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The Five Stages of Addiction Recovery

June 19, 2022 , Agape Treatment

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Addiction recovery can be an elusive prize for many. While each addicted individual is as unique as their story, the road to recovery can look similar. When looked at from an objective standpoint, the five stages of addiction recovery make perfect sense. 

However, when living with addiction the waters become significantly muddied, and those stuck in a cycle of abuse may not even admit that they have a problem at all. Others may get to a point of clarity, sometimes called rock bottom, when they can fully understand the havoc that substance abuse is causing to their life, subsequently causing them to seek treatment.

No matter how the individual concludes that they may need help in their journey to recovery, they will generally go through all five stages of recovery. These five stages encompass the entirety of the recovery experience, from denial to long-term recovery success, and clearly outline the steps needed to deal with life following drug or alcohol abuse.

What Are the Five Stages of Addiction Recovery?

The 5 stages of addiction recovery are the precontemplation stage, the contemplation stage, the preparation stage, the action stage, and the maintenance stage or recovery stage. How quickly the individual progresses through each stage will be unique to their experience, and there is no “right” amount of time other than that which leads to a robust and resilient recovery. 

Precontemplation Stage

When an individual is in the precontemplation stage, they are still actively abusing their substance of choice. During the precontemplation stage, the addicted individual will often rationalize their behavior, even becoming defensive or hostile when the possibility of their addiction is brought up. In this stage, the harmful effects of their addiction will be overlooked or outright ignored in favor of casting their use in a good light, and they will often narrowly focus on the enjoyment or perceived “good” that their addiction does for them.

The length of this stage will vary wildly from one individual to another, as each will remain in this stage for wildly different reasons. Some may only become stuck in the precontemplation stage because they haven’t learned about the behaviors or indicators of addiction. Those who have long-standing addictions with histories of failed detox or recovery attempts may also have become jaded and incorrectly think that recovery simply isn’t possible for them. 

Graduation from precontemplation will generally happen when the individual admits that recovery is possible, and starts seriously contemplating it.

Contemplation Stage

The contemplative stage is marked by the individual’s contemplation of beginning treatment or starting down the path to recovery. They will often begin to yearn for change, and be ready for an opportunity to better themselves through recovery, but will not make any immediate action toward that goal. The difference between those stuck in the precontemplation stage and those in the contemplation stage is those in the contemplation stage have admitted to themselves that they are addicted and that there is hope for recovery.

While individuals in this stage are aware that they have a problem and that there are significant benefits to treating that problem, they also are acutely aware of the perceived “benefits” that they gain from their drug or alcohol addiction. This can lead them to continue to use or rationalize their use. The most crucial thing for loved ones and other supporters to remember in this stage is to use reason, not blame or judgment, to help guide the individual to the preparation stage.

Preparation Stage

The preparation stage is marked by the addicted individual understanding the need for action to begin recovery. In the preparation stage, the individual will often begin to take “half-measures” toward bettering themselves, without actually getting professional addiction treatment. 

This can often look like joining a gym, or even going to therapy or groups. While they are making efforts to improve their lives, they aren’t admitting that they need professional addiction treatment. Individuals in the preparation stage may even try to quit using themselves, often going days between uses, before stress or other triggers cause them to regress to the contemplation or even precontemplation stage.

Action Stage

The action stage is where things really start to improve, and the individual shows that they are focused on treating the root cause of their addiction. They will have made obvious and meaningful changes to their life, such as extended periods of disuse and sobriety, as well as the leveraging of professional addiction help to prevent relapse.

The action stage differs from the preparation stage in that the steps that the individual takes are more than superficial changes. Not only are they ceasing the harmful activities for more than a day or two at a time, but they are relying on their support network and professionals to actively prevent relapses. They will have a much higher degree of self-awareness and self-care but will require constant support and counseling to maintain progress.

Maintenance/Recovery Stage

In the maintenance stage or recovery stage, the individual demonstrates their intense focus on recovery in several ways. Not only do they keep up with the overarching changes in lifestyle they’ve made, but they also continually acknowledge that they are in recovery by keeping up with counseling, therapy, and group support needs. 

The maintenance stage is one of the most encouraging stages in the recovery process, but it is also one of the longest. The individual will feel a reduction in the desire or urge to use, but they will also need to keep strengthening their recovery by learning coping mechanisms and managing their triggers. The maintenance stage will also mark a significant increase in the individual’s confidence in their own ability to more effectively manage their life.

Professional Treatment Is Just Around The Corner

Starting down the path to recovery, or supporting a loved one on that path can be a deeply emotional journey. Understanding the path and being informed about what exactly it may entail can create a better opportunity to be successful in that journey. Contact Agape today if you or someone you care about may be ready to get professional help for their addiction.