This is part I of our series on Stages of Addiction Recovery.
Addiction recovery lasts a lifetime. There are countless guides, books, and counseling groups which offer information about inpatient or outpatient treatment of the recovering addict. These materials and programs analyze both biological and psychological aspects of addiction recovery.
Generallt, experts recognize five stages of addiction recovery, including awareness and early acknowledgment, contemplation, preparation, early recovery, and maintenance. However, these stages vary based on the individual’s family history, mental health, and addictive behaviors.
As put in the Treatment Improvement Protocol Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy developed by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, “clients move in and out of recovery stages in a nonlinear process. A client may fall back, but not necessarily back to the beginning.” Therefore, when relapse happens, “clients usually revert to an earlier change stage – not always maintenance and action – but more often to some level of contemplation”.
Stage I: Awareness and Early Acknowledgment
The first stage starts when the addicted individual begins to realize that there is a problem. Many times, this change is initiated by conversations with friends and family, usually, when the addiction causes financial, legal or work problems. In this early stage, the individual is still in denial and continues to engage in addictive behaviors. But, this first stage is the beginning of breaking the cycle of denial and diving into the recovery process.
First, the person becomes aware that the addictive behavior causes problems in his or her life and the life of their loved ones. And although they are not taking action, their state of mind starts to change and they gradually transition from awareness of their addiction to early acknowledgment.
This transition is really important because they become conscious about the addiction and understand the consequences of their actions. This is the first big step in breaking the denial, which, if continued, the person is willing to make a change and take action. In this stage, it’s all about taking small steps. The person is still abusing substances but is not being that reckless about it.
Stage II: Consideration
This stage starts when the person shifts from awareness to action. By understanding the damage he or she causes to their family, the person is ready to take the first step towards recovery. It is still a small step because they start to learn more about addiction and recovery. In the consideration stage, the addicted individuals continue to consciously see the negative impact of addiction in their life. So, they engage in meaningful conversations with friends and family and think about going to rehab but are still abusing substances.
The awareness and acknowledgment stage allow the person to learn more about addiction. By seeing beyond the needs of the addict and stopping the denial, the addict is inspired to take action. However, it is not that simple because the person is moving towards that direction but still the actual recovery hasn’t taken place. If the person has a hard time coping with his feelings, this process might stop at very early stages.
Stage III: Preparation
During the preparation stage, the individual becomes even more aware of the existence of a problem. This stage is one of the most important stages on the road of early recovery. It is when the addicted individuals realize that the responsibility of getting better and taking action is up to them. In this stage, they start to gather resources and show interest in rehabilitation programs, which also leads to serious consideration for recovery. They may start to cut down their drug or alcohol use at this point.
It is important that they are no longer in denial but are trying to find a way to overcome the problem. Experts consider this phase as the beginning of the recovery process. It is common for the individual to make the first step and enroll in treatment by the end of this stage. The preparation stage involves the person reaching out to friends and family members who had been involved in recovery, commit to sobriety to them or attend a support group for the first time.
The Role of Family in Early Addiction Recovery
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, genetics and the environment play a role in developing addictive behaviors. Extensive research proves that being in a supportive environment helps the recovery process. Many times, family members initiate the recovery. Since they are deeply affected, it is crucial for them to get involved in the recovery process.
People in recovery enroll in different activities, make new friendships and become part of new groups and programs. It is not uncommon to feel like they are abandoning old friends or family members who also have an addiction problem but refuse recovery. During these first stages, these individuals need healthy support from friends and family while battling the feelings of loss and loneliness.
As S. Brown and V. Lewis put in the Maintaining Abstinence Program: A Curriculum for Families in Recovery, “there are significant differences in hierarchy and equality when the addict is a child, whether young, adolescent or adult than when the addicted person is part of an adult couple.”
Parents, children, and partners of addicted individuals need to develop a sense of understanding. Aside from focusing on the addicted loved one’s recovery, they also need to focus on theirs. Parents often find it hard to let go of their children while in addiction recovery because it seems like they are abandoning their child in need. However, protecting the child can be counterproductive, as recovery is the time for them to become more independent and find their path to sobriety.
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!