The 5 Phases of Recovery from Addiction

Table of Contents


There are many phases of addiction recovery, progressing from experimentation and regular use, escalating to high-risk substance use and dependence. Similarly, breaking free from this cycle of uncontrollable behavior is a gradual procedure. The recovery process is not an instantaneous transformation but a journey of acquiring and implementing coping mechanisms over a lifetime to maintain lasting sobriety. Professional help can play a central role in supporting individuals on this journey, as it provides the guidance and tools necessary to achieve and sustain abstinence.

Read on to discover:

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  • What are the phases of recovery?
  • Does everyone experience all stages of recovery?
  • How can you connect with addiction treatment in Southern California?

5 Stages of Recovery

What are the five stages in recovery, then? Different stages of addiction recovery were identified in the late 1970s by psychologists Prochaska and DiClemente when they developed the TTM (transtheoretical model) of health behavior change, also known as the stages of change model. 

This model emerged from research comparing the experiences of individuals who successfully quit smoking on their own with those who required further treatment. The goal was to understand why some people could quit independently. The key insight was that individuals quit when they were truly ready to make that change. The transtheoretical model, then, centers around an individual’s decision-making process and is designed for intentional change.

The TTM is built on the premise that behavioral changes – particularly for habitual behaviors like substance abuse – do not occur abruptly. Rather, the stages of recovery from addiction unfold in a continuous, cyclical process. The TTM is a model, not a comprehensive theory. It accommodates various behavioral theories and constructs that can be applied at different stages of the model, where they are most effective in supporting the process of change at different phases of recovery.

According to the TTM, these are the five phases of recovery addiction: 

Stage 1: Pre-contemplation

In the first of the recovery stages, individuals may not recognize the problematic nature of their addiction. Some might even be in denial, unable to grasp the consequences of their actions. Whether it’s excessive drinking or dependence on substances like drugs, those in this stage often view quitting as negative rather than positive. They aren’t prepared to take action or acknowledge their need for assistance, which can be challenging for friends and family. In such cases, staging an intervention may be necessary to initiate the recovery process.

Stage 2: Contemplation

During the contemplation stage, individuals begin considering the possibility of changing their addictive behavior. They weigh the pros and cons of altering their approach to alcohol, drugs, or other addictions. Although they are contemplating change, they may still find reasons to maintain the status quo. This phase typically occurs around six months before deciding to seek help, marking the critical beginning of the recovery process. Barriers to seeking help may include shame, guilt, concerns about family or job consequences, or a belief that facing addiction alone is easier. 

Stage 3: Preparation

This stage, also known as the determination stage, reflects a person’s readiness to take immediate action. It might involve initial steps like quitting alcohol or drugs, which can be challenging due to potential withdrawal symptoms. Support from professionals is almost always beneficial at this point. A residential rehab program provides comprehensive support, including medical detox, counseling, and group therapy sessions. Choosing to act is the first step towards a successful recovery. 

Stage 4: Action

In the action stage, individuals have acknowledged their addiction and taken proactive steps to address it. They might commit to a residential rehab program to overcome physical and mental addiction while learning new strategies for healthier behaviors. 

Stage 5: Maintenance

Recovering from addiction requires ongoing discipline and determination. After six months of active recovery, individuals enter the maintenance stage, where they employ the tools and coping mechanisms learned to prevent relapse. It provides comprehensive aftercare support for 12 months, including one-on-one sessions with clinical therapists and group therapy for peer support. This support extends to friends and family members seeking to assist someone in active recovery.

an image of someone going through the phases of addiction treatment

How to Maintain Long-Term Recovery

Recovery from addiction is a journey that requires determination, effort, and ongoing commitment throughout the various stages of recovery addiction. Addiction is a chronic condition, and maintaining long-term recovery often involves overcoming challenges and relapses. Here are key steps to help you or a loved one maintain lasting sobriety: 

