At some point in every addict’s journey, they realize that in order to escape the negative consequences of their addiction they need to make major changes in their life. In fact, recovery is really a process of tremendous change that takes place over a long period of time. Addicts must change a lot of things in their life to make sure that they can give themselves a better chance of staying sober and avoiding relapse. Change doesn’t suddenly occur but is something that gradually unfolds as a person works toward their goals. Addicts must make a mental and physical transformation before, during and even after rehab so that they are completely ready to accept a new lifestyle. Change often takes place in six common stages.
Before an addict feels completely motivated to change they might be aware to a certain extent of the cost of their addiction. They still may feel at this stage that benefits of their substance abuse outweigh the costs. Before they reach the stage of thinking about getting help they are still unaware or in a state of denial that hasn’t broken down.
The more negative consequences and problems an addict experiences from their substance abuse, the more they will gain an awareness of the cost of their behavior. At this stage they are only exploring the potential to change but are not completely sure about making the commitment to being sober. They are beginning to become open to change and are in a state of contemplation about the possibilities of recovery.
At some point between stage two and three an addict will finally make the decision that they need to change and conclude that the negative consequences of their behavior outweighs the positives. After they make a commitment to change they begin the stage of preparation by accepting the responsibility of their behavior. They will start to evaluate and select techniques for change such as finding a treatment program or support group that will help them achieve their goal. In this stage the addict will start to build the confidence they need to make changes and anticipate the benefits of recovery.
In the stage of action people begin to engage in the process of behavioral change by making efforts in self-improvement. Outside help through rehab and therapy can be instrumental in bringing addicts to this point of action and change. Throughout this phase, addicts will consciously choose new behavior and overcome tendencies toward unwanted behavior.
In this stage, people in recovery have already gone through much of the hard work of changing their behavior and will find it much easier to sustain the changes they have made. They have more self-control and staying sober requires a little less effort. In the maintenance stage they need to remain alert to high-risk situations and focus on relapse prevention. After all of the action they accomplished in the previous stage, they begin to integrate their efforts toward change into their daily life.
Although recovery can be a lifelong project, the last stage of serious change is the termination phase in which an addict has fully adopted a completely new lifestyle. They find it much easier to avoid reacting to any temptation and feel more confident and in control of themselves. They feel more appreciative of their life and much happier and healthier overall. Relapse seems like less of a danger and they are more focused on further developing their pursuits and continuing to live a fulfilling and meaningful life without any thoughts of substance abuse.