The Five Stages of Addiction Recovery

Addiction can be incredibly difficult to overcome. It can take over your life and control everything that you do. On top of that, no two cases of addiction are exactly the same.

Lots of different psychological models exist to explain how long-term behavior change occurs. In this article, we are going to explore the transtheoretical model of change and how it affects addiction recovery.

What is the transtheoretical model?

The transtheoretical change model in health psychology is a stage of change model. The model has been used to help explain or predict a person’s success or failure in achieving health-related behavior changes, like quitting smoking or starting to exercise.

The model was developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s. This model is based on 15 years of research that have found that individuals move through a series of five stages they adopt healthy behaviors or stop unhealthy ones.

The stages of the transtheoretical model are:

  1. Precontemplation: Not considering changing the behavior.
  2. Contemplation: Considering changing the behavior, but not taking any action yet.
  3. Preparation: Taking small steps towards changing the behavior.
  4. Action: Making a significant change to the behavior.
  5. Maintenance: Working to keep up the new behavior over time.

Before we move forward, it’s important to note that not everyone moves through these stages at the same pace. On top of that, recovery isn’t always a straightforward, linear journey. There are often ups and down on the path to recovery.

Let’s explore how the stages of this model present themselves in addiction recovery.

The five stages of addiction recovery

1) Precontemplation

This is the stage where someone isn’t even considering changing their behavior. They may be in denial about their addiction or think that they don’t have a problem. People in this stage are often unmotivated to change and avoid thought or discussion about changing their behavior.

Some signs that a person may be in the precontemplation stage include:

  • Denial of the addiction
  • Minimizing the impact of the addiction on their life
  • Blaming others for the addiction or problems caused by the addiction
  • Feeling like they can’t change or that it’s not worth it to try

2) Contemplation

In this stage, individuals are starting to become aware of their addiction and the negative impact it has on their life. They may start to think about changing their behavior, but they haven’t taken any concrete steps yet.

People in the contemplation stage may be experiencing some ambivalence about change. On one hand, they want to overcome their addiction and regain control of their life. On the other hand, they may feel like they’re not ready or that change is too difficult.

Some signs that a person is in the contemplation stage include:

  • Recognizing that there is a problem with addiction
  • Weighing the pros and cons of change
  • Starting to look for information

3) Preparation

In the preparation stage, individuals have made the decision to change their behavior and are taking concrete steps towards that goal. They may start to make changes in their lifestyle, like quitting drinking or going to AA meetings.

People in this stage are often highly motivated to change and feel confident in their ability to do so. They may still need support and assistance, but they are well on their way to recovery.

Some signs that a person is in the preparation stage include:

  • Making plans to change behavior
  • Setting a date for when the change will occur
  • Telling others about the plan to change
  • Starting to gather resources (like quitting smoking aids)
  • Seeking professional help for addiction recovery

4) Action

The action stage is when individuals are actively working to change their behavior. They are making lifestyle changes and may be using tools like 12-step programs or therapy to support their recovery.

People in this stage are usually highly committed to change and feel confident in their ability to stick with it. There may still be some slips and setbacks, but overall they are making progress.

Some signs that a person is in the action stage include:

  • Making significant changes to lifestyle or behavior
  • Using resources like 12-step programs, therapy, or medication
  • Working towards long-term goals
  • Attending support groups
  • Building a sober social network
  • Regularly reflecting on progress and challenges
  • Sharing the experience of recovery with others

5) Maintenance

The maintenance stage is when individuals have successfully changed their behavior and are working to prevent relapse. They have made lifestyle changes and built a support system to sustain their recovery.

People in this stage are usually confident in their ability to stay sober but may still struggle with temptation or triggers. They continue to work on personal growth and development and may serve as a peer support specialist for others in the early stages of recovery.

Some signs that a person is in the maintenance stage include:

  • Living a sober lifestyle
  • Having a strong support system
  • Attending regular therapy sessions or support groups
  • Continuing personal growth and development
  • Making healthy coping mechanisms part of everyday life

Addiction recovery at Isaiah House

Isaiah House is a faith-based non-profit that has helped thousands of men and women break free from the grip of addiction. We have multiple different inpatient and outpatient programs that emphasize a holistic approach to recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to walk with you through every step of your recovery journey as you work toward a sober, drug-free life.


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