The Stages of Change in Addiction Recovery
The stages of change in addiction recovery can be confusing without some background. Here’s a handy guide to help you understand the different stages.
If you’re someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, you should know you’re not alone. One in ten people in the United States are addicted to drugs or alcohol. And because of the stigma surrounding addiction, many of them suffer alone and in silence.
Overcoming addiction isn’t easy. It takes a lot to get through the different stages of change in addiction. The majority of individuals relapse after only a few days of quitting.
Recovering from addiction requires great mental and physical strength, as a well a support network of friends and family.
Each case of addiction is unique and is influenced by a variety of biological, psychological, and physical factors. Because of the intensely personal nature of addiction, no two people will deal with the stages of change in addiction the same way.
Rising above addition can be a daunting experience. But by reflecting on the stages of change in addiction, and focusing on one step at a time, you can overcome addiction to reach the happier and healthier future you deserve.
What are the stages of change in addiction? Read on to learn more.
Stage 1: Awareness and Early Acknowledgment
One of the first stages of change in addiction occurs when the addict becomes aware of their problem.
This realization usually occurs after:
- Family, friends, or coworkers have mentioned or brought up their concerns surrounding the addict’s behavior or addiction
- The addiction has started to create health, financial, legal, or work problems
While the addict is still engaging in their addiction at this point, this stage is important. It shows that they know there is a problem that they need to address.
Stage 2: Consideration
In this stage, the addict is ready to take the first step toward recovery. They do this by learning more about their addiction and the impact it has on his or her life as well as the lives of the people they care about.
At this stage, the addict begins to:
- Look beyond him or herself to see how their addiction negatively impacts the people they care about
- Shift away from awareness toward action
Stage 3: Exploring Recovery
In this stage of addiction recovery, the addict feels motivated to take small steps toward overcoming his or her addiction. They’ll explore concepts of moderation and abstinence.
During this stage, the addict may:
- Educate themselves on recovery and the idea of sobriety
- Consult with friends or family members who have struggled with or currently struggle with addiction
- Collect information about the treatment options available
In the later stages of change in addiction, the addict decides to embark on the recovery process.
Stage 4: Early Recovery
At this point, the addict has stopped using the substance they were addicted to. They’ve also begun to learn how to remain drug-free in the future.
This stage is also a time of significant risk for recovering addicts. Here’s why:
Addicts are trying to abandon people, activities, and behaviors that have been an essential part of their lives. Recovering means saying goodbye to friends, coping mechanisms, and other deeply ingrained behaviors.
As mentioned early, most individuals relapse during this stage. The key to relapse prevention is knowing that relapse happens gradually, often months before an individual picks up a drink or drug.
Here are three phases of relapse you should know to keep you from relapsing early on:
Phase 1: Emotional Relapse
During this stage, addicts begin exhibiting emotions and behaviors that set them up for a relapse:
- Bottling up emotions
- Isolating themselves
- Avoiding or skipping meetings
- Focusing on other people’s problems
- Eating or sleeping poorly
Often times, the addict will deny these behaviors and refuse to take care of themselves. This leads to restlessness and irritability, which can trigger a relapse.
Phase 2: Mental Relapse
During this phase, addicts fight the urge to relapse while trying to stay sober. They start doing things like:
- Craving drugs or alcohol
- Romanticism or glamorizing past use
- Thinking of ways to better control using
- Looking for relapse opportunities
- Planning to relapse
At this point, addicts need to know that this conflict is normal and not a sign of weakness. By talking about these urges, they can channel that energy back into their sobriety.
Phase 3: Physical Relapse
This is when the addict physically relapses and begins to use drugs or alcohol again. If an addict isn’t helped during the initial lapse, they’re more likely to fully relapse and start using regularly again.
Stage 5: Active Recovery & Maintenance
During this stage, the addict has developed new coping skills and healthy habits and has begun to rebuild the relationships damaged by their addiction. At this point, the addict realizes that staying sober is a lifelong commitment and that they will need to work hard to resist relapsing.
This stage requires recovering addicts to:
- Monitor their thoughts and behaviors
- Practice new skills learned in treatment
- Maintain a support system
- Stay on top of triggers and temptations to use
What to Remember About the Stages of Change in Addiction
Addiction is a disease
Addiction is a sickness, not a reflection of your worth as a human. Addiction does not mean you’re a bad person, it means you’re sick and need to recover.
Addiction has no cure
Treatment centers will provide you with the tools to manage your disease, but the only one who can guarantee your sobriety long-term is you.
There is no right way for recovery
There is no one way to achieve recovery. Everyone deals with the stages of change in addiction differently.
It’s good to take advice from people who are in long-term recovery, but the best approach is to do what works best for you. No case of addiction is the same, so your approach shouldn’t have to be the same as someone else’s.
Find meaning outside of recovery meetings
While recovery groups are important, it’s also important to find out who you are as a person without your addiction. This means finding your own path. Activities like volunteering, exercising, and schooling are great ways to carve out a new life for yourself.
A big part of recovery is forgiving yourself and other people for the things that happened during your addiction. Holding on to resentments from the past only makes you more likely to relapse.
Overcoming addiction isn’t easy, but it’s possible! By taking one step at a time, you can reach recovery and get through the stages of change in addiction.
If you’re someone struggling with addiction and looking for help, there are options. Reach out to an addiction specialist to see what your treatment options are.