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5 Stages to Addiction Recovery

Addiction is a chronic relapse disorder resulting from compulsive drug-seeking behaviors. However, people can become addicted to things such as food and gambling as well. In general, being addicted to something means that you are craving something despite the negative consequences that come from it.

As you enter addiction recovery, it can help to better understand addiction. Many people have very misconstrued thoughts when it comes to addiction. It is not a choice. Anyone can struggle with substance use disorder, and everyone is deserving of help.

Getting help for an addiction can be a long journey. Becoming sober or abstinent from a substance or behavior takes a lot of hard work and dedication. While most people have their own unique addiction recovery journey, there tend to be five stages that everyone experiences.

Here are 5 stages of addiction recovery from our partner, Chris Thompson, owner of Sober Sidekick.

1. Awareness

Before you even attempt to stop using substances, you’ll have to become aware of your issues. You must realize that your substance use is an issue and recognize that sobriety and recovery are the only way to see change.

Acknowledging that you have a substance use disorder is the most difficult part. Most people are in denial about their addiction and don't want to see the problem because they may feel fearful of change. Even if your first thoughts are about the possibility of a problem, you are still making steps toward improvement, and that is huge.

During this stage, you might recognize some of your behaviors as negative. You might become more aware of the negative consequences of using substances. You might feel like you don’t actually want to use, but you are still compelled to.

This is the period when you begin questioning what it is that you like about substances and whether they benefit you. Realizations are more prevalent during this period as the facade of substance use fades.

2. Contemplation

The next stage of addiction recovery is contemplation. This is when you now recognize that your addiction to substances negatively impacts you. At this point, you can see the pros of being drug-free.

During this stage of contemplation, you may not be ready yet to commit to recovery treatment. You might be toying with the idea and trying to visualize how it would look to enter treatment. People have jobs and responsibilities that often can’t be dropped at any point.

Contemplation is the stage where a person is most receptive to hearing opinions from family and medical providers. It might be easier to reason with a person during this stage because of their awareness of the benefits. If a person feels they have enough support during this time, they might make the brave leap toward recovery.

3. Preparation

If you are starting to make decisions that benefit your health, you might be preparing for the big step. There is more of a desire to see a change in yourself, so you begin to look into treatment centers or therapy programs. You might reach out to friends and family looking for support and try to rearrange your life if you need to enter treatment.

Reaching out to take time off work or school might happen during this stage. You still have responsibilities you need to tend to, and entering treatment can be time-consuming. You can take this time to find the right treatment to ensure you get the proper care for your needs.

People might begin to dabble with attempting sobriety in this phase. They might go a few days without using to see if there are any changes in their health and behavior. These sober periods might not be long-lasting but they show how a person is craving a change in their lifestyle.

4. Early Recovery

At this point, you will likely be entered into some kind of treatment program. If you are struggling with severe addiction, the safest option for recovery might be under the watch of medical professionals who specialize in addiction treatment.

Withdrawal symptoms can be painful and dangerous. There is nothing wrong with needing a little assistance while you go through the toughest part.

Early recovery may include inpatient services, joining AA meetings, or entering a sober community. This is the time to learn more about the treatment options available so you can find the perfect match. After undergoing the actual rehab, you will be in the first stage of true recovery.

This period can be difficult. You will have to get back into the groove of the real world while trying to maintain sobriety. This will be a very trying time for you, so it’s important that you get the support you need and create a plan for potential relapse.

5. Maintenance

Long-term recovery is the goal. When you struggle with addiction, you don’t want to live in that place of darkness for the rest of your life. However, recovery and long-term abstinence do not happen overnight.

You must be willing to stick with it and maintain the new coping skills that you’ve learned. Becoming sober is actively saying no every day to your addiction — and that is brave and incredible work.

This stage is about preventing relapse. You’ll want to implement healthy habits into your lifestyle, surround yourself with people who want what’s best for you, and focus on becoming stronger and more confident in yourself.

You might see improvements in your mental and physical health at this stage. Hopefully, the positivity is enough to keep you moving forward.

This stage can last from a year to 10 years. Sometimes you never truly feel out of this stage, depending on the severity of your addiction. It is a choice to be sober when you suffer from addiction, but it’s always worth it in the end.


Find Community With Sober Sidekick

Being surrounded by people who want to see you succeed makes the addiction recovery process a lot easier. We are proud to be partners with such an incredible resource for addiction recovery.

With Sober Sidekick, you can get and offer support to other sober individuals. On the app, you can share your progress, track your days of sobriety, gain access to AA meetings and addiction professionals, and make friends with other users.

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