Research shows that there are six stages of recovery from addiction, each with its own characteristics and challenges. While different practitioners may use various labels for each stage, what happens in each is the same. It takes support and encouragement at every stage for a person with an addiction to successfully reach the sixth stage, called Maintenance.
The Six Stages of Recovery
It is common for people to refer to the entire recovery process as “rehab,” when the actual recovery process begins well before rehab, involving several steps. It is important to keep in mind that the length of each stage will vary based on the individual’s personality, physical and mental constitution, and the source of the addiction. Some people may live outwardly normal lives for many years while being addicted to a substance. These individuals are often referred to as “high-functioning” addicts.
Precontemplation – The First Stage of Recovery
In this stage, the individual doesn’t feel that their addiction is a problem, either for themselves or anyone else. This attitude is common among the high-functioning addicts mentioned above. A typical cause for this feeling is they have not experienced any negative consequences from their substance abuse. And, the effects of their addiction have been positive in some way so far. For instance, the addictive substance may reduce stress or eliminate pain.
People in this stage are not likely to be receptive to offers of help. Why? Because from their perspective, there is no problem that needs fixing. You can have a conversation with addicts in this stage and express your concerns. However, you need to avoid “nagging” them as this can harden their resolve to continue with their substance abuse.
Contemplation – The Second Stage of Recovery
This stage is triggered when the individual experiences a negative consequence as a direct result of their addiction. It may be a single event or a general feeling that the addiction is creating problems for themselves or others. For example, they may get into a serious accident while driving under the influence. Or, they may lose a job because of poor performance or excessive absences caused by their addiction.
During this stage, the individual is more open to talking or hearing about getting help. Care still needs to be taken in how you discuss seeking help, particularly with strong-willed individuals. The addict may be embarrassed by the addiction and not want to do anything. They may be ashamed and try to avoid word getting out that they have “a problem.” If you are uncertain as to how to approach someone with an addiction, seek professional advice.
Preparation – The Third Stage of Recovery
In the third of the six stages of recovery, the individual is preparing themselves to do something about their addiction. During the Contemplation stage, they’ve realized they need to make changes and may have researched options. In the Preparation stage, they are actively engaged in creating a course of action they think will resolve their addiction.
This is an excellent time to provide support and assistance. Demonstrate your approval of their decision to seek help, and help as much as possible, without seeming to take over. As will be true in all stages, the personality of the person with the addiction and the underlying causes of it will dictate how much help the addict will accept. As an example, if the addiction is due to an overly controlling environment, they may resist too much aid, no matter how well-intentioned.
Action – The Fourth Stage of Recovery
Up until this point, the individual may have been able to manage all the stages on their own or with the assistance of friends, family, organizations, research resources, and so forth. The Action stage requires the individual to implement their plan to rid themselves of addiction.
Here, they reach a crucial decision point; to continue on their own or to seek professional help. The two key steps in the action stage are detoxification (detox) and rehabilitation (rehab). It is strongly advised that addicts seek professional assistance, particularly for the detox phase. Depending upon the substance or substances causing the addiction, detox can be extremely dangerous. It is best to be under professional medical care during this step.
Once the detox step is finished, rehab begins. This step also should be handled by professionals. A rehabilitation specialist will work with the addicted individual to develop a program that involves several therapies and activities that will provide the greatest chance for becoming and remaining sober.
Maintenance – The Fifth Stage of Recovery
This stage will continue for the rest of the individual’s life. They will need to remain wary of the potential for relapse and eliminate the triggers that can tempt them into a relapse. For those in recovery, it requires total abstinence where they cannot consume even the smallest amount of the substance. Again, the mental and physical constitution of the individual will determine what they are capable of handling.
Maintenance may also include continuing involvement in support groups, both formal and informal, and possibly medications. Reinforcement of the decision to quit along with help in managing triggers such as stress, depression, physical pain, and so forth may be needed to maintain their freedom from the addiction.
Termination – The Sixth Stage of Recovery
Addiction is a chronic illness that is never completely cured. As mentioned above, maintenance will be a life-long effort. For the recovered individual, termination of the addiction is a state of mind and a determination that they never want to be that previous person again. It requires will power and support to stay in this stage.
Let Us Guide You Through the Six Stages of Recovery
Battling addiction without professional support and guidance is something no one should tackle. Yes, some people can recover on their own. However, the process can potentially be shortened, and the results more lasting when you seek the help of skilled experts. Regardless of which stage of recovery you or a loved one are experiencing, we can help. Contact or call us today at 877-225-7724 for the best chance at successfully navigating the six stages of recovery.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of professional assistance.