In the common dialogue about recovery and substance use, there are a lot of black and white terms. You’re sober or you’re not; you’re in recovery or out of it; you’ve made change, or you haven’t.

But most people who have lived with addiction for any amount of time know that there are shades of nuance and progression involved in making a major life change. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone.

In fact, scientists have documented this phenomenon. To understand how people go about deciding to make a major life change, researchers developed the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model of Change.

Familiarizing yourself with this model can help you understand your own behavior, or that of a loved one who is trying to get and stay sober. It can also help you accept that relapse is a normal, even expected, part of recovery.

The Stages of Change

According to the Stages of Change model, there are six stages that people go through when they are considering making a major change. They are:

  • Precontemplation. People at this stage don’t see any problem with their behavior, and don’t have plans to change. For the person at the precontemplation stage, like a person who is still using drugs or alcohol, the idea of making a change seems to have more drawbacks than the idea of continuing life how they’re currently leading it.
  • Contemplation. At this stage, a person is beginning to see that their behavior is problematic. They plan to change, but aren’t ready to change quite yet. A person who is using might know that their substance abuse is problematic, but they’re ambivalent about making a change.
  • Preparation or Determination. After contemplating change, a person becomes committed to making a change. They know that their substance use is problematic and that they need to get healthier, and they’re starting to explore ways of getting sober, like researching treatment centers.
  • Action. At this point, a person has decided to make the change that they hope will improve their lives. For people with substance use disorder, that might mean getting treatment. They’re learning about life in sobriety and trying their new skills to cope with challenges without using drugs or alcohol.
  • Maintenance. After taking action, people in the maintenance phase know what they have to do to maintain change. That might mean working an aftercare program and engaging in activities like exercise, volunteering or anything else that keeps them sober and responsible.
  • Relapse. We would like to think that after going through the hard work of recovery, change is permanent. However, it’s well-known that most people who get sober will relapse at some point. Accepting that relapse is part of recovery can help reduce shame and stigma, and encourage people to restart the stages of change as soon as they can.

What The Stages of Change Say About Relapse

It’s scary to think about relapse, especially when you’re new in recovery. But putting your head in the sand will not help you stay sober. Being frank about the risk of relapse can serve as motivation to adhere to your recovery program. Understanding relapse risk can help you grasp that relapse is not the end of meaningful change.

Consider this: most people have to go through the Stages of Change 4 – 7 times before they make lasting change. Knowing that making change is a fluid and dynamic process can normalize the experiences that you’re likely to have during your recovery journey.

Processes of Change

The same researchers who identified the stages of change also identified ten processes of change that can be used to help motivate people looking to alter their lives. For example, consciousness raising helps you become more aware of an unhealthy behavior. Environmental reevaluation helps you understand how your behavior can impact the people around you. Forming helping relationships can keep you sober and on track.

In order to make lasting change, you have to determine which processes of change resonate the most with you. That way, you can tap into these sources of motivation when you’re struggling.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a non 12-step drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in British Columbia. Learn more here.

By: The Fix staff
Title: The Stages of Change Model Shines Light on Recovery
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 10 Feb 2021 08:28:31 +0000

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