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Stages of change addiction

Are you or one of your family members struggling with substance abuse? Do you want to find out about the road to recovery?

People struggling with drug addiction often go through several stages. At first, an addicted person is unaware that they are doing something wrong. Then, gradually, an awareness builds up, after which the individual begins to take steps toward recovery.

Here, we will discuss the six steps to addiction recovery. Four of these steps are consistent for people struggling with drug abuse, while the other two act as extensions.

What are the stages of addiction recovery?


1. Precontemplation stage

As per the transtheoretical model of addiction, the four main stages of addiction recovery are pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, and action. Two stages that reflect the commitment of the individual are maintenance and relapse.

A person undergoing substance abuse treatment should ideally follow these steps in order. However, in reality, this is not the case. More than one stage may occur out of order or later than usual. For example, in the case of addictive behavior after the action stage, the individual may return to the contemplation stage.

Addictive behaviors may even occur during the maintenance stage, taking the addicted person to the contemplation stage.

What does the pre-contemplation stage entail?

During this stage, their family or friends may suggest them treatment facilities or counseling. They may talk to them about the negative consequences of their actions. However, since the individual is either unaware or in denial, this does not have a huge impact.

Individuals in this stage may appear at support groups or get therapy. However, in most cases, this is due to pressure from friends or family. This is because they themselves do not accept that their behavior is problematic.

People in this stage see their addiction from a positive point of view. They often end up finding out about the consequences sooner or later. They then move to the next stage, the contemplation stage.

Two women talking

2. Contemplation stage

Once the individual understands the consequences of their addiction, they move to the second stage, the contemplation stage. During this stage, the person acknowledges that they have a problem and actively thinks about moderating or ending their addiction.

What does the contemplation stage entail?

A person in the contemplation stage pays more attention to resources and treatment facilities suggested by their families or friends. They consider a long-term treatment plan and think about their future.

People in the contemplation stage often plan for the next few months, usually six months. They may do their research on why drug or alcohol abuse is harmful. However, since this is just a thinking phase, there is no guarantee of commitment.

Regardless, it is a good first step which often leads to the preparation stage. The person no longer feels threatened by constructive feedback and wants to change. In some cases, however, the drug addict may even move back to the pre-contemplation stage.

A man holding his glasses and looking at them

3. Preparation stage

The next phase of the change model is the preparation stage. This is the stage at which actual change occurs. The person has finished contemplating and wishes to start working toward achieving their ultimate goal. They begin to prepare to start the journey toward recovery and to quit substance use.

What does the preparation stage entail?

The individual has, in simple terms, made a commitment to change. They often put together an action plan. They gauge how difficult it will be to recover from alcohol or drug addiction. They may seek the help of a professional to curb addictive behavior.

Though the preparation stage is definitely a step in the right direction, the individual may still need some convincing before enrolling in a treatment center.

Things to do during the preparation stage

Some things a person might do during the preparation stage are:

  • Plan the change they want to make
  • Decide how to make that change
  • Get the necessary resources
  • Get rid of triggers
  • Get support from friends or health care providers
A man standing behind a tree

4. Action stage

Now that the person is aware of the issues with their addiction and has made a plan to fix it, the next stage of change is the action stage. Using the resources gathered, the individual begins to take actionable steps toward recovery from alcohol or substance use.

What does the action stage entail?

The action stage involves making changes to your life all at once or in gradual steps. An individual may seek treatment if they want to eliminate substance use from their life. If they simply want to modify behavior and make slow steps to recovery, they may continue with their normal life but put restraints in place.

During this stage of recovery, a person may find it difficult to restrain their behavior and live without addiction. As a result, they may have to seek additional treatment and support or adopt coping strategies and mechanisms to function better.

Living life without addiction is not easy, so complete recovery may take time.

Sunrise and heart-shaped waves

5. Maintenance stage

By the time the action stage ends, the person has already made some progress. During this stage, they maintain or fail to maintain this progress.

What does the maintenance stage entail?

This stage is the toughest one. By this time, the person has sought treatment and started the road to recovery through the stages of change. Now, the challenge is to maintain sobriety and avoid a relapse.

The person needs to stick to the goals set during the preparation stage and abide by the instructions given to them during their recovery process. Often, fear relapse after treatment may make it difficult for people to remain abstinent from alcohol or substance use.

Man using doing a stop hand gesture

6. Relapse stage

Sometimes, people fail to cope during maintenance. The previous stages of change may have made the person complacent. They might feel as if a small relapse won’t make a huge difference. In some cases, the absence of appropriate stress control techniques may lead them toward a relapse.

What does the relapse stage entail?

This can mean a number of things. For people who need to stay off drugs and alcohol to avoid addiction, even a small relapse may take them back to square one. For those who have appropriately controlled their addiction, taking small doses may not make a difference. For some people to achieve full sobriety, they may need small lapses.


Alcohol abuse recovery

The stages of change for alcohol abuse recovery are very similar to those of substance abuse recovery. Some treatment options for this include:

  • Rehabilitation
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Telehealth
  • Support groups

Final words

Stages of change include a stage before you start contemplating quitting, the stage while you contemplate, the preparation phase, and the action phase. After that, you need to try and maintain sobriety.

If you feel that a loved one has an issue with substance abuse, you can call The Diamond Rehab and see as your life is transformed!

Everything you want know

Frequently asked questions

What do I do next?

If you are interested to come to The Diamond, please fill in the admission form and we will contact you ASAP. You can also call us on +66 2 460 9350

What is the process of rehabilitation?

The process may differ, as programs are customised based on what the patient needs as well as the severity of the addiction or mental illness, but the goal of rehabilitation is always to ensure the individual’s well-being. Most treatment programs include: evaluation, detox or the clearing of alcohol and other drugs out of your system, psychological treatments, education sessions, and supportive services. When you transition into outpatient therapy, you may still have one-on-one or group therapy sessions and to some patients, these may last for the rest of their lives.

What is your success rate?

Success rate is difficult to measure. It depends on the motivation of the client. Staying clean and sober in rehab is not difficult, the hard work will start once the client is leaving treatment and has to face the outside world with all its triggers. One thing we can promise is that we will give our clients all the tools to be successful once going home and provide them with the right aftercare.

Am I free to leave treatment at any time?

Yes, you are. However, we strongly suggest that you stay for the days you signed up for, if you finish treatment the chances of success in the future will grow hugely.

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