The Stages of Recovery from Addiction

I’ve written about the Stages of Addiction, the Stages of Change, and the Substance Abuse Spectrum. However, I was challenged with the idea of the “Stages of Recovery from an Addiction” from someone visiting my blog. Really, there isn’t a lot in the literature about recovery stages; it appears that the Stages of Change model serves as the model for all behavioral changes, including recovery.

But, that’s just not good enough for me. Though no one’s recovery is the same, and although there are all kinds of treatment models to treat Addiction, there is definitely a pattern within someone’s behavior who is recovering from an addiction. Therefore I propose the following four (4) Stages of Substance Addiction Recovery (each item is a hallmark behavior that indicates the stage):

  1. Recognition Stage
    1. Acknowledgment of substance’s detriment
    2. Former gains no longer achieved
    3. Purpose no longer served
  2. Experimental Stage
    1. “Dabbles” in abstinence
    2. Attempts to understand the addiction through relapse
    3. Begins to see value in a life without substances
  3. Growth Stage
    1. Seeks to rebuild healthy relationships
    2. Looks for activities in which to participate that are not substance-related
    3. Substance use diminishes
    4. Develops resources for managing negative emotions
  4. Independence Stage
    1. Acceptance of self and past behaviors without self-judgement
    2. Conscious approach to day to day life
    3. Substance no longer sought/used compulsively
    4. Maintains skills for emotional regulation

As is the case for all “Stage Models,” I propose these four (4) stages not as a linear and absolute process, but as a continuum through which people in recovery progress on their way towards a healthy life. Also, each stage presents a clinical backdrop for goal and value building exercises. These four (4) stages are a living entity that I hope to continue developing and building. I welcome any thoughts or challenges about/to it such that I can beef it up and strengthen it.

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