The 5 Stages of Recovery From a Substance Use Disorder

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The 5 Stages of Recovery From a Substance Use Disorder

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Recovery from a substance use disorder or co-occurring mental health disorder is not easy, but it is worth it! One of the first steps to recovery is understanding your level of “readiness.” Readiness is a term used to describe a person’s willingness to make a positive change in their life. Your level of readiness is personal and can only be determined by you. Perhaps you’re wondering how to determine if you are ready to seek recovery or not? To help you figure out your level of readiness and assess your willingness to improve your own life, we will define the stages of readiness in more detail.

Readiness occurs in the following five stages:

#1. Pre-contemplation

Pre-contemplation is the first stage of readiness. During this stage, the individual struggling with substance use is unaware of the issues at hand. They may be in denial of a problem and act defensively when others bring up their behavioral issues. Typically, this is because the person doesn’t notice their problematic behavior or recognize it as a reason for concern. At this point, the individual has likely made little to no effort towards seeking recovery.

Does this sound like you or your loved one? If you are researching information for a loved one, and they are not mentally ready to educate themselves on addiction, the chances are that they are in the pre-contemplation stage. If you’re still not sure and want more information and guidance, take a moment to review the resources available on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) website. However, If you have taken the time to research addiction and recovery options for yourself, then you are most likely moving through pre-contemplation and entering the second stage of readiness, known as the contemplation stage.

#2. Contemplation

The contemplation stage begins with an awareness of the issues or problematic behaviors occurring due to substance use and/or the individual’s co-occurring mental health disorder(s). During this stage, the sufferer may be asking themselves, “Do I have an issue or not?” Perhaps they begin researching online or asking other people about their behavior. Contemplation is an investigation stage in which the individual is desperately seeking to answer whether or not they are struggling with a substance use disorder. The contemplation stage is also when the person begins to realize that they may need some help. Once the individual finally accepts that they may have a problem, they enter the next stage, known as the preparation stage.

#3. Preparation

Preparation begins once the person has acknowledged and accepted that they have a problem. They are now committed to making a change and have begun looking for treatment options and support. During this stage, the individual is trying to find the best treatment option for their underlying issues.

The most common types of treatment include talk therapy, group therapy, rehabilitation, and medications. However, there are many alternative treatment options that complement traditional treatment. Recovery works best when a combination of different therapeutic approaches is used, and the preparation stage is an opportunity to explore resources. Here are some examples of the many options available to consider during the preparation stage:

  • Wilderness Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Mindfulness
  • Pet Therapy
  • Peer Support
  • Mind-body holistic approaches

#4. Action

Once the individual has determined their preferred combination of therapeutic modalities, the next step is to take action. Now that they have seen what options are available and found treatment options that they believe will be helpful, the individual must follow through with their plans to change.

Taking action means finding an approach that will work for you, committing to working on your recovery, and following through with this commitment one day at a time. Action is the stage where you begin to learn new coping mechanisms and skills to live a better life. During this stage, you will learn a lot about yourself, including things like what your triggers are and what interventions to use when experiencing them. Taking advantage of the momentum during the action stage and building a foundation of recovery habits sets you up for long-term sobriety.

#5. Maintenance

Maintenance is the stage where you continue to work on your recovery goals and stay on the right path. In the maintenance stage, you will be building a network of support to stay true to your recovery. Maintenance is essentially living your new life with the coping skills and strategies that you have learned while taking action. In this stage, you determine what approaches worked for you during the action stage and integrate those approaches into your daily life to support your long-term health and recovery. You utilize the skills needed to avoid returning to your pre-recovery stage and to avoid a relapse. Maintenance is the stage where you are living your best life!

Are you ready to get help? Perhaps you’re wondering which stage of readiness you are currently in. The chances are that if you are exploring this topic, you might be moving towards gaining the acceptance and readiness to seek help. If you have come to the conclusion that you are struggling with substance use or related issues and you need support navigating recovery, The Kimberly Center is here to help. We offer traditional therapeutic approaches to recovery, as well as alternative options such as mindfulness, grounding techniques, and experiential therapies. Our experienced professionals will work with you to determine your ideal combination of therapeutic modalities and alternative options, creating a treatment plan that best suits your needs. Call us today at (855) 452-3683 to discuss how we can help you or a loved one live a life free from substance use and destructive behaviors. We offer client-centered therapies that emphasize unconditional and positive self-worth. 

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