The Six Stages of Recovery

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If you’re in recovery, you probably already know it’s a process that never ends–you’re in recovery for life. But did you know that there are six stages of recovery? The transtheoretical model, developed by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente, developed stages that show a pattern of how a person moves through recovery. Understanding how recovery works can be key to navigating it more successfully and preventing relapse.

First Stage: Pre-Contemplation

The first stage in the recovery process for people with a history of substance abuse involves pre-contemplation. At this stage of recovery, the person having a problem may not have experienced the adverse consequences of their substance abuse and may remain in denial. They might argue that their alcohol use is casual or they only take drugs now and then and neither is affecting their lives with serious consequences. They might be what you would call a  “happy drunk.”

People in this stage are notoriously difficult to advise because they tell themselves that nothing is wrong. A ‘pre-contemplator’ can be grouped into one of four different categories. The reluctant pre-contemplator is someone who has no awareness of any kind of problem so they have no motivation. The rebellious pre-contemplator reacts negatively to being advised or told they have to go into rehab and will refuse out of spite. The resigned pre-contemplator is so overwhelmed by their need to change that they’ve lost faith that it can be done. And the rationalizing pre-contemplator thinks they are far too smart to take others’ advice and any substance abuse is justified. They might justify it by saying they have to abuse stimulants to stay awake to study for tests or they might rationalize that their alcohol use is taking the edge off, etc.

Second Stage: Contemplation

When someone with a substance abuse problem finally moves out of the pre-contemplation stage, they advance to contemplation. At this point, it’s apparent there’s a problem even to the person who drinks alcohol or does drugs. They sort of want to change but not enough to do something about it. They don’t believe they can follow through or commit to it but they are willing to learn more about the disease and the consequences if they continue down this path. The bottom line is they’re still thinking about it and not taking action. This stage can take years.

Third Stage: Preparation

While no action has been taken at this phase, the person who has an alcohol or drug abuse problem has decided that they are going to go into rehab or take action of some kind to correct the situation. This person is considering their options and trying to decide what the best one is for them so they can finally take some action to get their life back on track.

Fourth Stage: Taking Action

The fourth stage is when a person who has been struggling with their thoughts finally takes action. This usually occurs in an inpatient treatment center where they begin by detoxing their body of all those harmful substances. They will also go through a rehabilitative program where they start learning to manage the feelings and emotions that led to substance abuse in the first place. This is the time when someone in recovery learns to develop different strategies for coping with emotional triggers and cravings that may tempt them after they’ve gone through detox.

Fifth Stage: Staying Sober

If you think that the hard work is over now that you’ve been to treatment, you have another thing coming. Maintenance and preventing relapse is the fifth stage of recovery and it’s no walk in the park. It’s especially difficult at first when someone initially stops abusing substances. Unfortunately, addiction is a chronic disease and there will always be a risk of relapse for the abuser. Different tools that have been learned in rehabilitation can be your saving grace. Inevitably, some people will relapse at this stage. While that is never a desirable outcome, it’s not the end of the world and you can start again.

Sixth Stage: Termination

Although the term termination sounds a little intimidating and ominous, it simply describes when people finally get to a stage where they don’t feel they are in danger of a relapse. Some people never make it to this stage but if you do, it’s a blessing. If you can get to a point where you no longer feel like you’ll relapse with your substance of choice, you’ve reached a goal that may have seemed impossible when you were in early recovery. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t make it any less of an admirable goal.

A person struggling with substance abuse or addiction must go through six stages of recovery to get to a point where they are sober and have little risk of relapsing. They may spend a lot of time denying the drug use, acknowledging it, educating themselves, and planning what they will do about it before they ever take action in the fourth phase. The goal is to reach stage six where you don’t feel the need to relapse or ever use your drugs or alcohol again. Some people never reach this stage, and that’s okay—you can learn to manage the cravings and maintain sobriety. At Everlast Recovery Center, we can help you learn how to navigate your way through the stages of recovery and rebuild your life. You don’t have to suffer alone. Our Riverside, CA facility offers counseling as well as alternative therapies to help you meet your sobriety goals. Call us today at (866) 338-6925 to get started.

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