This is part II of our series on Stages of Addiction Recovery.
Changes in thoughts and behavior are the most important aspect of the first three stages of addiction recovery. They are the starting point that leads to the fourth stage, taking action. Throughout the first stages, the person is ambivalent about ending substance abuse, but they are considering a change.
The fourth and fifth stages of addiction recovery are about taking action and entering active recovery, usually by undergoing an inpatient treatment. The hardest stage, maintenance, is about sobriety and relapse prevention.
Stage 4: Action or Early Recovery
Early recovery is the period when the person starts taking action to get clean and learns how to remain abstinent in the long run. This early stage of recovery comes with a lot of risks. The person is vulnerable because of the extreme life changes. It is the start of a new chapter, that involves abandoning old people, habits, and behaviors that were their life for a long time. This transition requires taking actual steps towards positive mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical change.
Relapse is very common during early recovery. The person is still recognizing the medical and psychological aspects of withdrawal, learns how to handle cravings, and identifies substance use triggers and develops better avoiding techniques. During the early stage of recovery, the person is involved in inpatient rehab and participates in different treatments, meetings, group and individual counseling. It is important to keep track of the progress, but not to forget that recovery lasts a lifetime. The new changes in behavior are the foundation for growth and they help the person on the path to recovery.
The Role of Positive Psychology in Early Recovery
Studies show a link between positive psychology and addiction recovery. According to NCBI, “the therapeutic factor of hope also is particularly important in early recovery.”
For example, if a new member enters a recovery group that includes members who have been abstinent for 2 to 3 weeks, their mere presence in the group gives hope to the new member that they can achieve a drug-free life. They believe because they see others doing it.
Research conducted by Dr. Annie Krentzman at the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development shows a link between positive psychology and addiction recovery. The research “looked at the potential of positive psychology in alcohol and chemical addiction treatment programs,” and showed “compelling results.”
After finding out the scarcity of research in this area, Dr. Krentzman and her team organized a study that was based on daily online surveys. The participants – people in alcohol treatment programs – were divided into test and control groups. The ones in the test group were given a task to write three good things they were grateful for that day. Members of the other group – the control group – answered an identical number of questions but without the gratitude component.
The results showed that the people in the gratitude group “experienced lower levels of negative mood and greater levels of feeling calm and serene.” While there was no change in the control group, the people in the gratitude group also stated that positive psychology practices changed their thought processes. As Dr. Kretzman put it, “it made their thinking more positive and pulled away from habitual negative thinking.”
This study is a small pilot study, but its results show a great potential of using positive psychology in chemical dependency treatment. For more on the research, please click here.
Stage 5: Active Recovery or Maintenance
Maintenance is one of the most important, but often overlooked stages of recovery. During this stage, the person tries to sustain the behaviors learned in the action stage and adapt to their family and work environment. The most important thing is to avoid triggers that lead to relapse. Sadly, many people who have reached active recovery successfully, return to substance use.
When the person returns to the old environment they experience poor self-image, relationship problems, shame, post-trauma from sexual or emotional abuse. They face situations that cause conflict and emotion. All of the problems fall behind during the early and middle stages of treatment because the person focuses on recovery. So, during the late stage of treatment, they start to learn how to engage in life. If the person doesn’t become adequately resistance to all these triggers and slowly work towards solving the underlying issues, they are more likely to relapse.
Engaging people in recovery in a sober community and process-oriented groups is vital. Attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings or staying in a sober living home helps in maintaining sobriety. During the maintenance stage, group therapy focuses on improving relationships and developing new job skills to increase employability. It is crucial for the person to cope with conflict without using drugs or alcohol to escape reality or regulate emotions.
For more information, please call this Toll Free 24/7 Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a completely confidential call. If you have health insurance, it may cover up to 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now!