Stages of Change in Recovery
Although recovering from addiction is unique to each individual, there are some basic similarities. Once an individual decides to stop using drugs or alcohol they will begin to experience different stages as they progress toward sobriety. Recovering from addiction involves much more than not using drugs or alcohol. It is about changing one’s mindset and behavior, and learning to live in a healthy, productive way. These changes arise when an addict develops self-awareness and personal growth. Sobriety is accomplished by developing psychologically and emotionally to become a stable, mature and independent person. As a recovering addict matures he is less likely to become dependent on drugs or alcohol. He will have learned how and why he needs to be in control of his thoughts and actions so he can live a better life. Below is a list of changes that an addict will progress through for him to recover from addiction:
- One of the changes that an addict will go through is admitting to himself and others that he has an addiction problem and needs help. Most addicts are in denial of their addiction and won’t seek out help because they truly believe they don’t need it. Sometimes they deceive themselves and others about their addiction because they really don’t want to stop using. It is only when an addict admits he has a problem and needs help that he will begin the journey to wellness.
- Once the addict admits he has a problem he must fully commit to a recovery program to get well. Being weaned off of drugs or alcohol during detox is the beginning of a recovery program, but it will take a lot more than that to fully recover. Addicts who just go through detox are more likely to begin using again. A recovering addict must also be treated physically, psychologically, behaviorally and spiritually to become whole again. An addict must truly want to change and make a better life for himself. That is why he must commit to a full recovery treatment program.
- The initial stages of recovery are difficult because the addict is learning how to live without a chemical dependence. He will go through the withdrawal-symptoms stage and he will experience some discomfort. The addict’s emotions will probably escalate at this point and he may be extra sensitive. It is during this stage that his mind and body are struggling to re-adjust to functioning without drugs or alcohol. This stage usually lasts for about one week. There are medications available to help ease both the physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal.
- The next stage of treatment is psychological and behavioral therapy. The addict will take a good look at his thought and behavior patterns and discover what triggers him to use drugs or alcohol. These negative patterns will be replaced with positive, healthy ones so that the addict will be well equipped against relapse. Changes in attitude and behavior will help the addict continue in sobriety. Relapse prevention techniques and education about addiction will also be included in treatment.
- After completing the rehab treatment program the addict will return to the outside world. He will be on his own again and can easily be tempted to fall back into relapse. This is a stage where the addict’s mettle will be tested and he will have to use all the relapse prevention tools he was taught during rehab. If he is committed to staying clean, he will get over this hurdle.
The recovering addict will have to engage in aftercare programs such as attending support group meetings and visiting with his counselor. He will need a secure place to live and be able to afford to take care of himself. As he progresses in his recovery he will begin to feel empowered, have hope for the future and feel gratified by the things he has already achieved. Having supportive relationships with family and friends will add to his stability. Relapse will always be a possibility, but after a few years the recovering addict will have built up enough good habits to keep him on the right track and avoid relapse. He will have experienced many changes for the better within himself and his life. Personal growth should continue along with a focus on a happy, sober and productive life.