5 Stages Of Recovery From Substance Abuse

This article deals with the Stages of Recovery From Substance Abuse1.

No one can deny the fact that drugs and alcohol impact one’s mental health and behavior drastically and if not stopped at the right time can have adverse consequences on one’s life.

Initially, one tries drugs or alcohol out of curiosity, but unknowingly, this curiosity leads to negative consequences as the person loses control over themselves. However, like always said, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Substance abuse causes several disruptions in the affected’s life but with proper treatment and medication, one can effectively recover oneself from the situation.

Therefore, it is important to acknowledge that understanding the different stages of recovery is essential. One should know about the stages of recovery for addiction to gauge the effective treatments for each stage.

stages of recovery from substance abuse
Photo by Ryan Parker on Unsplash

If you are looking for a guide that will explain all the stages of recovery effectively, continue reading the article then as we share all the details.

1. Factors Leading to Alcohol and Drug Abuse?

Alcohol and drug abuse 2are a serious concern and getting rid of this addiction is necessary which requires a lot of patience and dedication.

Out of curiosity, many people fall into the trap of substance abuse, however, there are certain factors as well:

  • Lack of social involvement
  • If your parent and sibling have a habit of taking drugs or alcohol.
  • Taking drugs to deal with anxiety and depression.3

2. Warning Signs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse

  • Sudden change in behavior, resulting in conflict with close ones
  • Losing interest in everything
  • Stealing money or often asking money to pay for drugs
  • Oozing a boozy breath and stinky smell from the body
  • Always feeling agitated
  • A sudden drop in productivity levels
  • Isolating themselves from the social world

3. Transtheoretical Model

The Transtheoretical Model4 also known as the Stages of Change Model was developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s and was used in clinical settings. This model is used to examine the behavior of the person that varies through different stages of recovery.

Trans-Theoretical Model of Behaviour Change

The Transtheoretical Model consists of six stages of recovery for addicted people- The Pre-contemplation stage, Contemplation, Preparation stage, Action stage, Maintenance stage, and Termination stage.

For different stages of change, different activities are followed to help the person to get rid of their addictive behavior.

4. Group Therapy for Substance Abuse

Stages of recovery
By Tima Miroshnichenko/ Pexels, Copyright 2021

Before we move forward, let us answer an important query about whether group therapies can be considered a part of substance abuse treatment or not.

Group therapy is considered one of the most effective substance abuse treatments. This rehab program is equally considered beneficial to individual therapy.

This addiction treatment consists of a trained leader who helps the members to get rid of their drug addiction. This treatment program consists of members unknown to each other and does not consist of any family members.

This addiction treatment helps the members to identify their problems with others and let them observe the methods of solving their problems. It also helps them to develop their social skills.

These treatment options consist of 5 models

  • Psychoeducational groups
  • Skill development groups
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy groups
  • Support groups
  • Interpersonal process groups
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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Self-help groups cannot be considered a part of group therapy, as it doesn’t consist of any trained leader.

But, this addiction treatment 5is not for everyone. This treatment program is not for those who easily get panic around new people.

5. Stages of Recovery

There are five stages of recovery in addiction, and understanding the recovery stages in substance abuse helps the family member and the person to get rid of their addictive behaviors more effectively.

Each stage of recovery from addiction helps the person to identify their problem and find solutions to get rid of their drug addiction.

Note: The addiction recovery process can be time-consuming, as sometimes the person recovering from the substance use disorder can quickly move through all the stages, or can remain in the same particular stage for more than expected time.

5.1. First Stage: Pre-Contemplation

Precontemplation6 is the first stage in the stages of recovery from addiction. People in this stage suffering from substance use disorder are unaware of the consequences their active addiction can cause.

They do not consider their addiction to be a problem. They share their positive experiences of substance use. They are not even interested in hearing about the adverse consequences their addiction has been causing.

What are the Stages of Recovery?

People in this stage defend themselves for their addictive behavior. They can even go to the extent of ignoring the topic related to their addiction.

The early stages of recovery in the addiction process can sometimes be quite challenging if the person involved in this addiction recovery process does not acknowledge the problem. One has to make sure that the person gets to know about the negative consequences of their substance use and also assure them that recovery is possible.

5.2. Second Stage: Contemplation

The next stage after the pre-contemplation is the contemplation stage. In this stage of recovery from addiction, the person begins to consider their decision of quitting their addiction.

In this stage, the person willingly listens to all the information about the consequences their addiction can cause or has been causing. One continues their addiction, but the joy they used to feel earlier on consumption will feel less.

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Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

This is an extremely important stage for treatment facilities and family members, as the individual can gradually recover, remain in the same stage for more than expected time, or can move back to the previous stage.

This is the most important stage where significant changes can be made if the person is ready to listen without arguing unnecessarily.

5.3. Third Stage: Preparation

The next stage after the contemplation is the preparation stage. In these stages of recovery from addiction, the individual has finally started planning to bring some changes in their lifestyle.

