Overcoming an addiction is a multifactorial process. Right from the degree of addiction and the patient’s health condition, to finding and implementing the right mix of counseling, medication, and alternative therapies, de-addiction treatment is a multifaceted process. However, there is more to this simplified understanding of the de-addiction process, and its knowledge can help the patient or anyone looking into treatment options for their loved one get an idea of what they are signing up for, and what they should expect or achieve by the end of the de-addiction treatment.
As a rule of thumb, the addiction recovery process is divided into six stages, which are based on the Transtheoretical Model introduced in 1994 by psychologists James Prochaska, John Norcross, and Carlo DiClemente in their book titled Changing for Good. Let us understand this one by one.
Stage 1- Pre-contemplation
At this stage, the addict is at the peak of addiction and begins to realize its adverse effects on his health, personal, and professional life. Yet, he/she feels hesitant to take any action and keeps going back to consuming alcohol or drugs to alleviate anxiety and restlessness. Some addicts may also try to minimize their consumption of alcohol/drugs but may not succeed. Overall, the addict is under active addiction at this stage and prefers to continue taking alcohol or use drugs even when he/she realize its repercussions and cost.
Here, the addict begins to realize that he or she can no longer ignore the consequences of addiction as its harmful effects are more severe than he or she had previously believed. Yet, they may not be able to decide whether the negative consequences override the individual’s enjoyment of alcohol or drug abuse. While mulling over all these factors, the addict develops a more open and positive attitude towards the prospect of recovery. Though at the contemplation stage, the addict continues to put recovery off until a later time by giving excuses or justifying not to visit a rehab center.
During the transition from contemplation to preparation, the addict realizes that not taking any action to go sober would be catastrophic sooner or later. The urge to seek treatment and undergo behavioral changes gets stronger than ever. There is an outright acceptance of the fact that he/she needs de-addiction treatment. Also, the addict stops rejecting help and advice being given by his or her family and friends. In fact, he or she starts to ask for help, if needed. The search for various alcohol abuse treatments, modes of recovery, therapies, etc. begins to create an actionable plan for addressing his or her addiction.
This is the most desired stage for an addict to be at. Full-fledged treatment begins at this stage and the addict gets cooperatively involved in the recovery process. It may include a 12-Step program, a combination of medication and therapies, 1-on-1 sessions with a licensed psychologist or master therapist, supervised medical detox, regular health check-ups, etc. The individual commits to a healthy and active lifestyle and tries to participate proactively in all activities planned for his or her betterment. In many cases, the person also contemplates rebuilding his career and mending broken relationships, and accordingly puts efforts in to learn new life skills and strategies to cope.
Once significant positive changes have been inculcated in an individual’s life, the next challenge is to maintain the sobriety acquired so painstakingly. The individual is encouraged to take responsibility for his or her actions, and remain sober. Any negligence at this stage could lead to relapse and might derail the success of the recovery program That is why it is extremely important to assist the patient in maintaining sobriety at this stage. The end goal, however, is to ensure that he or she should be able to practice abstinence without any external support.
Stage 6- Termination
This stage is the point of completion of an alcohol recovery program. Now, the individual is on his own and must take sobriety as a lifelong endeavor. He or she not only recovers fully but is likely to have regained his or her health, relationships, career, and develops a renewed interest in life. Besides, the individual has newfound confidence in fulfilling his dreams and goals. Most people at this stage are resolute enough to not give in to active addiction ever again.
To sum it up, understanding the stages of recovery offers clarity and insight into how the positive results of treatment and other aids can be maximized.
This blog was reviewed by Dr. Anant (MBBS, DNB Psychiatry), a Consultant Psychiatrist at Safe House Premium. He has written articles for print media like NDTV and has recently written on Mental Health effects due to COVID. Dr. Anant specializes in treating Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, and de-addiction and rehabilitation of Alcohol and Drug dependence syndrome.