Shoreline Sober Living, San Diego, CA
Stages of Readiness to Change

Whether it is a problem with cocaine, alcohol, opioids, prescription drugs, or any other highly addictive substance, addiction kills thousands of Americans each year, with figures stating this number is only ever rising. Addiction is a disease and should be treated as so. A mental health disorder compels an individual to constantly and repeatedly abuse highly addictive substances or engage in behaviors even though harmful consequences will result.

Addiction not only destroys the individual from the inside out, but it tears apart meaningful relationships, threatens a person’s career, financial status, and health and safety. It has been recorded that almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only 10% of those Americans have received treatment.

There is so much more depth to addiction and recovery than meets the eye, simply stopping does not make the disease disappear. To recover and stay sober, the individual will have to put in an incredible amount of dedication, effort, and perseverance to make sure they get through the stages of change in addiction recovery.

The five stages of change

Within the medical field, an addict must accomplish two stages of change to get to and stay on the road to recover truly. The stages of change model helps treatment professionals and family members better understand an addict’s motivation for recovery. The first stage is precontemplation.

Stages of Readiness Model

Precontemplation stage

Individuals who are within the first stage are not yet quite ready for treatment. This stage is characterized by defensiveness and endless justification of their behavior towards addictive substances. The individual will show a lack of insight into the harmful consequences caused by their impact of excessive alcohol and drug abuse. Within the precontemplation stage, individuals will often focus on the positive effects of how they felt and how it made them a better person when they were abusing.

At this point, the addict is not interested in hearing what any medical professional has to say to quit or even begin reducing the number of addictive substances they use. A person with addictive behaviors who is not yet open to change will often be group into the following four categories:

Rebellious precontemplator: The individual does not want to or feel the need to let go of their addictive behaviors since they do not like being told what to do.
Reluctant precontemplator: The individual lacks awareness of their addiction as well as any motivation to change.
Rationalizing precontemplator: The individual does not think that substance is an issue for them and believes they have all the answers.
Resigned precontemplator: The individual sees no light at the tunnel with their addiction; they are often overwhelmed by their behavior and have ultimately given up hope of changing.

Contemplation stage

Contemplators have realized that they have a problem that needs addressing if they are to improve their lives. Individuals within this stage often have the motivation to change but do not feel mentally prepared to commit at this stage entirely. However, it is a perfect time for the individual to learn about the potential consequences of the actions and visit possible available options.

Many individuals labeled as contemplators in this stage have tentative plans to take action within the coming months. The contemplation stage can last for years, with individuals at times ready to move to the next stage but at other times reverting to stage one.

Preparation stage

The preparation stage is when the individual feels an array of emotions from anxiety to excitement. During this stage, the medical professionals and the individual will begin putting together a plan of action. The recovering addicts have accepted the responsibility to change their behavior.

Individuals will be future thinking about what their change may look like and
determining exactly how they are going to achieve the results they want.

Action stage

In the action stage, the individual believes in themselves, can change, and is actively involved in taking the correct steps on the road to recovery. The addicted individual would have made a significant number of changes to their lives already. This is usually characterized by prolonged periods of abstinence from addictive substances and the inclination to turn to a medical professional or seek help from a trusted family member for help if the individual begins to feel as though they may relapse.

Group therapy, one-to-one therapy, and medical analysis will ensure the individual is equipped with a healthy, robust, and effective strategy for coping with triggers and stress to get them into the maintenance stage without experiencing or fearing a relapse.

Maintenance stage

Sustainable change takes time. While getting through the first four stages would have been hard for a recovering addict, the real challenge is to go into the real world and stay on the road to recovery while utilizing everything they have been taught.

The individuals who have fought their way to this stage would have established a new version of themselves regarding their self-control and behavior patterns. Characteristics of this stage will include:

– Maintaining focus on relapse prevention.
– Remaining on high alert for situations that may be a trigger.
– Positive behavior patterns.

These individuals are learning to integrate their new changes into the way they live their life.

It is sporadic that a recovering addict will make it through each stage without relapsing. Most successful recovering addictions will go through the steps at least three times before making it through the entire cycle. If you are reading through this article because you have fallen down a stage or possibly back to the beginning, do not look at yourself as a failure. If you happen to slip, look at it as an opportunity to learn more than you did last time so you can ensure it won’t happen again.

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