Addiction Recovery: What Does It Actually Take to Change?

If are are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you might feel daunted when you think about overcoming your dependency. It's common for self-doubt and defined habits and behaviors to deter you from reaching sobriety. However, if you really do want to change, learning about how you can approach change is an important step. If you follow the transtheoretical model of behavior change, you will be able to judge your readiness for recovery and start on the path toward freedom from addiction.

Stage 1: Precontemplation

The first stage is a stage of unreadiness: you aren't prepared or even really considering trying to beat your addiction to drugs or alcohol. The stage can include multiple reasons why you are not willing to try or why you think you will be unsuccessful, including the following:

  • You tried before and it didn't work. If you were unsuccessful in the past, it is easy to assume that you would be unsuccessful in the future. If you still believe these assumptions, then you are still in a state where you aren't really contemplating change.
  • You actively avoid talking about your problems. If you are not open to criticism or willing to talk with loved ones about how subtance abuse negatively affects your life, you are still in a precontemplation stage. 
  • You just don't realize the dangers of the behavior. People who have not even considered the consequences of their actions are not ready to embrace change. Education can help move these individuals to the next stage.

Stage 2: Contemplation

This is the stage when you are getting ready to change. You might have thought about how you don't like the way your life is going or seen how your habits affect you and your loved ones. When you hit the precontemplation stage, you'll have a timeline beginning to unfold. Statements or thoughts like, "I want to get sober this year," or "In the next few months I might try smoking once a day instead of twice a day," are signs of a contemplation stage. In this stage, you are still not ready for a traditional rehab program, as you will not be ready for the rigors of overcoming your physical and behavioral dependencies.

Stage 3: Preparation

At this point, you will be a ready participant in a rehabilitation program. This stage is called the preparation stage because you actively make plans and set goals for how you are going to succeed. Your precontemplation thoughts move to more concrete ideas, like, "I will start the 12-step program next month." Other plans and goals that identify the preparation stage are joining support groups with the full intention to attend or making a deposit on a rehab program. When you are in the preparation stage, you are open to ideas that will help you reach your goal, and you will also be willing to try medical and psychological treatments to help beat your addiction.

Stage 4: Action

All the contemplation and preparation come to fruition in the action stage. You are in the action stage when you are working to put plans into action. For example, if you set a specific goal to avoid alcohol and drugs, anything you do to help yourself keep that goal becomes an action for change. So if you decide to take a new hobby to help keep your mind off your dependencies or if you even decide to move to a more enriching environment away from areas or people who influence you negatively, these are signs of effective and actionable change.

Stage 5: Maintenance

Actions for change will only become real change once they are a regular part of your life. Once you hit the maintenance stage, you are doing everything you can to make your temporary abstinence a long-term reality. You might not need as many "actions"—for example, you might not need to attend group therapy every week, but instead attend every month. The maintenance stage can take a long time; it is necessary for this stage to last years, not months. Stopping the maintenance mindset too early can lead to relapse. In fact, those who continue with maintenance for five years usually only have a relapse rate of 7%, as opposed to 43% for those who only stay in maintenance for 12 months.

Stage 6: Termination

Termination seems like a cold way to describe complete success and freedom from chemical dependencies and substance abuse. However, that is what you will enjoy when you reach this stage. Those who have reached it are not even tempted by their old habits. 

The six stages of change are essential to your journey to be drug and alcohol free. To learn more about overcoming your addictions, contact a representative from an establishment like Olalla Recovery Centers.