  • Acknowledge the problem: The first step is recognizing that addiction is a problem that needs addressing. Whether it’s substance abuse or behavioral addiction, admitting the issue is the foundation of recovery.
  • Seek professional help: Consult with a healthcare professional or addiction specialist. They can assess the severity of addiction and recommend appropriate treatment options, such as therapy, counseling, or MAT (medication-assisted treatment).
  • Build a support network: Surround yourself with a supportive and understanding network of friends and family. Joining support groups or attending group therapy sessions can also provide invaluable support from individuals who share similar struggles at all stages of alcohol recovery or drug recovery.
  • Set clear goals: Establish achievable, short-term, and long-term goals for your recovery. These goals will help you stay focused and motivated throughout the journey.
  • Develop healthy habits: Replace addictive behaviors with positive, healthy habits. This may include regular exercise, a balanced diet, mindfulness practices, and stress-reduction techniques.
  • Learn coping strategies: Identify and develop effective coping strategies to deal with triggers and cravings. Therapy, such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), can equip you with valuable tools for managing stress and emotional challenges.
  • Avoid high-risk situations: Recognize situations, places, or people that may trigger cravings or relapse. Minimize exposure to these triggers, especially in early recovery.
  • Stay committed to treatment: If your recovery plan includes therapy or medication, remain committed to it. Consistent treatment is essential for long-term success.
  • Celebrate milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate your progress at different stages of sobriety. Marking milestones, whether it’s one day or one year of sobriety, can boost your confidence and motivation.
  • Plan for relapse: Relapses can happen, but they don’t have to be the end of your recovery journey. Develop a relapse prevention plan to quickly address setbacks and get back on track.
  • Practice self-compassion: Be patient and kind to yourself. Recovery is a process, and setbacks are not a reflection of failure. Learn from them and use them as stepping stones toward lasting sobriety.
  • Seek professional help if needed: If you experience a relapse or feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Reaching out to a therapist, counselor, or support group can provide the guidance and support needed to stay on track.

Remember that recovery is a personal journey, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about finding the strategies and resources that work best for you. With dedication, perseverance, and a strong support system, long-term recovery is achievable.

Getting Help for Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is a challenging but achievable journey with the right support and resources. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, seeking help is a critical step towards a healthier and sober life. Here are some important considerations:

Start by consulting with a healthcare provider, therapist, or addiction specialist. They can assess the severity of the addiction and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Depending on the level of addiction, inpatient (residential) or outpatient treatment programs may be recommended. Inpatient programs provide 24/7 support, while outpatient programs offer flexibility for those with less severe addiction. 

Various therapy approaches can aid in recovery, including CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), and motivational interviewing. Therapy helps address underlying causes and develop coping strategies.

Support groups like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), SMART Recovery, or group therapy sessions provide a sense of community and understanding. Sharing experiences with others in recovery can be immensely helpful. 

For specific substance addictions, medication, combined with counseling and therapy, can be highly effective. Examples include methadone and buprenorphine for opioid addiction. 

Learning to recognize triggers and developing strategies to cope with cravings and stress is essential. A relapse prevention plan can be a lifeline during difficult moments.

Friends and family can be a vital part of the recovery journey. Open communication, understanding, and empathy are crucial for the support network.

Recovery is a process that may have setbacks. Stay committed to your goals and seek help when needed. Each day without substance abuse is a step toward a healthier life.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and there are numerous resources available to support addiction recovery. Tailoring a recovery plan to individual needs and circumstances is key to long-term success.

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Get Effective Treatment for Addiction Recovery at California Detox

If substance abuse has progressed to addiction, we can help you throughout all phases of recovery at California Detox. At our drug and alcohol rehab in Southern California, we offer treatment programs at varying levels of intensity, including inpatient rehab.

 Begin your recovery journey by addressing the issue of physical dependence in our supervised medical detox program. Access medications alongside emotional and clinical care as you stabilize and prepare for ongoing treatment. 

All treatment programs at California Detox offer personalized treatment that blends science-based and holistic interventions that include:

Call admissions at 949.694.8305 and kickstart your recovery from addiction today.


Recovery from addiction often involves stages, with the specific number and categorization varying. However, a commonly recognized framework is pre-contemplation, contemplation preparation, action, and maintenance.
Yes, many people experience multiple cycles through these stages. Relapse can occur, bringing someone back to earlier stages. Recovery often involves learning from relapses and recommitting to sobriety, making the process dynamic rather than linear. Remember that relapse does not signify failure, but is instead a common part of the recovery journey.


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