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The Five Stages of Change in Addiction Recovery

five daisies in different stages of opening against blue sky - stages of recovery

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a chronic, debilitating brain disease that affects millions of people in the United States, and recovery is a long-term process. Every person struggling with a substance use disorder is unique and so is their journey to living a clean and sober life. However, experts have identified five stages of recovery common to most people who choose to regain their sobriety.

The Stages of Recovery: A Five-Stage Model

The stages of recovery were first identified by James Prochaska and Carlo Di Clemente in 1983 when they developed the Stages of Change Model. The 5-stage model assesses the readiness of a person to enter into recovery. By understanding the processes of change a person goes through as they decide to overcome their addiction, family members and professionals have a better understanding of the individual’s motivation for recovery.

Stage 1: Precontemplation

During the precontemplation stage, the individual has not yet admitted to themselves that a problem exists. Even if they are facing difficulties caused by their addiction, such as legal or financial problems, or have been confronted by an employer or a loved one, they still are not aware of the severity of their illness and may not even think there is a problem at all.

At this stage, the person typically blames their abuse of alcohol or drugs on stress caused by work or home life. Sometimes they will even say it is caused by genetics. Talking about addiction is generally avoided, and if an intervention is staged the individual will show a strong sense of denial. Towards the end of the precontemplation stage, the individual begins to become aware of the problem. As they transition from awareness to acknowledgment, they see that they must take action.

Stage 2: Contemplation

During this stage the individual knows they have to make changes but are not sure where to begin. They do not understand the cause of their substance use disorder. Sometimes, it takes many months for the addicted person to take action and move forward. Often they continue to abuse alcohol or drugs during this stage, and some may even increase the amount they use. However, many people say they enjoy it less.

As the process of contemplation continues, intensified feelings of hopelessness are followed by positive and uplifting feelings of hope as the person thinks about change. Focusing on a future free of drugs or alcohol rather than dwelling on past mistakes is important during this stage of recovery. When the person simultaneously experiences feelings of excitement and anxiety, they are ready to move to the next stage.

Stage 3: Preparation

During this stage, the person is excited and has made solid plans for their recovery. They are preparing for living a life free from addiction. These plans may include admitting themselves into a rehab program or taking a pledge of abstinence. Their concrete plans are preparing them for the next stage of recovery. Once they commit to their plan of action, most people move to the next stage smoothly.

Stage 4: Action

During the action stage, the person starts the physical process of recovery. This generally involves changing their behavior, changing their surroundings, or changing both. Many people choose to begin their recovery at an accredited treatment center, such as Canyon Vista Recovery. This is the stage where a solid foundation must be built for long-term sobriety. It is not unusual for individuals to feel vulnerable in the early part of this stage. But as they learn new coping skills and develop healthy habits, they feel a sense of confidence and accomplishment.

Stage 5: Maintenance

Recovery is a long-term process that takes a great amount of dedication, inner strength, and time. When the action phase comes to a close and the newly sober person returns home, it is essential that the maintenance stage begins immediately. Many people face the same situations at home that caused them to use drugs or alcohol. They must use all the tools they learned during the action stage to avoid a potential relapse.

It is vitally important to be aware of relapse triggers and remain an active member of the sober community. Many people attend 12-Step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Being an active participant at the meetings and giving back to the community by volunteering are just some of the many ways people maintain their sobriety.

If You Need Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. At Canyon Vista Recovery Center in Mesa, Arizona, our highly skilled staff can help you regain your sobriety. By experiencing a combination of evidence-based addiction treatments, psychiatric care, and holistic therapies, you will learn the skills you need to live a clean and sober life. Give us a call and take the first step on your road to recovery.

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