For those of you who have experienced that light bulb moment where you are ready to break the vicious cycle of addiction, you may be starting to feel a sense of clarity for the first time in a long time. In that moment or series of moments, you may finally be starting to come to grips with the fact that your substance use has run riot over your life. These moments of revelation are setting the wheels in motion for you to take substantial action to break free from the disease of addiction.
Recovery is a Journey, Not a Race
If you are feeling enough momentum and are ready to take the necessary steps to pursue recovery, you will find out soon enough that recovery itself is a journey that is made up of stages. Many times people feel that recovery is a specific event that occurs over a specific time frame in their lives. While the thought of dramatic transformation is exciting, the truth is that recovery unfolds over a lifetime. Much like your descent into addiction, your journey towards the light and into lasting sobriety will take time.
In order to keep yourself motivated for the long haul, it is helpful to think of your recovery has occurring in phases. These stages of change in recovery can be seen as guide posts of sorts, and as you progress through these stages you can start to notice small changes within yourself. By understanding these stages of change in recovery, you are better able to choose treatment programs and services that will best suit your unique recovery needs and goals.
Understanding the Stages of Change in Recovery
Believe it or not, there is a process in the way addicts recover from the ravages of substance abuse. This process has been beautifully mapped out by researchers Carlo C. DiClemente and J. O. Prochaska and theirStages of Change model. Also known as the Transtheoretical Model, DiClemente and Prochaska developed this model in the early 1980’s to help addiction professionals understand their clients with addiction problems and motivate them to change. The Stages of Change model was based on their personal observations of how people went about modifying problem behaviors such as smoking, overeating and problem drinking.
This stages of change model has six elements which are the following:
In the precontemplation stage of recovery, those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol aren’t going to make changes in the foreseeable future, but they are starting to have lucid thoughts that is starting to propel them in the direction of change. For those in this stage of change, they may have tried numerous times in the past to get clean and sober but were unsuccessful. There is a great sense of friction in the precontemplation stage between while the addict knows they need to take steps to get better, they also feel a great sense of demoralization they are caught in this cycle of abuse.
The second stage of change of recovery is the contemplation stage, and it is the stage in which people intend to change in the next few months. While the addict has become more fully aware of the benefits of change, they are also aware of the pitfalls and obstacles that await them in recovery. When an addict starts to weigh the pros and cons of recovery, it can produce a significant amount of ambivalence, and this can cause people to remain in this stage for a long period of time. While they are nudging closer to making the commitment to recovery, those in the contemplation stage are not ready for treatment in the here and now.
It is during the preparation stage of recovery where the addict finally takes the action steps to address their addictive behaviors. In general, people in the preparation phase have already taken measurable action and have created a definite plan of action. This can include joining a health education class, meeting with an experienced addiction professional, talking to their doctor or physician among other steps.
The action stage is where people have made specific attempt to address and overcome their substance abuse by making significant changes in their lifestyle. This can include entering a drug treatment program at a reputable drug rehab center, making significant changes to their diet and exercise regimens, actively participating in 12-Step groups or other similar sober support groups among other steps. The ultimate goal in the action stage of recovery is achieving total abstinence and adopting a healthy, recovery-based lifestyle.
When people reach the maintenance stage of recovery, they have made the specific modifications in their lifestyles as needed, and now they are adopting measures in order to prevent relapse. This includes continued involvement in 12-step and similar support groups as well as taking part of an aftercare program that includes intensive outpatient programs, sober living and alumni groups. This stage of recovery is fluid in regards to its duration and can last from a few months to a few years after an individual achieves sobriety.
The final stage of recovery is the termination stage, and it is the stage in which individuals do not feel tempted in using substances. If a newly recovering addict feels the stresses and triggers that can lead to relapse, they will utilize the relapse prevention skills they learned in treatment to deal with those situations in a healthy manner.
It is very important to point out the fact that the stages of change in recovery are fluid and how these stages play out in recovery is highly dependent on the addict him or herself. There is no set time limit on when people in recovery progress to the next stage. In reality, recovery is a lifelong process that requires continual evaluation and modification as you progress in your own sobriety journey. The stages of change model in recovery is a guide for assessment on where you are at in the present and provides you the structure to know what you need to do in order to move forward.