What is Addiction Recovery? A Complete Overview

If you’re interested in seeking help for either you or a loved one, you may have a few questions regarding addiction and the recovery process.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at one of the most common questions we hear from people who need help …

What is addiction recovery?

What is Addiction Recovery? A Complete Overview | Transitions

What is Addiction Recovery?

Some reports use the term “addiction recovery” like it is a single event. However, it is a process with multiple stages.

Millions of Americans are struggling with addiction and addiction recovery—over 22 million, according to research. Addiction is no different than other chronic diseases, like Type 2 Diabetes, for example. Therefore, addiction recovery should be given the same respect.

The struggle a person encounters to overcome Type 2 Diabetes can be like someone working to overcome addiction. People with Type 2 Diabetes want to lose weight. They start and stop weight-loss programs. They even take medication, but without success.

It’s not until they hit a specific stage in their process of healing that it “clicks,” and they begin to do what it takes to overcome their disease.

The same is true for addiction recovery. An addict struggles as they enter and exit the different stages that can lead them to long-term sobriety.

Below is a complete overview of these stages that encompass addiction recovery.

Stage 1: I Should Be Ready to Quit, But I’m Not

This stage is often called “precontemplation.” In this stage, you have likely heard you have a problem from friends, family, and maybe even legal authorities. You aren’t ready to believe it and you think if they all just understood you better, they would realize too that the substances you use, help you. 

Maybe you recognize addiction has caused you problems, but you aren’t 100% convinced it was all related to drug use. You can still find reasons to blame others for the things that have happened to you. This may sound familiar,

“If Susie had given me a ride, I wouldn’t have had to drive high, then I wouldn’t haven’t gotten pulled over by the cops, and I wouldn’t have gotten a DUI…She could have just given me a ride.”

If you have made statements like this, you are not alone. There are millions of people around the world in the precontemplation stage right now.

The good news is that soon you can move out of this stage and into the “contemplation” stage.

Stage 2: Okay, I Will Try It Your Way. Maybe

In the contemplation stage you are more aware that you have a problem, so you are more willing to consider getting help. This doesn’t mean you are committed 100%, but it does mean you will take small steps to see if your life improves.

You agree to try the advice of family, friends, or addiction specialists for a set period. One minute you feel ready to change, and the next minute you realize change is too scary or too complicated. You translate your fear into words that sound like this,

“I’ll try to quit, but if my back pain gets too bad, I’ve got to start retaking them.”

Some people in this stage follow through with treatment only because they are ordered to by the legal system. And that’s okay.

No matter how you start treatment, you can experience benefits. You may even move into the next stage.

Stage 3: Let’s Do It

This stage is called the “preparation” stage. It is here that you finally see you have an addiction, and you have decided your life will be better once you overcome your addiction and live a sober lifestyle.

This is not the stage where you quit using drugs or alcohol cold turkey and experience extreme withdrawals all by yourself, without medication. 

In this stage, you meet with an addiction specialist, and with friends and family, and discuss your plans for getting sober.

Your plans should include ideas like medical detoxification under the supervision of a doctor, inpatient treatment for a period; outpatient counseling; family counseling; sober living, etc.

Now you are ready for stage 4.

Stage 4: Kicking Butt and Taking Names

In the 4th stage of addiction recovery, you are taking action. You are walking the walk and talking the talk. You’ve entered a medical detox program, inpatient rehab, and are on your way to being sober physically and mentally.

You are working on resolving your reasons for addiction. If you have mental health issues, you are fixing those. You are finding new solutions, if you have physical problems. If you have social problems, you are learning new social skills.

The length of this stage varies from person to person. Once complete, you’re ready for the next step.

Stage 5: Let’s See How Long We Can Do This

This is the “maintenance” stage, where you do what it takes to stay sober. You are re-entering your old environment but with new skills to help you fight relapse.

During this stage, you are implementing what you learned in rehab. You are going to meetings every day, you are getting a job, you are avoiding negative influences, and are taking care of yourself mentally and physically.

Your sobriety is your top priority.

This stage can last months, years, or forever. There is no wrong amount of time to remain in the maintenance stage.

Some researchers like to add a sixth stage of addiction recovery in which you are considered to be out of maintenance and are officially a full-time recovered addict. Others disagree with this stage, claiming that addiction is a chronic disease, and that relapse could happen at any time, for anybody, given the right circumstances. 


It’s up to you and your addiction specialist to determine how you progress through your addiction recovery stages and whether you have five or six phases. Because each person’s recovery is different, it’s more important to focus on how you can take control of your sobriety.

In the end, your drug of choice, or the stage of addiction recovery you are in, does not define you. 

What’s important is that you never stop trying to recover. Don’t count the number of times you quit recovery.

Instead, start counting the number of times you did not give up.

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