stages of recovery

The Stages of Recovery: The Physical and Mental Challenges Ahead

1 in 7 Americans will face some form of substance addiction. If you’ve recently entered recovery, congratulations. However, it’s important to understand that there are several stages of recovery. By being prepared for these stages, you’ll greatly increase your chances of staying sober.

In this post, you’ll learn all about the most common recovery stages, and what you can expect for each one. 

Ready? Let’s get started.

Understanding Addiction

For years, addicts were considered to be ‘lacking willpower’ or ‘unwilling to try.’ Now, we know the impact addiction has on the brain. Addiction isn’t due to a moral failing. While there’s no ‘cure’ for addiction, you’ll be able to manage your addiction for the rest of your life.

It can be difficult to explain addiction to someone who is a non-addict. There’s a reason why addiction is classified as a disease. Addiction actually changes the brain, which compromises both health and decision-making abilities. 

Luckily, there are more tools than ever before to manage addiction and help you stay on the right path. Ultimately though, it’s up to you to stay sober.

The Stages of Recovery

While there are a number of stages to be prepared for as a recovering addict, it’s important to recognize just how much you’ve overcome to get to this point at all. Cut yourself a break and celebrate each small win. 

Here are some of the stages of recovery and what you can expect:

Awareness

This is the first stage when you probably realized that you had a problem. For people who enter recovery and then ‘fall off the wagon,’ it’s common to visit this stage numerous times. 

Sometimes, this realization only occurs after conversations or even an ‘intervention’ with friends, family members, and co-workers. 

This stage is crucial, as it will pave the way for your recovery. However, it’s important that the realization transfers to actual action. It’s one thing to acknowledge that you have a problem, and it’s another to do something about it. 

Consideration

This stage is when you shift from the awareness that you have a problem, into the action that you need to take. 

This is key, as it’s when addicts take their first step toward recovering from their addiction. Often, this is when addicts will start to see their addiction for what it is, and will also be able to understand the impact that addiction is having on their loved ones. 

This is an important stage because it’s when addicts look beyond their own lives and needs and see how family and friends are negatively impacted by their behaviors and choices. 

Often, this is a difficult stage. After all, it’s easier to stay oblivious than it is to realize you’ve been hurting the people around you. However, these realizations are often what will help propel you to the next stage.

Action

This is the focus of most people who are hoping to overcome their addictions. This is when the real, actual change will begin to happen. Often, this is a stressful time. But by preparing for this, you’ll also be able to enjoy this exciting time of your life, when new possibilities begin to open up.

Often, this stage will begin in a treatment or detox center. This is one of the best options since trained professionals will be available to help and support you through discontinuing your addictive behavior.

Keep in mind that it’s normal to begin to have second thoughts about giving up your addiction. It’s also normal to make bargains with yourself or others and think you can control your addiction by yourself. 

Denial is one of the worst enemies for recovering addicts. It’s important that you always remember why you entered treatment in the first place. 

Early Abstinence

Once you’ve fully committed to treating your addiction, you’ll enter the next stage of recovery. This can be the most difficult stage for many addicts. It’s one thing to commit to abstinence, but another to deal with the physical cravings, psychological dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and daily triggers- all constantly threatening your ability to recover.

This is why it’s such a good idea to engage with trained professionals. They’ll teach you coping skills and actionable steps you can take to lead a sober lifestyle. These tools will help you throughout your recovery and for the rest of your life. 

Abstinence Maintenance

After you’ve been completely sober for 90 days, you’ll move into the next stage. For people who have been staying in a treatment center, this is when you become an outpatient. 

You won’t simply be released into the world. Instead, the entire focus of this stage is to maintain your abstinence and avoid any possible relapse. You also will have been taught your triggers and warning signs, so you can avoid these. 

You’ll have counseling and will always be able to reach a trained professional so you can remain committed to your recovery. 

Advanced Recovery

Once you’ve been sober for five years, you’ll enter advanced recovery. This is when you take all of the skills and tools you’ve been taught and use them to live a productive, satisfying, and sober life.

One of the key things to remember is that even in this stage, your recovery is not truly over. You’ll often still continue to attend meetings, periodically see a counselor (particularly during stressful periods of your life) or attend a support group. 

Wrapping up

Recovery isn’t always linear. You may get through one or more of these stages and then relapse. That’s normal, and you shouldn’t consider this a failure. Every time you attempt to become sober, you’re one step closer the next time. 

One of the reasons why many people fail is because they try to do it alone. With the help of knowledgeable professionals, your chances of getting (and staying) sober are greatly increased. If you’re ready to live a better life, get in touch today to learn how we can help you through all of the above stages of recovery.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.