Recovery from Alcohol Happens in Stages: How to Navigate Them Well

Alcohol recovery takes months and even years to accomplish. Even when you’re on a lifelong journey. It’s not something that happens overnight, just as alcoholism doesn’t happen overnight. They are both long term processes that develop gradually. However long it takes, most people recovering from alcohol addiction go through 6 stages of change. These stages were first described by two psychologists in the 1970s – James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente.

Stage 1 – Precontemplation

In the first stage, the people start experiencing the negative impact that their alcohol addiction is causing. But that doesn’t make want to change their behavior. They become defensive, and many times, refuse to acknowledge that they even have an alcoholism problem. In fact, they will rationalize their behavior, even lie to friends and family, rather than seek help. Others still, feel so hopeless about their situation, they don’t feel making a change will even help.

Stage 2 – Contemplation

In this second stage, people have started to recognize that they have an alcohol problem. They realize that they need help. But they are not yet willing to commit to getting help. People in the contemplation stage might decide that they are going to seek help at some time in the future, however they won’t set a definite date to find this treatment. In an attempt to make some sort of change, they may curb their alcohol intake, or make plans to curb it. They know they need to make a change, but feel stuck, and unable to move forward.

Stage 3 – Preparation

When a person struggling with alcohol addiction has decided to make a change, they come into the third stage. This is when they actually plan to take meaningful steps towards their recovery. It is likely that they haven’t stopped their drinking yet, nevertheless, they may be talking about plans to change. It is best at this time for the person to set goals, and come up with a detailed action plan, thus strengthening their commitment to getting started on recovery.

Stage 4 – Action

When the person with the addiction finally chooses to get started on a path to sobriety, they are in the action stage. The first step in this stage could be going through a detox process. After detox, people are likely to enter a rehab program or the AA. This is the stage when a relapse is most possible. This stage can last anywhere from 3 to 6 months, and go as long as 18 months. It doesn’t mark the end of the recovery process, as that is just beginning.

Stage 5 – Maintenance

When the recovering addict has completed a program at a treatment center, they enter the maintenance stage. This stage can last months or years. The focus in this stage is on sustaining the progress made during the action stage. They have learned how to avoid triggers, adopt healthy coping strategies, and find ways of having fun that doesn’t involve alcohol.

Stage 6 – Termination

This is the final stage of recovery. There is some controversy around it, as there is a school of thought that believes that anyone who was addicted to alcohol, is always in recovery. Theoretically, however, in this stage, the addiction is meant to have been conquered fully, where the person is sober, under no threat of relapse, and has no desire to drink alcohol. Realistically, that is not always how this plays out, as relapse is a very real danger in this and any stage. It is important to remember that not everyone with alcohol addiction moves through the first 5 stages of recovery in a linear fashion. Recovery is a very personal issue, and people tackle addiction in their own way. This may mean moving back and forth through the stages as they find their balance.

The Last Resort provides a safe, supportive environment for men in a retreat-like setting. Nature is an important component of recovery and healing. We strive to provide a place of enrichment that cultivates the inner as well as the outer journey of recovery. However you find your way to the Last Resort, we endeavor to provide a haven where you can journey through recovery feeling like your life and story have meaning and a purpose. Call us to find out more: 512-750-6750.