When someone is struggling with addiction, as with any struggle, there are five overarching stages of addiction recovery that everyone goes through. Each step is significant, and each has specific markers that make them effective and stand out.

These stages are as follows:

1. Pre-Contemplation
2. Contemplation
3. Preparation
4. Action
5. Maintenance

Pre-Contemplation – First stage of recovery

It is the very first stage of recovery. Those in this stage are not quite ready just yet to go into treatment. When people in their life say that they need to go into therapy because they have an addiction problem, the addict shows a lot of defensiveness and will try to justify their behavior to no end. The addict does not see the severe impact their addiction has on others and is still focusing on the supposedly more positive implications of drug or alcohol use and abuse.

Some people remain in this phase for quite a long time due to multiple failed attempts to try and recover. They see no hope or point in recovering from these numerous failed attempts and are pretty discouraged because of this.

Contemplation – Second Stage in Recovery

In this phase of recovery, the addict shows that they are ready to start the journey to recovery. They are prepared to start, but not right away. In this stage, the addict is fully aware of being alcohol and drug-free (they know the benefits of being sober). Family and treatment centers need to talk with the addict at this stage, as they (the addict) are more likely to listen to logic and reason and would be more easily “swayed” to go into treatment.

Preparation -Third Stage in recovery

During this stage, where the addict is trying to get more of a sense of urgency regarding their sobriety, they realize that their addiction has had a very negative effect on other people in their life, and they are now feeling this sense of urgency make a change. They are taking more steps to better themselves, including seeing a counselor/therapist, getting in better shape, or even trying to quit the addiction themselves without having to go to a treatment center.

It is typical for individuals in this stage to go for short periods without using drugs or alcohol to cope with day-to-day life but then go back to either the pre-contemplation or contemplation step once something difficult arises.

Action – Fourth stage in recovery

Action is when the individual has made quite a bit of change in their life and is fully committed to going into treatment by going long periods abstaining from drugs or alcohol. They have turned from trying to do the recovery themselves to essentially handing it over to professionals trained in recovery from addiction and dual diagnosis treatment. They would instead turn to professionals to get the necessary help.

It is more than just abstaining from the more destructive behavior; it applies to other aspects of their lives. Their self-care and self-awareness are both very high in this stage of treatment and recovery, but the individual is still very much in need of therapy to stay on this path.

Maintenance – Final Stage of recovery

During this stage, the individual is working very hard to try and prevent the addiction from happening again (they are trying to avoid a relapse). At the same time, implementing a more normal, positive, and healthy lifestyle, such as getting regular exercise, doing recreational activities, being more aware of their sleep and getting more consistent sleep (at least seven to eight hours a night), and also attending support groups (I.e., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous). They do not feel the urge to relapse as much as they would have in the action stage, so there is a significant growth in their confidence, and they can maintain a sober lifestyle.

This stage can last from six months to five years, depending on how severe the addiction is and how long it lasts. It takes about two to five years to break the habit and bring about substantial change for most people. It takes time to heal and recover from addiction.

Patients is key in this stage. The individual and those in their life need to have a lot of patience and trust in the process. It is a long road and a long process, and it is often a life-long journey.

There will be many speed bumps along the way, and it can often be frustrating. There will be instances of relapse, but in those instances, the individual now has the necessary tools to use in these cases. They can go to a meeting, speak with a sponsor, or go back into detox treatment for a brief period if the relapse is severe enough.

How to get help and start your recovery

If you’re struggling with addiction, know that there is hope. These five distinct stages of addiction recovery are important to address, and we can help you navigate them all. Don’t try to go it alone – schedule a consultation today and let us help you get on the road to recovery.