What are the Stages of Recovery from Drugs and Alcohol?

What are the Stages of Recovery from Drugs and Alcohol?

An addict does not just get off drugs and get better. He goes through a succession of stages in his recovery. It is necessary for him to complete each stage and move on to the next until he has completed all of them. Otherwise, he will relapse. Here are the four major stages of recovery with the help ofa drug treatment program.

1: Admission

The addict is in a treatment program whether he wants it or not. He has not really admitted anything, although he may vocalize a low-level admission of his condition. Addicts who are mandated into treatment by the courts usually enter a treatment program at this stage. Some people express a wishy-washy admission of a problem. But most people at this stage of recovery have a distorted view of chemical dependency and are in denial about the seriousness of their problem.

2: Compliance

Addicts at the compliance stage no longer doubt the seriousness of their condition. They have moved to an acceptance of the reality of their plight. A common expression of an addict at this stage would be, “I know I drink too much! You do not have to tell me! And you do not have to tell me that I have to quit drinking, either. I know that too. And I am going to do just that!” His intention is noble, but the addict has little actual resolve. He feels that you need to fix him. This phenomenon is called Defiant Dependence.

3: Acceptance

Now, we are getting somewhere. An addict at the acceptance stage takes personal responsibility for his drug recovery. This is a quantum leap from the previous stage. Now he understands that he is responsible and no one else. There is no more minimizing, making excuses, or denial. Though the recovering addict has taken ownership of his drug recovery, he is still not viewing the future realistically. He makes statements like, “There is no way I’ll ever drink again!” His intentions are good, but he is wobbly and needs to progress to the next stage—surrender.

4: Surrender

This stage helps in protecting the recovering addict from relapse. Now, he recognizes and accepts the chronicity of his disease, meaning that he fully understands that his disease is chronic, progressive, and fatal if resumed again. He has learned enough about this disease to realize that he can never drink or use mind-altering drugs again. The civil war within him is over, and he exhibits an appropriate display of caution.

No one would expect a person with a serious disease like diabetes or cancer to have one treatment and be healed. It is the same with the disease of addiction. Addicts and alcoholics who are able to white-knuckle it through recovery are few and far between. Most need detox followed by extended treatment where they develop the ego strength to go through life without substances. This is the most challenging aspect of recovery from drugs and alcohol. People who achieve this deserve recognition for a job well done.


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