The Stages of Recovery from Addiction
Recovery from addiction and maintaining abstinence is no easy task. During the stages of recovery, addicts will go through a range of emotions and challenges. Understanding the stages of recovery will help the families and friends recognize the progress of their loved one or recognize the signs of relapse. It’s important for friends and loved ones to show their support without enabling the addict to continue their self-destructive behavioral patterns.
People in this stage of recovery may already be cognizant that there are repercussions related to their addiction, but they often find ways to justify their choices, somehow choosing to continue their addiction by lying to themselves and to others. Outside observers might interpret this resistance to change as the will of the addict when in reality, addicts may desire change, but they may not be brave enough or motivated enough to take action. Doing a written cost/benefit analysis with addicts is one way to get an addict to understand that the advantages of pursuing recovery from addiction outweigh the perceived “advantages” or doing nothing to treat their addiction. Ultimately, each addict must decide on their own when they’re ready to seek treatment.
People in the consideration stage tend to be aware of the impact of their addictive behaviors, but they may still be unsure if it is worth the effort to effect change. They may be open to considering change “someday,” but that day never seems to come. Unfortunately, change often only comes when an addict has suffered serious, but preventable consequences. At some point though, many addicts come to the realization that change is not just necessary, it is vital. It’s at this point that addicts will pursue recovery from their addiction. This can begin with the addict doing research on their own or perhaps it takes the form of a plea for help from loved ones. In some cases, it is a dramatic moment or event that gets the addict to finally stop procrastinating.
In this stage, addicts realize that they are responsible for their choices and have the power to make life-changing decisions. They need to do it for themselves, but need the support of others around them. They set about to gather resources, advise their friends and family and actively start exploring treatment options. This process could happen in a matter of hours as it often does after an intervention. Whether it happens in a short amount of time from when the addict decided to pursue recovery or it took months or years for the addict to finally make the choice, what matters next is critical
Taking action is the next step. Acting fast is critical to help get the addict into recovery before lingering self-doubts turn into resistance to recovery treatment. When an addict finally enrolls in treatment, it’s life changing. Every aspect of their life changes. They move toward living a healthier living, to include developing a fitness plan, dietary adjustments and occupying their time with activities and people that help fuel their recovery. Starting first with detox or rehab, addicts often choose sober living homes to help foster personal growth and develop the skills they need to handle life’s daily challenges. [cta id=’269′]
Almost every program that focuses on recovery from addiction recommends having a sponsor. It is during this period that addicts are learning new behaviors. In moments of weakness, a sponsor can help the addict learn how to successfully to sustain these patterns. Some people compare it to a workout routine. On the first day of workout at a gym, you are not as strong, flexible or energetic as you will be a year later. The more you practice and work at it, the easier it gets. People in this stage of recovery are more aware of triggers and stressors that could lead to relapse. At this point, knowing your triggers and knowing how to avoid them has almost become second nature. Generally speaking, this stage of recovery begins about four months after rehab. During this period, a recovering addict continues to work on abstinence strategies to avoid environmental triggers, recognize psycho-social and emotional triggers and develop healthy coping mechanisms to handle daily stress. One of the key factors in preventing relapse is retaining a humble attitude toward the power of addiction and not taking abstinence for granted. Personal vigilance against relapse is critical. Vitally important is continued participation in self-help groups, in which you honestly share feelings and thoughts to help prevent relapse. These self help groups will help guide you and help to build confidence in your recovery.
At the revelation stage people can gaze into the mirror and behold a new man or woman. I have heard clients proclaim, “I no longer want to be that guy.” They consider it unthinkable to return to their former lifestyle. It is when I also ask them if they could imagine anything worth losing their sobriety over. At this point, most say no. Even in the face of major loss, they know that if they maintain their resolve to remain clean, they can enjoy a new life. Staying sober is no easy task, it is possible. Although understanding the stages of change of is an orderly approach to understanding recovery, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is not always linear. People can move back and forth through the stages and relapse is always possible. I frame it not as failure, but as a re-set and renewal of determination.
Long-term recovery from addiction requires a lifelong commitment to maintaining a new, healthy lifestyle. By maintaining abstinence and attaining a satisfaction with their life, an individual must work to establish healthy relationships, eat nutritiously, get adequate rest and exercise and work on resolving personal problems in new ways. After an individual establishes this healthy lifestyle, he or she must live it on a daily basis without exception. Once you have attained your first-year anniversary of sobriety, it’s time to celebrate. This is an annual reward that should be embraced along your journey to recovery from addiction. You’ve earned these rewards so enjoy them. Remind yourself that at each of the stages of recovery, maintaining abstinence is a daily battle and every day’s success is cause for celebration. Keep in mind you need to continue working through the steps. Recovery from addiction is all about continuity, consistency and doing what works for you. It’s also a lifelong promise to oneself.