The Stages of Recovery

August 10, 2022
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Change happens slowly. It is often much slower than most of us care for, particularly in recovery. Just as the disease of chemical addiction doesn’t happen overnight, neither does recovery. There are actually 6 stages in the process.

Stage 1: Pre-contemplation:  This is the time for most alcoholics and addicts when they are beginning to experience negative consequences and unmanageability as a result of their using. They are often wanting to minimize consequences, but not yet ready to give up the alcohol or drugs. There is not a great deal of desire to change. Their defenses and rationalizations are in high gear.

Stage 2: Contemplation: In this stage the alcoholic or addict recognizes their using is a problem, but they often waiver on what to do about it. It is common at this stage to procrastinate and put off any real change. Statements such as, “I’ll go to treatment next month,” or “I’ll cut back after the holidays” are the norm. People can stay stuck at this stage for a long time as they try to cut back or attempt controlled drinking or using.

Stage 3: Preparation: This is the point in the change process when most alcoholics or addicts move away from just thinking about the problem and start seriously considering the solution. An alcoholic or addict may still be drinking or using, but now they are making more serious plans for change. They begin taking meaningful steps toward recovery.

Stage 4: Action:  Many people mistakenly believe this is the first step in the change process, because this is when the alcohol or addict begins executing the first steps in their recovery process. It may begin with attending 12 step meetings, going to outpatient treatment, or even entering a residential treatment program. Recovery does not end at this stage. This is just a step in the process.

Stage 5: Maintenance: The focus in this stage of the process is sustaining the changes made in the action stage. It is about recovery behaviors becoming second nature, like going to meetings, calling a sponsor, doing service work. It is also about adopting healthy coping strategies, avoiding triggers and identifying chemical-free ways of having fun.

Stage 6: Termination: In the last stage, people can look in the mirror and confidently say that they are a different and improved person. What makes this stage so important is that recovering alcoholics and addicts are happy with where they are and don’t want to return to their old lifestyle. Even though they may have given up things to be clean, they know their current life is better. Unlike the name suggests, this is not the end of the change process.

It is very important to point out that the stages of change in recovery are fluid. How these stages play out in recovery is highly dependent on the individual. There is no set time limit on when people in recovery progress to the next stage. In reality, recovery is a lifelong process that requires continual evaluation and modification as you progress in your own recovery journey.


For more information, resources, and encouragement, “like” the Fellowship Hall Facebook page and follow us on Instagram at @FellowshipHallNC.

About Fellowship Hall

For 50 years, Fellowship Hall has been saving lives. We are a 99-bed, private, not-for-profit alcohol and drug treatment center located on 120 tranquil acres in Greensboro, N.C. We provide treatment and evidence-based programs built upon the Twelve-Step model of recovery. We have been accredited by The Joint Commission since 1974 as a specialty hospital and are a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. We are committed to providing exceptional, compassionate care to every individual we serve.

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