Recovery is a very subjective term, and everyone has a different definition of what recovery means to them. Addiction can take hold quickly. Addiction is a complicated disease that is classified as both a mental illness and chronic disease. If you are trying to reach sobriety, one thing is for sure – it doesn’t happen overnight. There are stages of recovery that all addicts and alcoholics go through. The stages of recovery offer some insight into how sobriety is achieved.
As with the addiction process, there is also a recovery process. Once an individual has realized that they have a problem, and are willing to ask for help, they have now stepped into the process of recovery. The addicted now begins a journey through four distinct stages of recovery from addiction as they learn to develop a clean and sober lifestyle.
Because of the personal and intimate qualities of addiction, no two people will follow the exact same path of recovery. Even with so many influences and factors, though, most recovering addicts will pass through similar phases and stages on their walk from the depths of addiction to the freedom of sobriety and long-term abstinence.
If you attended treatment, just as it progressed as a tailored program designed for you, it is reasonable to expect that your pace of recovery will depend on multiple factors. These include your degree of commitment, emotional and psychological state of mind, physical condition, support networks, living conditions and employment situation. For most people, recovery from substance abuse is a lengthy process in which improvements in other areas of functioning do not necessarily follow abstinence.
What Is Recovery From Addiction?
Many people have different definitions regarding what recovery from addiction consists of. Some may view it as an event that happens when the individual stops using alcohol or drugs. For others, sobriety consists of an ongoing process that may have even begun before the individual actually quits their addiction. Other individuals may view recovery as equivalent as serving a prison sentence – where their perspectives become negative about it. These individuals are deprived of their favorite crutch and the most optimistic thing they can do is to count the days. For other people, sobriety is equivalent to freedom and the chance to completely rebuild their lives.
There is no one definition of recovery that everyone will agree upon, but there does seem to be a lot more to it than simply not using alcohol or drugs. If that were the case then all addicts would be in recovery before they got their first hit in the morning. Recovery is all about change and growth. It involves developing a new way of living that will produce a level of happiness and peace that was never previously experienced by the individual.
For some people, sobriety can bring a level of happiness and contentedness with life. These stages may be used as a guideline of what most people need to go through in order to find that emotional sobriety, that most of us are truly looking for.
Stage One: Acknowledgement
In order to progress through all the stages of recovery, a person must first acknowledge that they even have an addiction problem to begin with. This involves a growing awareness of the situation. In some cases, realization can come from a multitude of things including legal matters, conversations with friends and family members, or health and employment problems.
Although the addict has come to realization and acknowledgement of the situation, it does not mean they have stopped using, however the first stage is critical in progression with the additional stages. But, just because a person realizes they have a problem doesn’t mean that they want to change it. This stage merely happens when the addict phases out of denial and realizes the reality of the issues they have caused.
Once they become aware of this, they can move on toward sobriety. one cannot begin to solve a problem or even begin to achieve any kind of goals without acknowledging what needs to be done.
One of the most important parts of this phase is the transition from mere awareness of the problem to actual acknowledgement that action is needed. Few experiences are as essential to an addict as the moment when he or she shifts from denial to a willingness to make a change.
Stage Two: Consideration
This stage of recovery is a very important step in becoming willing to change the problem, or at least explore and learn more about doing so. The addict becomes ready to take the first step towards full recovery, often learning more about their addiction and the impact it has had on their lives and the lives of people they love.
By taking the step of learning more about their disease and its effect on others, addicts in the consideration stage make the important transition from awareness. Through time, they are gaining potentially valuable information and insights in the process.
This stage bridges the gap between thought and action. Though not yet actively pursuing recovery, they are moving towards that direction, through willingness and a change in perspective.
Stage Three: Exploring Recovery
In this phase we see the action begin through small steps. Here, we see the person beginning to research options to escape their addiction. At this stage, the recovery process as begun.
This is the time when the addict or alcoholic come to the crucial decision to seek treatment for their issues. They may consult with family or friends in relation to their addiction to learn more about themselves or begin finding sober contacts and support groups within the community. At this point, the emotional pain for the addict has gotten so great that now they are willing to make a change, however this can occur very slowly.
Stage Four: Early Recovery
In early recovery, addicts usually enter into some type of treatment or have sought out outside therapies for their issues. It is at this point in the stages of recovery that they stop using, learn about addiction, and begin to learn alternate coping skills other than drugs and/or alcohol.
During early recovery, the addict is very vulnerable. They are currently navigating the journey of abandoning people, activities, and behavior that have been significant parts of their using careers, however they have yet to fully establish the foundation of their newly sober lives. They begin to learn how to remain drug and alcohol free for the long term.
This is a very fragile stage where they begin practicing new behaviors and ways of thinking. During this stage, it is not uncommon for relapse to occur, slipping back into well known behaviors. However, it is during this time that the addicts may have not fully developed the skills that will prevent them from black-sliding, so turning back to full-blown addiction is possible.
They essential facts for this stage is that the addict or alcoholic begin to develop new coping skills and healthy habits while repairing damaged relationships or legal matters.
Stage Five: Active Recovery And Maintenance
If someone has reached this stage, they have gone through a thorough and tedious process. By this point, the addict or alcoholic has progressed, reflected, and done hard work on themselves. It is in this stage that the individual comes to the realization that their sobriety rests on the necessity of continued hard work and maintenance. This require’s active monitoring of their thoughts and behaviors, practice of new coping skills, maintaining a support system, and altering what doesn’t work for them, as well as staying alert to triggers and temptations to use.
One of the key factors in this stage is learning how to prevent relapse. The individual must maintain a humble attitude towards the power of addiction and not take their abstinence for granted. Personal vigilance is paramount and vitally important is the continued participation in self-help groups, or therapy.
Additionally, one will find that this stage never ends. The addict or alcoholic will come to the realization that staying sober has become a way of life and relapse can still occur if they are not careful. Staying committed to finding an enjoyable way of life from drugs and alcohol is essential.
Recovery Does Not Happen Overnight
These stages of recovery, are what most people to consider recovery to really be. Active recovery means that a person is monitoring and maintaining their sobriety. They are living the things they’ve learned, putting them into action, remaining open to change, and actively keeping their addiction at bay.
The stages of recovery have no time limits. Recovery is a process, and it is a never-ending one at that. Most people believe that when an addict has gone through all the stages of recovery, they will remain permanently in stage four. Recovery will be achieved through these stages of recovery, but it will never be complete. Ultimately, the development and change you go through along the way is the most important part.
While some individuals can progress through the stages of recovery with just the support of friends and family, most will require education and new skills from a treatment program.
Challenges In Early Recovery
For individuals who are departing from treatment, there can be a major shift in the family dynamic if a person is returning to the same living environment that they were using in. A daily family routine may impact the recovering person’s schedule.
During the first year of sobriety, it is imperative that recovery be the individual’s main priority. At work and home, avoid tackling too many projects, because attempting too much too soon can lead to relapse.
Remember, if you are in early recovery, you are completely forming a new way of life around you. You must treat lightly around the world as you re-integrate back into society.
The six common struggles that people in early recovery experience are:
- Being Around Others Who Use – Certain sights, sounds or smells can trigger the craving to use. To protect yourself, remove all substances from your home and ask others who live with you or friends to do the same. While you can keep old friends, it is essential to find a group of friends who are attempting to walk the same path as you. You may find these people at 12-step meetings or by getting involved in new activities or hobbies.
- Holidays And Special Occasions – Holidays and occasions may have once been an excuse to use or drink, so these occurrences may become triggering. You may want to create your own “sober-celebrations,” or exclude yourself from family parties or holidays if it is going to get in the way of your sobriety. If you plan on attending, make sure you are prepared to answer questions about your choice to abstain.
