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Understanding the 3 Distinct Stages of Addiction Recovery

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Addiction recovery is not a one-size-fits-all process.  Each person experiences recovery differently.  Generally, everyone who attempts to overcome substance use disorders will go through three distinct stages of recovery.  

Each person will progress through the stages of recovery at their own pace.  In each stage, the risk of relapse is an ongoing issue that they will have to work hard to avoid.

What to Expect in the Different Stages of Addiction Recovery

The 3 stages of recovery are referred to as transition, early recovery, and ongoing recovery.  If you’re curious about what to expect in the stages of recovery, keep reading.  Our goal is to help you realize that recovery is possible for anyone, regardless of the severity of their addiction. 

Here’s what you can expect in each stage of addiction recovery:

Stage 1: Abstinence or Transition

The first stage of addiction recovery begins when the last dose of the substance is taken.  In this stage, you’ll be focused on dealing with cravings and avoiding relapse.  This stage can last from one to two years, depending on the substance involved and the severity of the addiction.  

These tips will help you get through the first stage of recovery so you can progress to the next stage:

  • Let go of denial and accept that you have an addiction.
  • Be honest with yourself about the substance use behavior.
  • Practice saying no and meaning it.
  • Find healthy, sober ways to enjoy yourself.
  • Avoid friends who are still using.
  • Take part in self-help groups.
  • Imagine yourself as a sober person.
  • Know your triggers and how to manage them.

During the first stage of recovery, you will be at high risk for relapse.  Try to avoid stress and don’t place too many demands on yourself.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you trust for advice, support, or assistance.  

Stage 2:  Repair or Early Addiction Recovery

The second stage of recovery involves repairing the damages caused by the substance use.  During this stage, you’ll begin to feel more in control of your life.  As you take steps to repair damaged relationships, regain employment, and  take charge of your finances, your self-esteem improves with each accomplishment.

Here are some suggestions for getting through this stage of recovery:

  • Realize that your addiction does not define you.
  • Place priority on self-care and use it often.
  • Cultivate a healthier lifestyle through exercise, nutrition, etc.
  • Let go of shame, guilt, anger, or fear.
  • Repair relationships with loved ones.
  • Regularly attend counseling or self-help groups.

One of the main causes of relapse during this stage of recovery is the failure to attend self-help sessions.  You need interaction with others who are experiencing the same issues as you.  Also, their tips, advice, and support can be valuable.  Many individuals become friends during the sessions and continue the friendship outside of the group.

Stage 3:  Ongoing Addiction Recovery and Growth

Once you make it to stage 3, you’ll be feeling stronger in your conviction to lead a sober life.  Unfortunately, there’s no specific timeline for recovery. You won’t wake up one day and say “I’m recovered.”  It is a journey, not a destination.  Recovery is a process of moving forward and fostering growth.  

These tips may be helpful on your sobriety journey:

  • Identify and change negative thoughts or behaviors.
  • Let go of past resentments that played a role in your addiction.
  • Practice relaxation techniques to help you cope with anxiety.
  • Set boundaries and stick to them.
  • Reach out to others who are struggling in recovery.
  • Evaluate your progress and make changes if necessary.

Recovery is about reclaiming your life from the powerful influence of addictive substances.  You’re doing it for yourself because you want to live a productive, healthy lifestyle.  You’re creating the opportunity to reach your full potential.  

Relapse Doesn’t Mean Failure, So Don’t Give Up

Addiction specialists agree that relapse is common, especially in the early months of recovery.  Of course, you want to avoid relapse if possible.  But, if it happens, it simply means you need more support and guidance. 

Recovery is challenging and you will feel discouraged at times.  But, don’t give up or bend the rules.  Reach out to someone when you’re feeling overwhelmed.  You may need to consider reentering a treatment program for a while if you continue relapsing.

Get Effective Addiction Treatment at Design for Change Recovery

If you need to re-enter treatment or begin treatment for the first time, contact us today.  At Design for Change Recovery, we offer a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to treatment that encompasses all aspects of addiction recovery.  

We want you to succeed in living a sober, healthy life.  Our team of dedicated, compassionate, and skilled professionals will make sure all your needs are met to ensure that you have a positive experience while in our program.  

With our help, you can overcome addiction and heal the mental, physical, and spiritual components involved in your substance use.  Learn more about our program by contacting our Lancaster, CA facility today.  One of our representatives will be happy to assist you in any way.  


Understanding the 3 Distinct Stages of Addiction Recovery