In this stage, the individuals promise to remain abstinent. They plan how to cut down on substance use or use different methods to reduce their intake.

They would get rid of the substance that would remind them of their addictive behaviors. Instead, they would find multiple ways to keep themselves engaged, like going to the gym or going to the rehabilitation center. They would even avoid the situation and people with addictive behaviors around them.

In this stage, people can live without substance abuse for more than one day. Although they can return to the previous stages if they have no self-control on themselves.

Stages of Change (Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, & Relapse)

5.4. Fourth Stage: Action

The next stage after the preparation is the action stage. In these stages of recovery from addiction, real changes can be seen in an individual. It is at this particular stage that people do meaningful actions to get rid of their unhealthy lifestyles.

In the action stage, people normally go to a rehab center. Trained leaders officials, there, help people to get rid of their addiction with the involvement of different methods. Self-care is also present in this stage.

For some people, the action stage can direct their life in a new way. For others, their goals are to reduce their consumption. It all depends on the planning and preparation in the previous stages.

Initially, the starting days can be quite tough, as living life without addicting substance use can be quite stressful for people who have a habit of daily consumption. But, as said good things take time. It would indeed take some time to cope with the new lifestyle, but with good preparation and planning, this stage would surely give fruitful results.

5.5. Fifth Stage: Maintenance

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Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

The next stage after the action is the maintenance stage. In these stages of recovery, people are giving their best to get rid of their addiction.

In the maintenance stage, people tend to bring new changes in their lifestyle, like doing a workout, staying sober, maintaining abstinence, developing skills, and doing different recreational activities.

During this time, people get a good grip on themselves and their emotions, but sometimes it could be quite challenging, especially during the stressful period in their life when they used to tend to deal with their life in old ways.

This phase can last from one to five years, depending on the addiction of the individual and their ways to deal with it.

The recovery process differs from individual to individual. It depends on applying alternative methods to deal with stress that has been learned in the treatment program. Also, getting rid of substances that can trigger addiction is a good way to maintain recovery. Engaging in different meaningful activities is also another good option to maintain recovery.

5.6. The Sixth Stage: Relapse Stage

Why Do I Relapse? | The Cycle Of Addiction

The relapse stage can be sometimes included in the stages of recovery from addiction. In the relapse stage, people can start abusing substances even before total recovery.

The relapse stage depends from individual to individual. Some people can reduce their intake of substance use while others return to their old habits.

5.7. The Seventh Stage: Termination Phase

Other than the pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance, termination is also another phase in the transtheoretical model.

In this stage of recovery from addiction, people with substance use disorder in their earlier phase of life have got rid of their unhealthy lifestyle and have developed healthy ways to lead their lives.

6. Conclusion

It’s important to note that recovery is an ongoing process, and individuals may move back and forth between stages or face challenges along the way. Each person’s journey is unique, and the stages of recovery may vary in duration and intensity.

Professional help and support from healthcare professionals, counselors, and support groups can greatly assist individuals throughout the recovery process.

Addiction is a chronic disease that can be treated and getting rid of addiction is a lifelong process. Depending on an individual, the recovery process can be of five stages or in some cases, six.

Initially, leading a life without substance use can be quite challenging, but a healthy lifestyle is far better than an unhealthy one.

As believed, where there is a will there’s a way- If you have a strong determination to overcome your obstacles, you are surely going to achieve it.


1. What are the 3 Ps of recovery?

3 “P’s” for Recovery: Passion, Power, and Purpose.

2. What is ABCD technique recovery?

SMART Recovery Tool: ABCs of Coping with Urges
  1. Point 1: Build and Maintain Motivation.
  2. Point 2: Cope with Urges.
  3. Point 3: Manage Thoughts, Behaviors, and Feelings.
  4. Point 4: Live a Balanced Life.

3. What are the 12 pillars of recovery?

The 12 spiritual principles of recovery are as follows: acceptance, hope, faith, courage, honesty, patience, humility, willingness, brotherly love, integrity, self-discipline, and service.
Read more
  1. De Leon, George. “Integrative recovery: A stage paradigm.” Substance Abuse 17.1 (1996): 51-63. ↩︎
  2. Berglund, Mats, Sten Thelander, and Egon Jonsson, eds. “Treating alcohol and drug abuse: an evidence based review.” (2003). ↩︎
  3. Phillips, Bob. Overcoming anxiety and depression: Practical tools to help you Deal with negative emotions. Harvest House Publishers, 2007. ↩︎
  4. Armitage, Christopher J. “Is there utility in the transtheoretical model?.” British journal of health psychology 14.2 (2009): 195-210. ↩︎
  5. Phillips, Karran A., David H. Epstein, and Kenzie L. Preston. “Psychostimulant addiction treatment.” Neuropharmacology 87 (2014): 150-160. ↩︎
  6. Barber, James G., and James G. Barber. “Precontemplation.” Social Work with Addictions (1995): 50-70. ↩︎

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Ananya Pal

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