- Boredom – Remember, you didn’t get sober to be boring. Now is the time to live your life! When you rid your life of drugs and alcohol you are able to make room for additional things. Explore new activities, hobbies, and take part in old passions. Now is the time to learn how to have fun without the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Insomnia – Difficulty sleeping can be a significant relapse trigger, especially for those who were addicted to opiates. The best approaches to getting a restful nights sleep includes exercise, journaling, or chamomile tea.
- Anger, Sadness, Fear – In our addictions, we learned to shut our emotions off by using. However, in early recovery it can take a long time to heal and balance emotions. Small irritations or moments of fear may potentially trigger relapse, so it is important to continue to receive outside help in this area. Feelings of sadness or anger are normal parts of life that we must learn to accept and manager rather than escape from.
- Happiness – Just as negative feelings can trigger cravings, so can positive emotions. Positive life events like getting a promotion at work or receiving accolades can be a source of stress. In early recovery, you’re relearning about yourself and the life you want. Positive feelings can be just as overwhelming as negative ones.
- Making Mistakes – For those of use who are perfectionists, it can be hard to except that we make mistakes, and even harder to learn how to set reasonable expectations. No longer can you run away from the mistakes you have made by using drugs and alcohol, and now we begin to learn out imperfections. We must learn to deal with our issues in a healthy way. By doing that we may develop integrity.
Pink Cloud Syndrome
For those in early recovery, you may develop a “pink cloud” syndrome. Pink cloud syndrome refers to the happiness and joy that one experiences in early sobriety. However, while recovery is no easy feat, individuals will often overlook challenging circumstances.
After years of numbness through drugs and alcohol emotions reactivate and one suddenly feels “alive” again. Life can feel wonderful. While someone in recovery can feel such deep and great emotions, they can become out of hand. The person who is has pink cloud syndrome can develop much confidence that they become complacent about their recovery. Overconfidence can dramatically increase the risk of relapse.
There is also a risk that once the person’s emotions have stabilized and they are back down from the “pink cloud,” they can feel disappointment and disillusioned. In recovery there are many things to be enjoyed, however, it is important to understand that life happens and there are low points as well.
Dry Drunk Syndrome
Dry drunk syndrome is a slang expression that can be found in sober communities. It describes a person who no longer uses alcohol or drugs, but continues to behave in dysfunctional ways.
Being active in addiction can ingrain pessimistic thought patterns, attitudes, feelings and/or actions. Removing the alcohol and drugs without changing these underlying factors can result in “dry drunk syndrome.” Although they aren’t using harmful substances, their behaviors and possible risk-taking behaviors remain the same. The person has become stuck and is no longer moving through the stages of recovery.
There are those who remain a dry drunk for years, and this can mean that they miss out on much of the enjoyment that recovery brings. People dealing with dry drunk syndrome can feel overwhelmed, as though they are white-knuckling through life without their substance of choice.
There can be a number of signs and symptoms that may indicate a person is struggling with dry drunk syndrome. Some of these can include:
- Fear of relapse
- Romanticizing their drinking days
- Jealousy of friends who can drink and/or drug
- Being self-obsessed
- Replacing the addiction with a new one (i.e. sex, food, gambling, internet use)
The Importance Of Treatment
Addiction has devastating impacts on the user as well as their family, friends and community. If you or a loved one is struggling with meth abuse, it is critical to find the resources, treatment, and support you need to overcome your addiction and start the recovery process.
Sober Nation will provide you the help that you need while treating you or your loved one with the compassion and respect they deserve. Some of the expert staff of Sober Nation are recovering addicts themselves and are an active part of the recovery community around you, so they understand the pain and frustration that you experience. Regardless of where you live, how much money you have, or how severe your addiction is, there is a treatment center that can help you start this process. Don’t wait another day. Turn your goal of recovery into reality and call Sober Nation today.
For treatment options contact our 24 hour helpline at: 866-317-7050