Stages of Addiction Recovery (S.O.B.E.R.)

Addiction affects everyone in some way. A family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, or even you, may find yourself faced with addiction and want to know how to overcome an addiction.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the five stages of addiction recovery.

stages of addiction recovery

Process of Addiction

If you think back on how your addiction started, you may be able to pinpoint the details of your first encounter with your drug of choice.

During this encounter, the drug you used changed how the chemicals in your brain made you feel. Specifically, the dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters or the reward and “feel good” chemicals, were released in amounts much higher than the brain could release them without the drug.

Your brain began obsessing on how to feel that high repeatedly until before you know it, you were addicted, and a habit has been formed.

Eventually, getting help with your addiction becomes a necessity in order to survive the disease.

Stages of Addiction Recovery

The process you go through to get sober and maintain recovery is similar among addicts. Different researchers and addiction professionals have established phases of addiction recovery that are general to most.

Of course, addiction and recovery are individualized and can vary in type of drug, length of use, co-occurring disorders, past traumas, and many other factors. However, there are certain behaviors that do appear consistently among those moving from addiction to sobriety to long-term recovery. They can be broken down into stages.

To make it easier to understand these stages, we have used the acronym “SOBER”.

Stand Off

Open for Discussion

Begin Treatment

Extend Treatment

Recovery Maintenance

Each of these are explained in detail below.

Stage 1: Stand Off

The “Stand Off” stage is the early stage of addiction recovery. Actions in this stage are usually taken by family members, friends and people who love you and want you to get sober. You, on the other hand, are in denial.

You are not ready to admit you have a problem and you argue with anyone who tries to help you. You say things like, “I can quit when I want to quit” or you try to deflect your problem or use blame and excuses as to why you have a problem in the first place.

In this phase, you refuse help. This stage is not completely useless, however. It is here that you start to pay more attention to your addiction. This can eventually lead to acceptance and admission of your problem.

Stage 2: Open for Discussion

It’s been a while since the “Stand Off”. Your eyes were opened about how your loved ones see you, and you are starting to believe you can’t quit using drugs on your own. You have probably tried to quit, and the withdrawal symptoms were overwhelming.

Now the fear of the withdrawal symptoms is keeping you from getting clean. But you know it must be done so you are willing to discuss your options.

Maybe you have made this decision on your own. Maybe you have gotten into legal trouble and are choosing drug treatment over jail. Either way, this is a good decision.

In this stage you may call treatment facilities, meet with a treatment provider who can help you get into rehab, and learn as much as you can about detoxing and the medicines used to help you detox. Learning there will be doctors caring for you during the detox phase helps you decide to get help with getting sober.

But treatment doesn’t end with detox.

Stage 3: Begin Treatment

There are different levels of treatment and to be successful and maintain your sobriety, you need to go through every level. The more treatment you put between you and your addiction, the more likelihood of success.

Start with medical detoxification, which can last a week or less. Then, go straight to inpatient treatment. Most insurances pay for 28 days of inpatient rehabilitation. This is not enough, however. That’s why many treatment centers offer scholarships and payment plans.

If you can stay three, six or twelve months, do it.

During this time, you may get what many call a “sober high”. The fog the drugs created has lifted and you can finally see clearly. You are thinking, feeling and learning how to live without your drug of choice.

You feel high … like you can conquer the world. You can’t, however. Your treatment is not over. You have been living in a protected environment. Returning home now could trigger a relapse after bumping into your former dealer who offers you a freebie.

It’s important that once you graduate from inpatient treatment, you move to a sober living home.

Stage 4: Extend Treatment

Going to a sober living home gives you the experience and practice you need of living in the “real world” before you actually go back to living in the “real world”.

Sober living extends your treatment to include being sober while you work, being sober living with fewer rules and restrictions, and being sober with responsibilities of paying bills.

Sober homes allow you to prove the tools you learned do work. This gives you confidence in your recovery plan for long-term sobriety.

Stage 5: Recovery Maintenance

Addiction is a disease, just like cancer. Would you quit chemotherapy at any point while trying to beat cancer? No. And you should not quit using the tools that help you beat addiction.

Maintain your recovery once you get home by attending meetings, individual or group therapy, and constantly building and improving a positive support system.


Now that you know more about the five stages of addiction recovery, you can proceed with realistic expectations and prepare yourself for success.

What you put into your recovery is exactly what you will get out of it. If you put a lot of effort into staying sober, you will be successful. Little effort will equal little chance of success.

Where are you in the stages of addiction recovery? There is help available at any stage. Reach out for help today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *