The 5 Stages of Recovery: A Complete Guide

Did you know that one in seven Americans will experience a substance abuse problem throughout their lifetime?

Whether the addiction is based on drugs or alcohol, attending a treatment facility is always a wise decision for addicts. Here, addicts have access to a wide variety of professionals that offer tools and support for fighting addiction.

While no two addicts are alike, most addicts will pass through similar stages of recovery. In general, the process of recovery can be broken down into five unique stages.

If yourself or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse, you’re going to want to ensure that you read this. We’re outlining the five stages one can expect to go through when dealing with recovery.

1. Pre-Contemplation

The stage of pre-contemplation is characterized by denial and continued use of drugs or alcohol.

Although it may be clear to friends and family that the substance abuse has gotten out of hand, the addict at this point often feels that their usage is totally under control.

The addict will generally deny that their patterns of use are concerning or should even be a topic of conversation. At this stage, they will deny that their usage is a problem and that they ultimately have control over their habits.

They will often say things such as “I can quit whenever I want” or “I only use to relax”. Oftentimes, the user is so caught up in their addiction that they actually believe these false statements.

During this stage, the addict will continue using at the same rate. In general, this is due to the fact that they are not willing to believe that their usage is resulting in any negative consequences.

2. Awareness

The second stage of recovery is characterized by an awareness of the issue.

While the addict may not yet admit that their substance abuse is an official addiction, they may begin to see that it has become an issue. For many addicts, this stage takes place after an intervention from family and friends is staged.

More often than not, this is the result of experiencing a negative consequence from the usage. This often comes in the form of an important relationship ending, being let go from a job, health problems or problems with friends and family.

Here, the problem begins to become more apparent and the user may silently consider coming to terms with their addiction.

Addicts may admit that they want to change but are unsure as to how that change can take place. They may begin to bargain their usage with friends and family and vow to make small changes to their usage.

They are likely to remain in this stage until a significant life event takes place that forces them to move onto the next stage of recovery.

3. Preparation

In this stage, the addict begins to prepare for recovery. This may be in terms of attending meetings, speaking with counselors or making arrangements for their recovery.

At this point, the individual is likely still using to a certain extent. However, they may have made certain transitions or minimized their intake. They may also have finalized a “final using date” for the future.

For an alcoholic, they may vow to transition from drinking harder substances such as liquor to a more controlled substance such as beer or wine. For drug addicts, they may try to minimize their use or transition to a more recreational drug such as marijuana.

At this point, they are more likely to admit that their usage may be stemming from an addiction rather than mere enjoyment. Once they reach this conclusion, they may start to entertain the idea of requiring professional help and attending treatment.

4. Action

The fourth stage is arguably the most important and transitional stage in the recovery process. This is because this stage is characterized by taking action outside of admitting that there is a problem.

Here, the addict will begin to take action against their addiction and towards their recovery.

For many addicts, this will come in the form of attending an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Here, the addict will commit to a program that is administered by experts in the fields of drug and alcohol addiction.

It is during this stage that addicts will learn about the disease of addiction and why addiction became a part of their life. They will learn how to prevent relapse, how to live without the substance, and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

5. Maintenance and Relapse Prevention

This final stage will begin with leaving the treatment center and be present for the rest of the individual’s life.

It is at this stage in which the individual will focus on maintaining their program. Here they will apply the tools and techniques they learned in treatment to their everyday life.

This stage may also be characterized by continuing to attend meetings, speaking with sponsors and, ultimately, living life free from the temptation of drugs or alcohol.

Here, the individual will begin to see the significant advantages of living life free from addiction. They may also attempt to correct any relationship, work or health problems that arose throughout their addiction.

As this stage continues, the individual will begin to see a sober lifestyle in a more positive light.

Outlining the Stages of Recovery

While millions of Americans report having a substance abuse problem, only 1 in 10 will ultimately seek treatment.

If you’re considering taking control of your addiction, it’s best to acquaint yourself with the stages of recovery beforehand. Once you understand this process, you can begin to take your first step on the path toward recovery.

Of course, overcoming addiction is never a simple nor painless journey.

However, treatment centers exist to help ensure that you are getting the right help and support necessary for overcoming your addiction.

To learn more about addiction and how to conquer it, be sure to visit our blog.


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