The Stages of Recovery

stages-of-recoveryNobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Hey I’m going to be an addict”. But unfortunately this happens to people all over the world. While they did not ask to be an addict they do make the choice to continuously feed their addiction. If you’re ready to admit you have a problem with drugs or alcohol here’s how to get going on the road to recovery with the stages of recovery.


Stage 1: Pre-contemplation

Addicts / Alcoholics in this stage may be aware that there are consequences related to their addiction, but tend to minimize or justify their choices, seeing more benefit than demerit. Not a great deal of desire to change and to an outside observer, it may seem as if the addict is drifting through life, quite unconsciously.

Stage 2: Contemplation

Addicts / Alcoholics in the contemplation stage have become aware of the greater impact of their addictive behaviors, yet are uncertain if it is worth the effort to effect change. They may be open to considering change “someday.”

In advance of stage three, a decision is made and an understanding found that the consequences overshadow perceived benefits. Behavioral change becomes a possibility. It is not a “one and done” decision, but rather a process over time.

Stage 3: Preparation

At this stage Addicts / Alcoholics begin to see 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 not do it by themselves. They set an intention to gather resources, whether it is in the form of therapeutic intervention, 12 step meetings or other sober supports. They set a timeline and may make a verbal or written commitment.

Stage 4: Action

In stage four, Addicts / Alcoholics take the actual steps to engage in positive mental, emotional and physical change by engaging in addiction recovery, not just abstinence from their drug(s) of choice, but a “life makeover” that could include developing a fitness plan, dietary adaptation, as well as time with positive people and activities that are heart- and soul-nourishing. This is a good time to “re-write” their life story, reminding them that their history is not their destiny.

Stage 5: Maintenance

Addicts / Alcoholics in the maintenance stage have become able to sustain these patterns. T can beI liken to a fitness routine. On the first day of workout at a gym, you are not as strong, flexible and energetic as you will be a year later. The more you practice, the easier it gets. People are more aware of triggers and stressors that could lead to relapse. It is more than merely a rote exercise, but rather an integrated aspect of themselves.

Stage 6: Termination

At the termination stage people can gaze into the mirror and behold a new man or woman.  This is when the Addict / Alcoholic proclaims, “I no longer want to be that guy.” They consider it unthinkable to return to their former lifestyle. It is also a good time to 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.

Although the Stages of Recovery 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 of recovery and relapse is always possible. Relapse should be viewed not as failure, but as a re-set and renewal of determination.