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    Stages of Addiction Recovery

    Whenever you make a lifestyle change, it typically can be seen as a process. You may decide to change your weight or where you live, or even your career. Doing so involves a few steps that are pretty universal among us. The same can be said for the stages of addiction recovery when you’ve decided to make that change. Every person is different, so every recovery process will look different too. Generally speaking, though, there are a few stages you will go through when you are on the path to recovery.

    A Look At the Stages Of Addiction Recovery

    Life itself is a process. Our brains like to make sense of what’s going on around us, and staging the happenings of life can help.

    Several years ago, researchers looked at the changes people go through on the path to addiction recovery to understand it better. In the early 90s, they discovered that someone progresses through five states of addiction recovery as they take on a treatment path.1

    You may go back and forth through these stages as you progress to several years of living substance-free. But knowing there are different stages of addiction recovery means you have the best chance of success because you know where you stand. In the late 90s, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) published similar research detailing addiction recovery stages as a tool to help better understand where you are in your journey to addiction recovery.2


    The First Stage of Addiction Recovery: Precontemplation

    Typically in this stage,you may not believe you have a problem. You might be thinking about whether or not you are drinking or using more, but you don’t feel you’ve reached an ‘addictive’ point just yet. There haven’t really been any negative consequences with your substance misuse, and you believe there really isn’t a problem to address. You may even see that there could be a problem one day, but you’re still able to justify why you’re struggling with addiction, and you believe you’re in control. Sometimes in precontemplation, you may realize that you might be on the verge of things getting out of hand, but you’re not ready to take steps to prevent that yet.

    The Second Stage of Addiction Recovery: Contemplation

    At this point, you realize that there is a problem with your alcohol or drug use. You probably see the negative consequences in your relationships and day-to-day living, and you recognize that you probably should make changes. Still, you may stay in the contemplation stage for quite a while—years even—and even move back into precontemplation as you’re just not ready to commit to change. You may believe that there is a problem at this stage, but you still make excuses to justify it. You want to change, but you don’t necessarily believe you have to change for your own good.

    This new awareness begins the first stage of recovery.  Up until this point, it’s likely that the individual does not realize they have an addiction. They may be in denial and highly resistant to any form of confrontation about it. Recovery from a substance addiction begins when the affected individual becomes aware that they have a problem.

    In most cases, this self-awareness begins to take form after an individual has hit a very low point in their life. This moment is an impactful one where the addicted individual realizes that they need to end their substance dependency in order to live the life they desire.

    In stage 2, the affected individual becomes aware of the severity of their addiction and starts to understand how it has affected his or her life. This consideration (or contemplative) stage occurs when the addicted individual begins making efforts to research and learn more about their situation.

    By this point, he or she will begin seeing their addiction clearly and considering whether they are willing to change. By achieving the awareness stage and considering the necessary steps to sober living, the individual takes a small step towards addiction recovery.

    The Third Stage of Addiction Recovery: Preparation

    In the preparation stage of addiction recovery, you’ve realized you have a problem you want to tackle, and you’re ready to do so. The National Institute of Drug Abuse considers this stage to be the Treatment Initiation Stage. You’ll probably feel nervous about the path you’re committing to. Chances are, you may wonder if you’ll even be able to stick through it. During this stage, counselors will look at what’s going on with your usage and help you develop a plan on how to get sober. You could very likely be ambivalent about whether treatment is the right choice, but you’re at least looking at it and working up to committing to it.

    Stage 3 includes making the decision to seek professional help and exploring addiction recovery treatment options. This decision prompts the necessary motivation within the patient to pull through and keep going, no matter how difficult the treatment may be.

    This stage can also be referred to as the ‘preparation phase.’ Supporting your loved ones during this stage strengthens their resolve and can help as they make their transition into an addiction recovery center such as an outpatient drug rehab at PUSH for Recovery in Columbus, Ohio.

    The Fourth Stage of Addiction Recovery: Action

    In this stage, you begin the work of behavior change. It is where you choose to abstain from alcohol or drugs. Called the Early Abstinence stage by the NIDA, this is where you may also start feeling the physical and mental effects of abstinence.

    Before addiction recovery can begin, patients must first stop using and start detoxing. During detox, patients release their bodies from physical and psychological dependence on drugs and alcohol before the rehabilitation process begins. Unfortunately, physical and mental withdrawal can be the most challenging barrier to staying clean.

    Following detox, you will begin partial hospitalization programming (PHP), or intensive outpatient programming (IOP) which includes group and individual counseling.  You’ll identify triggers that make you want to use drugs or alcohol, and you’ll deal with the continued cravings and withdrawal symptoms that come with abstaining. It’s important to work on healthy and effective coping strategies for those cravings and symptoms as a temptation to relapse may be tough during this stage. It’s also in this stage that you’ll likely consider whether you made the right decision. Your body and brain are fighting each other, and so involvement in alternative behaviors and therapy can be most beneficial.

    Here at PUSH for Recovery of Columbus, Ohio, we provide several levels of care through customized treatment programs dedicated to helping addicted individuals live a sober life on their terms.  Each of our individualized addiction treatment plans in Columbus, Ohio reduces the number of outside distractions and triggers so that individuals can focus on their sobriety and develop the tools they need to live a happy, healthy, substance-free life.

    The Fifth Stage of Addiction Recovery: Maintenance (And Relapse)

    The Action/Early Abstinence Stage of addiction recovery is where you’ll likely feel the most physical effects due to cravings and withdrawal symptoms. After about 90 or so days of abstinence, you’ll be in what is considered the maintenance stage.

    In this stage of addiction recovery, you’ll continue to abstain from drugs or alcohol. Still, you’ll also continue to build your toolkit for dealing with temptations you have that would hinder you from living a sober lifestyle. Your goal will be not only to continue to abstain but to prevent relapse. In this stage, you’ll work day by day to live your new, sober lifestyle. The more you do, the less likely you’ll be to revert to your old lifestyle. Even if a relapse occurs, it’s not necessarily a sign of weakness or defeat; you’ll need to continue with specialized treatment to maintain sobriety.

    Advanced Recovery: The Goal Stage

    After the initial steps have been taken, actively maintaining sobriety and the journey through recovery is the last and final stage. This stage will help the patient create long-term goals. It will include building healthy relationships with people who do not drink or use drugs and participating in hobbies and activities that do not trigger a relapse. Overall, this stage in the addiction recovery process is about finding and strengthening areas of life that bring fulfillment.

    If you abstain from and maintain sobriety from drugs or alcohol for about five years, the NIDA considers you to be in advanced recovery. This is also considered to be a termination by researchers Prochaska and DiClemente1 and is the ultimate goal of addiction recovery. At this stage of addiction recovery, you’ll be able to use the tools and goals you’ve used for the last five years to continue living a life of sobriety with few feelings of threat from your former substance of choice. In this stage, you feel comfortable with the hard work you’ve put in, and you fear relapse less each day. In this stage, you’ll also realize that recovery wasn’t just about staying sober. It was about building skills for the happier and healthier life you were meant to live.


    Donate to help the Life Recovery Society provide a safe, sober, supportive, and flexible way for individuals to earn an income while in treatment.  Life Recovery Society also plans to add a men's and women's sober living home in the Hilltop Community.