Everyone experiences recovery differently, but in general there are certain phases that a person goes through when they are getting ready for and going through the process of recovery. People don’t always go through these phases in the same sequence and they may skip back and forth between stages as they struggle with the ups and downs of recovery. Quitting an addiction requires some very dramatic changes in both a person’s mindset and their behavior and those changes take place in shifts over a long period of time.
Knowing more about the stages of recovery and where you are on the path can help put things into perspective. You can also recognize the stages that you have already moved through to give yourself an idea of your progress. Don’t be discouraged if you move back and forth through different stages, this can be a normal part of recovery and you will eventually get to the final phase.
Stage One – Precontemplation
Before a person decides to quit their addiction, they start to feel the negative effects of their behavior. They might experience financial problems, relationship issues, or physical and mental deterioration and start to notice these effects. However, in the precontemplation stage they are aware of these problems but are not quite ready to make any changes to their behavior.
During this stage the addict will still be defensive about their habits and may still believe they are in control of their actions. When other people confront them about their problem they are still in denial.
Stage Two – Contemplation
During the second stage of recovery the person begins to consider changing their habits but is not completely committed to the idea of sobriety. They may think about quitting more and start weighing the pros and cons as they learn more about addiction and how recovery works. They may talk to family and friends to get support and advice about possibly moving forward with quitting.
They might not feel physically ready to quit their substance abuse but there is a small change in their mindset as they understand the impact of their behavior.
Stage Three – Preparation
The next stage after contemplation is preparation when the addict finally makes their first steps toward recovery. They may start making some changes and begin researching recovery program options so that they know what to expect. They might make small shifts in their behavior and mentally prepare themselves for detox and rehab.
They may try to drink less or make efforts to moderate their abuse as they move toward the possibility of being abstinent.
Stage Four – Action
Once a person is mentally committed to recovery they still start to take action and physically get the help they need. They will enroll in a detox center so that they can rid their body of its chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol. This stage is the point at which the person starts to physically adjust to being abstinent and develops some new habits to cope with the changes.
Stage Five – Maintenance
Going through detox is the first physical step that a person takes in recovery but they must continue their rehabilitation through the maintenance stage. During this phase the person will start to practice recovery techniques on a daily basis and stay focused on their goal of being sober. They will start to make many important changes to their lifestyle that make it easier to avoid relapse.
In the maintenance phase the person in recovery will start to feel more extreme emotions that were suppressed by their addiction. They will have to find new coping mechanisms to deal with their feelings of depression, anxiety and other issues that caused them to drink or use drugs. As emotions come flooding back they will need to be careful about managing them in order to prevent relapse.
Stage Six – Transcendence
The stage of maintenance can be a long term and even life-long part of recovery but at some point people reach what can be considered the final stage of transcendence. When this stage occurs they will truly feel that they no longer need their old habits and lifestyle to feel normal. Their addiction will seem more like a distant memory and they will experience less reaction to triggers.
They will still need to manage aspects of their addiction and remain cautious, but the work will be much easier for them because of all the progress they have already made.
People in recovery go through these stages at their own pace and in their own personal ways. They may move forward and then backward to a previous stage if they discover they weren’t ready to progress. Over time they will be able to make it through each stage and achieve sobriety if they are able to receive help and support.