Substance abuse is a problem that kills millions of people every year. Statistics from the World Health Organisation show that an average of 3.3 million people die every year of alcohol abuse and 31 million people have drug use disorders.
Addiction is a disease that incapacitates its victims. Leaving them physically and mentally destroyed: incapable of maintaining healthy family relationships, struggling to stay on top of work and more than likely reaching financial ruin.
And yet with all this, an addict will still struggle to accept they have a problem, choosing to stick with the addiction, rather than seek professional help. They fear the unknown and what a life without their chosen substance will be like.
Acceptance is the first step to recovery, and it’s the hardest one you’ll ever make in your life. The ‘Five Stages to Addiction Treatment’ is a process that will take you from addiction to sobriety. It’s a time of diverse experiences and emotions, of pain, elation and vulnerability, but those who persevere can start to rebuild a life on their own terms.
The five stages take you from pre-contemplation – the ‘non-acceptance’ stage, to admitting there is a problem, taking action and finally maintaining sobriety.
In this early stage, many patients have still not come to terms with their addiction problem. They may have pressure from family, friends or work colleagues to face up to the situation, but on a personal level, they may not be fully aware or want to admit to the seriousness of their addiction.
During the pre-contemplation stage, an addict will try to avoid any conversation about their problem or about addiction in general. They will go to any lengths to avoid getting drawn into a topical conversation, in which they have to admit there is an issue.
At this stage, it’s unlikely that they will accept that treatment is needed. This could be referred to as the denial stage, and it’s often a fruitless time to try to get them into a rehabilitation program.
Rather than accepting the problem, they will put blame on external factors for their addiction, such as stress at work, family issues, financial problems, even genetic factors, such as it’s hereditary, “my parents were alcoholics”.
Many recovered addicts see this stage as the worst period of their life. This is when they hit rock bottom. They can’t admit they have a problem, but deep down they understand their life has spiralled out of control.
The positive side is that this is the first step on the road to recovery. When an addict recognises there is a problem, it frees them up to move onto the next stage.
The contemplation stage is a time when the person will accept they have a problem, but they are still not sure what solutions lie ahead and they struggle to understand the root of their problem.
Many addicts stay within the contemplation stage for a prolonged period, which may last months – even years. They understand they need help, but they don’t know what is the next step or where to seek advice.
This is a mammoth and stressful hurdle and many addicts will continue to use drugs or alcohol during this stage. However, they will probably not get the same satisfaction as they used to, with the underlying knowledge that this is a problem they need and want to resolve.
It’s also a time when the person will experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Uplifted in one moment at the thought of a possible addiction-free future, and hopelessness the next, because they recognise their addiction and the huge task they have ahead. They question whether they are strong enough to get through, or will they just cave in and go back to substance abuse, because it’s what they know best?
The most important part of the contemplation stage is that the patient can shift their focus from the past to an addiction-free future. Once they can do this, the end of the contemplation stage is normally a time for excitement and positivity at the thought of this major positive shift in their life.
The beginning of the third preparation stage is normally a positive time for an addict on the path to recovery. They have made the decision to seek help or have chosen abstinence over addiction. They may be researching their options, or have already booked into a rehabilitation program such as the one we offer at White River Manor.
Just having a focus to work towards brings a sense of achievement and motivates the person to get to the next step. It may be something they are planning today or in a month or a year, but they have a goal to work towards.
Although this a positive stage in addiction treatment, it’s also the moment when many addicts report feelings of fear and uncertainty, which must be overcome before they can move on. At this stage, it’s good to talk to a professional who can explain the process of addiction treatment and help you make a plan of action and commit to it.
As the name suggests, this stage is when the patient will actively start their addiction treatment. Whether they enter into a rehabilitation centre or personally change their behaviour pattern and stop abusing without the support of a professional.
Professional treatment is highly recommended. Choosing a residential program where you are taken out of your habitual comfort zone and put into a supportive and caring environment, where the chance of success is high and the chances of relapse much lower.
This is an extremely difficult time in the addiction process. The patient will feel vulnerable and this may be the first time that they have let someone into their struggle and may not feel comfortable with someone from the outside looking into their life.
They have to work very hard to maintain the effort of abstinence and get through the therapy treatment, however, it’s also the stage in which the patient starts to build up their confidence.
The Action Stage is fundamental if a patient wants to achieve long-term sobriety. And whilst it’s a very difficult period of a person’s life, it can also be very uplifting, as we can feel satisfied that we are changing our lives for the better.
Maintenance & Recovery
The Maintenance and Recovery Stage is a critical part of addiction treatment, yet is often sadly overlooked. The recovery process has taken a great amount of dedication and inner strength and when treatment finishes, often there comes a huge feeling of elation that the treatment has been successful, and many recovered addicts want to jump back into their lives with gusto, forgetting that this is the very environment that may have triggered their addiction in the first place.
It’s imperative that patient’s move directly into the maintenance stage at the end of their treatment. The five stages make up a process and even after treatment has finished, the patient should stay closely connected with the sober community.
Two communities that provide an enormous amount of support during the Maintenance and Recovery Stage are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Drug Addicts Anonymous (DAA). If you have undergone addiction treatment in a recovery centre such as White River Manor, you will benefit from an aftercare plan which will help you maintain the coping skills you have developed during your rehabilitation treatment. Depending on your circumstances we can refer you to a local professional who will be on hand to help you maintain sobriety.
Making the decision to change your life and enter into addiction treatment isn’t an easy one. It takes a great deal of commitment and strength and it’s essential you have the love and support of family, friends and a professional team who can guide you through treatment and prepare a tailored plan centred around your individual needs.
At White River Manor out team have decades of experience in addiction therapy, helping clients through the different stages, making the transition from addict to sober, happy and successful.