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Creating Your Stages of Change

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Addiction recovery is a continuous journey. While it is tempting to look at a treatment program’s conclusion as the “end” of one’s dealings with addiction, recovery is a lifelong effort to balance one’s professional life with continued sobriety. Approaching recovery as an ongoing process rather than something with a definite “end” can empower each individual to manage their tempo of progress, identify the need for change, and develop their schedule for their sober goals ahead.

The Dangers of “Ending” Recovery

Recovery is more than one’s attendance in a dedicated treatment facility to address the effects of addiction. Treatment programs may conclude after a certain amount of time. Yet, recovery is an ongoing process where individuals develop their coping skills, practice grounding strategies, engage in self-care, and anything else that promotes a transformed, healthy style of living. True recovery is not confined to a treatment facility, nor is it time-limited.

While thinking of recovery as a lifelong endeavor may be intimidating, it also allows those pursuing sobriety to set personal milestones. Doing so can create definitive goals for each stage of their recovery and construct a consistent set of achievable goals along the way.

The Need for Stages of Change

The journey to sobriety is complex, and expecting oneself to manage all the changes, transformations, and challenges from the outset is impossible. There can be any number of unforeseen stressors and emotions coupled with the myriad of daily struggles of addiction, such as urges, cravings, and other physical, mental, or emotional impacts. Instead, seeing one’s success in recovery as a series of stages of change can set more realistic, achievable goals that facilitate continued growth.

While the idea of “stages of change” was popularized throughout SMART recovery programs, it can be utilized regardless of how one chooses to further their sobriety. The structure provided by this method of thinking can help manage one’s expectations and goals throughout any path to sobriety.

Precontemplation Stage

This stage of recovery is most common in those attending rehab at the behest of another. Often, individuals have not yet embarked on their recovery journey and are still discovering the destructive nature of their relationship with addictive substances. Family members, spouses, or legal obligations may cause an individual to attend a recovery program, even if an individual themself may not recognize the problem or need for change.

During this stage, one’s goals may not be to develop coping strategies, but rather to help recognize the need for change. Committing to daily journaling or being more open with professionals to determine how addictive substances have affected one’s life can be overall goals for this stage of precontemplation.

Contemplation Stage

This stage of change is marked by its potential for action. Those in the contemplation stage face a critical decision—to engage in an active treatment program or not. Those in the contemplation stage may recognize the need for change but also struggle with how this change would affect their lives in other ways.

It is normal to feel some resistance to the recovery process. Some may decide they want to engage in a recovery program but have difficulty visualizing the process or lack concrete plans on how to begin such a journey. During this time, a person’s goals may be as simple as making calls to discuss specific programs and exploring the benefits and barriers of various facilities to find the best fit. 

One does not need to know precisely how they will tackle addiction and its transformations. Rather, goals can instead revolve around informing oneself of the options that may benefit each individual, and one’s thinking may shift to focus more on future opportunities than past mistakes.

Preparation Phase

The preparation phase is marked by those who have decided that they need professional help to address their relationship with drugs and alcohol but still harbor reservations. Those toiling with attending a recovery program may require an additional push to resolve any lingering barriers, and one’s goals for this stage can include creating the best support network from friends and families. 

Those who do not understand or support one’s developing sober goals can exacerbate feelings of doubt or reluctance. Determining the best supports to begin one’s journey is vital for facilitating future change.

Action Stage

The action stage is where one’s thoughts and desires manifest as tangible changes, especially in behavior and coping strategies. Taking definitive action comes in many forms. They can include being actively engaged in a recovery program and creating daily routines that prioritize hygiene and sobriety. They may also involve changing one’s physical or social environments to create a sober-friendly space.

This action stage is a place of profound change where one’s goals can be the most personalized. Individuals can develop personalized grounding strategies, explore new hobbies or social outlets, and manage urges and cravings specific to their stressors. This can be done by working alongside supports and professionals to create manageable goals, thus creating new feelings of freedom and excitement for their future sobriety.

Maintenance Stage

The maintenance stage is best described as the constant tweaking of changes and developments from the action phase. Changing behavior is powerful, but new stresses may manifest throughout one’s journey, such as new relationships or professional pressures. 

The maintenance phase contains goals to continue searching for new hobbies, managing finances, and exploring new coping strategies. Continued outpatient therapy to provide an influx of new ideas and a safe outlet for unforeseen stresses is also crucial. 

Change is the cornerstone of recovery, and we at Pacific Sands Recovery Center embrace the need for change in every facet of daily life. There is nothing easy about tackling addiction to any substance or behavior. Pacing your stages of change can help you understand the true effort and transformative progress made in recovery. With us, your time can be personalized to address your unique needs and goals, with individualized recovery plans from detox and residential care to ongoing outpatient treatment all available to adjust to accommodate your goals for change in your life. Taking the first step is difficult, but it is also a transformative event that can facilitate continued sober change. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your situation, call us today at (714) 492-1119.

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