The 5 Stages of Recovery

Every person is incredibly unique and each journey from addiction to recovery is special in its own way. However, it is comforting to many who struggle with addiction to know that they are not alone and that many have successfully gone before them. Likewise, it can be helpful for loved ones to know that recovery is a journey and see those they love going through the stages of recovery. Psychologists James Prochaska, John Norcross and Carlo DiClemente studied and explored the stages that most addicts go through in their book, Changing for Good. They discovered that the road to recovery were typically composed of 5 stages. Change, especially when it comes to addiction, does not happen in one step. Here are the 5 stages of recovery that lead many to a life of sobriety.

5 Stages of Recovery 

1. Pre-contemplation

The first stage of addiction recovery starts before they seek help. In the pre-contemplation stage, the addict refuses to acknowledge that they have a problem. They do not see that they need to make any change and the benefits of addiction outweighs any cost. During this stage, it can often be difficult to talk with the addict about their problem. They often believe that they are not addicted, or that it is not affecting their life.  

2. Contemplation

It is during the second stage of recovery that they begin to see that they may have a problem. Often, it is life circumstances that lead them to see that perhaps the benefits of their addiction might not outweigh the problems that it is causing them. Usually it occurs after a financial, legal, relational or work-related issue directly related to their addiction significantly impacts their life. Typically, this stage leads them to admit that there is a problem, but they might not necessarily see that they need to make any drastic changes, or make changes right away. They often may admit that they need to make a change “someday”, and they might not see that complete sobriety is required. Although they may not have started their recovery, this step is extremely important because it signals a change in their mental outlook. There cannot be any changes in behavior without first changing their view of their addiction. They need to see that their addiction is not helpful, or even benign, but rather that it is destructive. It is only from this change in mindset that healing can start to occur.  

3. Preparation

It is during this stage that many addicts start to make the initial moves in changes to their behavior. They may start to attend 12-step meetings and try to limit their substance use. They may try limiting the times when they drink or take substances (only on nights and weekends, for example). They may also try to step down to a less potent substance. This is also a time when the addict will start to learn more about addiction in an attempt to overcome it. However, this is often a frustrating time in their recovery. Because they try to overcome their addiction without outside help, they find themselves failing to stop their harmful behaviors. They also will often find recovery outside of complete sobriety extremely difficult, if not impossible. It is these failures that lead them to look into addiction treatment.  

4. Addiction Treatment/ Initial Recovery 

This is the stage when active recovery begins to take place. By learning about addiction and experiencing failure trying to limit or overcome addiction on their own, they finally enter rehabilitation and embrace the concept of complete sobriety. It is during this stage that they can truly start to detox from the drugs or alcohol and learn to live their life without their addiction. Addicts can work through the issues that are related to their addiction and get the help and tools they need to experience true recovery. This is also an extremely vulnerable time in their recovery. Addicts are often prone to relapse during this stage, but they do not yet have all the tools they need to keep from falling back into addiction. Although they may have the resolve to reach sobriety, they do not have the tools to do it yet without help.  

Successful Addiction Treatment

5. Maintenance/ Long-term recovery

Once they have detoxed and received the help and tools they need for recovery, former addicts then transition back into everyday life. It is at this point that they put into practice all that they learned in rehabilitation and go on to live a life of sobriety. It is during this stage that they will learn to recognize and avoid the triggers in their life. They will also embrace helpful coping mechanisms to handle stress instead of turning to addiction. They will regularly attend 12-step, AA, or other support meetings to build positive relationships that will help support them in their recovery. Recovery from addiction never truly ends. By maintaining healthy habits and coping mechanisms, though, many have found the fulfilling and sober life they want. Through the stages of recovery, many former addicts have achieved the sobriety they longed for. Download the RehabsFinder App to find the best addiction treatment! Unique Way to Sobriety!