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  • The stages of recovery from alcohol abuse are, in order, denial, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.

    Everyone will experience a different recovery process, and there is some debate whether there are actually five stages of alcohol recovery. The five-stage recovery model can be a good baseline to track how well your treatment is going.

    Stages Of Alcohol Recovery

    The stages of addiction recovery are based on the transtheoretical model of change, also called the stages of change. 

    This model was developed in 1977 by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente. It lays out a multi-step plan to change general human behavior and has been applied to fields of substance abuse, alcohol addiction, weight loss, and general lifestyle habits.

    As it applies to a drinking problem, the model has five general stages.

    Denial/Precontemplation Stage

    The first stage of alcohol recovery is when the effects of addiction are at their strongest. During this stage, alcohol consumption is rampant and patients can likely see the negative impact it has on their lives.

    Some patients may have a hard time holding on to a job or keeping their friends around. Others may have declining physical and mental health or have their entire day revolve around drinking alcohol.

    Despite the negative effects, patients in this early stage may not deny they have a problem. They may think they do not need help and may continue drinking.

    Contemplation Stage

    The contemplation stage is the second stage of recovery. Some events may have happened to cause you to look at your drinking habits differently. After the event, denial likely starts to give way to reflection and critical thinking.

    Contemplation can last for months without the patient doing anything. They may see treatment as inconvenient or difficult, or justify their problem as not being too serious.

    Preparation Stage

    The preparation stage is defined by a commitment to get help. Patients start looking at potential ways to quit drinking, which may involve inpatient treatment programs, lifestyle changes, detoxing, therapy, and other options.

    The preparation stage can help patients do research and prepare for the recovery process. If preparation is not taken seriously, the treatment that follows may be less effective.

    Action Stage

    During the action stage, the plan to get sober is put into motion. For patients with a severe alcohol use disorder, this likely involves entering an inpatient treatment program. The first priority in this stage is detox, or to cleanse the body of alcohol.

    The action stage can be painful and difficult to get through. Detoxing also means getting rid of the body’s alcohol dependence, which almost always includes alcohol withdrawal symptoms. A residential treatment program can surround you with professionals who can help you get through.

    After detox, which can last up to two weeks, patients can enroll in other treatment options. Behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are well-known treatment services.

    Maintenance Stage

    During the maintenance stage, the most intense part of treatment is likely administered. Patients focus on ways to stay alcohol and drug-free, such as exercising, taking up new hobbies, or constantly attending support group meetings.

    Maintenance can last anywhere from a few months to many years.

    Some experts think maintenance is the final stage of addiction treatment because recovering patients have to work constantly to avoid relapse. Others disagree.

    The Potential Sixth Stage

    The stages of change model list a sixth stage, known as the termination stage. This stage suggests that people can stop treatment and be completely healthy.

    There is some debate whether the termination stage applies to alcohol abuse and recovery. Due to high relapse rates, some experts believe treatment is an ongoing process, even after you leave the treatment center.

    It can be helpful to look at the stages of addiction as guidelines, and not as rules you have to follow.

    Treating Alcohol Use Disorder

    Treating an alcohol use disorder can take a long time. You may experience setbacks, discomfort, withdrawal, and other obstacles during the recovery process. 

    Finding the best treatment available can help you focus on your recovery and surround you with professionals who care about your treatment.

    To find an alcohol treatment program that works for you and your loved ones, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on June 22, 2022
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