Overcoming addiction is a challenging process. There are a lot of twists, turns, and bumps along the path to recovery. Recovery isn’t usually thought of as a journey, but viewing it in this way can help people understand what lies ahead.
The stages of recovery can be broken down in a number of ways. Over time, one of the most widely-accepted methods has been the Transtheoretical Model. This particular view on the stages of recovery breaks the process down into six simple stages. These stages follow an individual’s journey from addiction all the way to lifelong sobriety.
Viewing the recovery journey in this way provides counselors and medical professionals with six distinct checkpoints to help assess a patient’s progress.
The Six Stages of Recovery
Naturally, understanding the Transtheoretical Model requires taking a look at each stage of recovery individually. Recognizing the signs of each stage helps to determine how far along a patient is in their journey, and can help recovery experts understand the role of each stage.
Pre-contemplation is the first stage of the recovery process. During this stage addiction, and its consequences, begin to worsen and become more frequent. Addicts are aware of the consequences of their addiction, but they begin to justify their actions or downplay their effect on others around them.
An individual will continue to use their substance of choice during this stage. They acknowledge that they might be addicted and even acknowledge that they may need treatment. But, the pain of going through the recovery process seems too much for them. They would rather stay in the comfort of addictive behaviors.
The next stage is contemplation. An addict switches from the pre-contemplation stage to contemplation when they realize that the consequences of their addiction are more of a problem than they originally thought. Addicts in this stage start to realize the negative effects of their addictive behaviors. They are aware that what they’re doing is a problem, but they are still unsure if the pain of their current behaviors outweighs the pain of pursuing medical treatment.
At this point, still no decision has been made to get sober. The person suffering from addiction is becoming even more aware of their current situation. The most important factor of this stage is the addict starts to become more open to the idea of rehab and recovery.
The idea of recovery starts to become accepted, but no action is taken yet during this stage. When an addict’s friends or family try to talk to them about recovery during the contemplation stage, the addict will typically make excuses as to why they can’t start recovery right now.
The excuses can seem valid on the surface. An addict may say they have to wait until they leave a stressful job, or wait until they get through a break up. But these are just an effort to put off the action of getting help.
The preparation stage is the turning point where the addict realizes that the dangers and negative consequences of addiction are far greater than the benefits. They also admit that the changes necessary to begin a life of recovery are, in fact, possible for them. Once they have this shift in mindset they will start to prepare their life to enter recovery.
During this stage the addict becomes more open to support from family and friends. They start to feel a sense of regaining control of their life, and they see how making these choices can be life-changing.
At this point, an addict may even start to research different recovery treatment options and make a plan for their recovery. They may also make an official commitment to the recovery process.
This is the stage in the process where an addict enters recovery. They literally start to take action toward sobriety. This may include joining a 12-step program, committing to a particular treatment option, etc. This person has committed to getting sober, and also to living a healthier lifestyle in the long-term.
This is also where a user will start to repair the damage from their addictive behaviors. They may reach out to family and friends they’ve wronged during their previous life and mend those relationships.
Another big change is that they will start to plan for the future. Instead of living moment to moment, looking for their next high, they will start to make plans for a career, education, better diet, and exercise.
The next stage in the process is the maintenance stage. At this point in time, the person has completed their rehab program. Now it is up to them to maintain a healthy, sober lifestyle.
Most relapses end up occurring during this stage. This is because many addicts don’t take this stage seriously. After reaching a milestone as big as completing rehab, it’s easy for them to relax a little on their recovery efforts. This is why aftercare programs, support groups, and alumni meetings are so important during this stage.
Recovery isn’t easy. With their rehab program being over, it’s easy for an addict to feel helpless or feel as though they can’t do it on their own. They need to continually practice the habits of sober living. Having a rock solid support network to fall back on is pivotal at this time in the person’s life.
This is the final stage of the recovery process. A person’s transformation to a life of sober living has basically been completed.
This stage is marked by the individual starting to develop healthy relationships, and keep a stable career. They also will have adopted a healthy lifestyle. People in this stage have a great sense of relief that their past life is behind them. They have no desire to return to the way things were before.
Viewing the stages of recovery in this way helps to simplify the entire journey. This process can be a long, hard road with many challenges and setbacks. It’s easy to lose sight of how far along a person can be in the process when you look at the big picture.
Looking at the stages of recovery in this way can help determine what resources are best to use at each stage. In the end, the hope is that clarifying the recovery process in this way will make it even more successful.