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Steps to Recovery

Recovery Steps

It can be hard to admit to yourself that you need help, especially when dealing with addiction. Recognizing the warning signs and knowing when to move forward toward recovery is a difficult process. However, understanding the stages of recovery can help you to understand how to get in the right mindset. There are five stages of recovery. Each stage clearly describes the process of recognizing and admitting the problem, preparing for treatment, and dealing with life after treatment.


During this beginning stage, most addicts have not yet admitted to themselves that they have a problem. They may have some inkling of recognition regarding the issue, but they are not fully ready to admit it to themselves yet. At this stage, the majority of addicts simply continue going through the motions of using or drinking due to pressure from loved ones, stress at work, legal trouble, or other life problems.

The severity of the situation is often unknown to the person. They will avoid conversations about their addiction; they may even go so far as to avoid the people who bring up the topic of their addiction. They will live in denial until they no longer can deny their addiction. This stage is often called rock bottom. However, once a person hits this low place and recognizes that they have a problem, they can move on to the next stage.

Questioning If Your Addiction Is Bad Enough

Knowing you have a problem with your drug or alcohol usage can be hard to recognize and admit to yourself. You may not be able to understand the severity of your addiction. There are ten criteria that can determine the severity of one’s addiction. The more these ten criteria describe your situation, the more severe your addiction is ranked.

Use these criteria to determine where on the spectrum your usage lies:

  • Desire to quit but unable to
  • Spending large amounts of time getting the substance
  • Lack of control
  • Cravings
  • Lack of responsibility
  • Problems with relationships
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal
  • Worsening situations
  • Dangerous use

If two or more of these apply to you, you have a mild substance abuse disorder, which you should still seek treatment for. Remember that even mild disorders can develop into worse addiction because it is a chronic disease. Shrugging it off and saying “it could be worse” is a dangerous practice because it will usually always get worse.


Once the problem has been recognized, the addict has accepted that they need to make changes. However, they are most likely still struggling to understand the root causes of the addition and questioning how to move forward. Contemplation can last for months at a time while the addict thinks about different courses of action to take.

The using or drinking may continue, but the addict will find less joy in it. Feelings of hopelessness will increase and the addict will normally find a new perspective for desiring change. Typically, the individual begins to think more about sobriety. When feelings of anxiety and excitement begin occurring, they are ready for the next stage.


During the preparation phase, the feelings of excitement become stronger and the person begins to make actual plans toward their own recovery. This can involve them promising to remain abstinent or even going to rehab. This stage is all about preparing for recovery and making a plan to accomplish it.

By choosing a specific day, month, or year, the person is able to move into the next stage of recovery. They may have mixed feelings about making these plans, but once they have committed to taking action, the next transition typically goes quite smoothly.


The physical process of taking concrete steps towards recovery begins in this stage. It involves changing certain behaviors or changing your environment, often in the form of moving to a treatment facility or rehabilitation facility. During this stage, the addict’s confidence begins to build as well as their feelings of accomplishment. This builds a strong foundation for long-term sobriety.

The action stage typically takes the most effort, as addicts are forced to look inward, and be introspective, often for the first time in their lives. Once feelings of satisfaction are developed towards their progress and overall recovery, they move on to the next stage.


After treatment, the recovering addict must work to maintain their recovery. This is because addiction is a chronic disease that can never truly be cured, only treated. Continued healing must always be a priority because it can be very easy to slip back into the grasp of addiction.

Staying involved in sober communities can help recovering addicts maintain sobriety. These can include alumni networks, sober living homes, or local support groups. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are good options for individuals in the maintenance stage. Recovery addicts must apply the coping strategies they learned in rehab to their everyday life. They can establish a daily routine and practice dealing with triggers.

Suggestions for Maintaining Your Recovery

  • Use the tools learned in rehab
  • Stick to a plan that works for you
  • Avoid temptations
  • Stay busy
  • Discuss difficulties
  • Give back to others

When you are in the depths of addiction, recovery can seem like a very distant goal. However, recovery does not begin when you are completely healed. Recovery is a process, typically divided into five stages: Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance. Each stage involves its own steps to recovery and readiness to move on to the next stage. Take the necessary steps to get yourself in the mindset for recovery and then to take physical steps towards sobriety. It can be difficult and hard at times, but a life of sobriety is better than an addiction that gets worse and destroys your life.