Admitting that you have a substance abuse problem and then asking for help is one of the most courageous things that you may ever do in life.
Substance abuse is an acute problem that has ramifications that not only affect the individual but also seriously impacts families, communities, and societies as a whole.
According to the World Health Organization(WHO), the harmful use of alcohol results in 3.3 million deaths each year and 31 million people suffer from drug abuse disorders globally.
Although it may feel like a very personal issue that you have to figure out by yourself, the truth is that there are more resources and treatment options available than ever before.
Recovery is possible; although the process is not the same for everyone, there are several common stages that most pass through.
Widely known in the addiction community as the “5 Stages of Recovery”, it is based on the Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM) which focuses on the decision-making process that happens when you decide to change your behavior.
Stage 1: Pre-contemplation & Awareness
The hallmark of this first stage is a growing awareness that there is a problem. This stage is not about moving into action or doing anything different, it is simply about becoming open to the possibility of change.
Someone in this phase is still using alcohol or drugs and often believes that they can control their addiction. They often minimize or make excuses for their behavior and underestimate the pros of changing while emphasizing the cons of change.
At the same time, the user has begun to notice some issues even if they do not necessarily know how to fix them. This is a slow process and people often oscillate between awareness and denial for months and even years. The point is that the “seeds” have been planted and a slow shift from denial to a willingness to change eventually occurs, which is a crucial first step on the road to recovery.
Stage 2: Contemplation
The second stage is best defined as the “thinking” phase. This is when people recognize that their behavior is problematic, yet may still feel ambivalent towards change.
People in this stage of recovery will be actively using yet may periodically experiment with sobriety. Perhaps they will try to get healthy and detox by abstaining for a limited time or they decide to stop drinking “hard alcohol” and just drink beer, wine or only smoke weed.
They may even start to conceive of a future “someday” without drugs or alcohol, but it is still not something that they are actively seeking. This stage is defined by a growing awareness that you want to change. Often this is when people began to realize that they cannot control their compulsions, despite their best efforts and are they become more willing to consider getting help or seeking treatment.
Stage 3: Preparation
This is one of the most important stages because this is when people move into action. Sometimes referred to as the “determination phase” it’s when denial falls away and the addict will actively start to take small steps towards recovery.
Usually, people start to research and gather information about treatment options and start to confide in friends and family about their addiction. They may even seek out and join online and local groups that advocate sobriety. This is also the phase where people are most likely to commit to going into outpatient or residential rehab and are motivated to start working a treatment plan to obtain sobriety.
While they may not be 100% drug or alcohol-free they are preparing for a time when they will be. Sometimes people will even increase their use in anticipation of being drug-free. The important thing is that they have a plan for recovery and are actively making changes to move towards that goal.
Stage 4: Early Recovery
This is without a doubt one of the most significant, yet risky phases of the recovery process. In stage four, you have admitted you have a problem, sought treatment and are actively embracing a sober lifestyle.
It’s not unusual for people to feel vulnerable during this time because of the drastic new changes that abstinence brings. Addicts don’t only have to give up their drugs and alcohol, they additionally give up old relationships, jobs, and patterns of thinking while attempting to establish and develop new coping skills to rebuild their life.
Relapse is a common occurrence during this phase, as few can maintain long term sobriety without a few setbacks along the way. The real challenge of stage four is to not get defeated and slip back into a full-blown active addiction. Understanding your limitations having a great support system, and working your recovery every day is crucial to success. Doing all of that, while developing healthy habits that support long term recovery are the main focuses of this stage.
Stage 5: Maintenance
By the time you reach this final stage, you are well on the path to living a life free from the tyranny of addiction.
Keep in mind that addiction is a chronic disease for which there is no cure, but you should now be able to actively managing your recovery, by maintaining your sobriety. With a lot of hard work and support, this is the point that you get to where you can’t imagine going back to living the life you had before and sobriety has become your new “normal”.
You now possess the knowledge and skills you need to face your problems head-on and are aware of the triggers and stressors that can lead to relapse. Although it’s not the end of the road you should be in a more nurturing and healing space. Once you have done the work required to transform your life you will begin to live a healthier, happier and more fully actualized life free from alcohol and drugs.
The real power of the 5 stages of recovery is the promise and hope that it brings to addicts and family members who are suffering. No matter what stage you are currently in, there is a clear path to recovery in the steps outlined above.
It does not matter when you get there, or how you get there, it just matters that start the process. If you would like more information about addiction or a free assessment by a counselor to then please contact the professionals at The River Rehab to explore what options are available.