstinence, attending a support group, or enrolling in treatment, support on their journey is essential to success.

The action stage has no limits on time (none of the phases do) and may occur for many weeks and months. You will notice the individual’s behaviors starting to change as they learn to control their condition and gain coping skills throughout the recovery process.

5. The active recovery and maintenance stage

The active recovery and maintenance stage of addiction is all about sustaining the progress made in the action phase, along with unlearning negative behaviors and pursuing help or therapy to prolong recovery and avoid relapse. It’s a critical stage in the recovery process because it’s where individuals find long-term success or relapse.

The maintenance stage can be challenging for those in recovery because they’ve checked the box on sobriety and may believe the hard part is over. Maintaining sobriety can be just as difficult, if not more so, and small lapses may not seem significant in the maintenance stage.

In the maintenance stage, recovering individuals will be working to reduce any addictive behavior using the new coping skills they’ve learned in therapy. With these new skills, drug and alcohol abuse becomes less of a crutch or way to cope.

What comes after the five stages of addiction recovery?

The maintenance stage of recovery is the long-term phase that becomes a person’s daily life. Just like every other stage, long-term recovery is a personal experience, and everyone approaches recovery differently.

For some, this means weekly therapy sessions to discuss their drug addiction and continue moving forward. For others, mental health care is required to understand what their addiction stemmed from and healthy ways to cope.

Aftercare programs are designed to offer a flexible continuum of care with clinical support, mental health treatment, and oftentimes, even medical supervision.

As you or a loved one completes the stages of addiction recovery and enter the maintenance stage, self-care and community support are essential to avoiding relapse and reverting back to negative behaviors and coping skills.

Recovery is possible. Get help with your substance use disorder at Clear Behavioral Health.

At Clear Behavioral Health, we believe long-term recovery is possible through individualized care and targeted healing. We focus on the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects of recovery, and our programs were developed to treat various levels of severity.

Our team of professionals works alongside patients to develop a treatment plan for their individual needs and goals. After residential treatment, Clear Behavioral Health offers an individualized outpatient treatment program that will support the patients as they transition into their daily lives while ensuring long-term recovery.

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