The 6 Stages of Recovery From Alcohol Addiction

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Overcoming alcoholism or alcohol addiction is an uphill task that appears impossible for some victims in their early stages of diagnosis. Experts at have traced this problem to several factors, including genetic, race, sex, or socio-economic influences that may predispose an individual to alcohol addiction. 

This substance typically conditions your brain’s reward center to develop a compulsive urge to drink even when you are well aware of the habit’s adverse effects on your health, finances, and social life. 

While quitting alcoholism may appear unattainable, the opposite is true. So far, many desperate addicts have received treatment, recovered fully, and lived on to help other victims in their struggles. 

The sad reality is that the percentage of those who recover fully from alcoholism is low, while the relapse or fallback cases are high. NIAAA, (The National Institute on Alcohol abuse and alcoholism,) estimates that over 90% of alcoholics will fall back to the habit at least once during their first four years of abstinence. 

Recovery from alcohol addiction is usually a gradual process. In the early stages of treatment, denial is a common experience among all victims. You will still make excuses to take a sip even after acknowledging that you have a drinking problem. 

The Precontemplation phase

Individuals in this phase of addiction recovery are not ready for treatment because the stage is marked by defensiveness and unending justification of their behavior. The person mainly focuses on the false positive effects of alcohol use, disregarding the lingering negative impact. 

You may get stuck in this stage for a lack of detailed information about addictive behaviors or disappointment arising from numerous failed attempts at recovery and treatment plans. Against all truth, most people in this stage are persuaded that recovery wouldn’t work for them no matter the efforts. 

Contemplation stage

During this stage, you know about your addiction and the benefits of becoming drug-free. Unfortunately, you are also still aware of the perceived benefits of alcohol effects. Once in a while, you may contemplate discarding the habit but not immediately. 

This is an important stage for any family to take advantage of and intervene because the person is more inclined to reflect and reason through the problem. Avoiding judgment, blame, and accusations from family or friends may lead you to the subsequent recovery stage. 

Reaching out for help

Once you acknowledge having a problem with alcohol addiction, treatment will be the next stage. A professional counselor is essential as they will assess your situation and recommend an appropriate rehabilitation program. 

Early into the rehab program, you will have mixed feelings about abandoning your favorite drink. At some point you will be reasoning that your alcohol abuse problem is not too bad compared to others. Certainly, this is not true! Double-mindedness and denial can hamper and stagnate your recovery progress in the early phase of your journey. 

At this stage, the goal is for you to be motivated to participate in the treatment seriously and internalize that abstinence is your ultimate goal. To achieve this, an alcohol and substance abuse counselor may help you do the following; 

  • Consider the lifelong damaging effects of alcohol addiction
  • Review and comprehend your feeling of denial concerning the challenge
  • Motivate you to see the advantages of recovery

During this initial stage of treatment, your counselor will take your alcohol and drug use history and introduce an individualized treatment plan. 

Early abstinence

Once your commitment to proceed with treatment is ascertained, you will move on to the second rehabilitation stage, known as early abstinence. This simply means abstaining from the bottle under the doctor’s care and supervision. For most individuals, this is the most challenging stage to navigate for the following reasons;

  • Physical cravings for alcohol
  • Perpetual withdrawal symptoms 
  • Psychological dependence
  • Tempting triggers that may drag you into a relapse

While battling these challenges, your addiction counselor will teach you coping skills to restore you to a sober lifestyle.

They may employ different strategies, including; 

  • Encouragement to participate in healthy activities 
  • Exploring alternative habits to adapt rather than drinking alcohol
  • Joining and actively participating in support groups that share relevant information and valuable support. 
  • Identifying the immediate triggers that cause cravings in order to avoid them. These include things, places, and people.

Maintaining Abstinence

Early abstinence is mostly residential and runs up to approximately 90 days at a facility. On successful completion, you will advance to the maintaining abstinence stage. If you had subscribed to a residential treatment plan, your counselor may then (based on your progress) recommend that you graduate to this stage on an outpatient arrangement. 

This stage primarily seeks to sustain or maintain your hard-earned abstinence by overcoming the temptations to relapse. Certainly, you will be taught how to recognize early signs that may cause a relapse and erase your three months of hard work. 

Additionally, this stage offers the opportunity to learn how to apply the lessons you had acquired earlier in other areas of your life. The new skills and tools that you will acquire here will help you:

  • Adopt and establish a drug-free lifestyle
  • Reach out and build healthy relationships
  • Manage your anger 
  • Leverage exercise and nutrition 
  • Be wary of substituting addictions  

Maintaining abstinence may run for up to five untainted years, after which the follow-up counseling sessions will stop.  

Advanced Recovery

Once the follow-up counseling stops, you will have to gather all your tools and acquired skills to use them for a healthy, satisfying, and fulfilling life. Strategies that have helped to sustain such an alcohol recovery process include.

  • Breaking ties with people who drink and strictly associating with those who neither drink nor even talk about it. 
  • Formulating long-term goals
  • Observing a structured daily schedule
  • Being active in recreational activities that have nothing to do with alcohol
  • Engaging in religious (spiritual) affairs, community work, and other good causes for a worthy and fulfilling life 

Going through these stages and implementing them will keep you a sober and healthy person. It goes without saying that such changes will turn you into a good neighbor, parent, spouse, and of course, a productive member of society. 

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