Once a person struggling with addiction makes the decision to enter recovery, they must face a long and often difficult journey. Recovery does not happen overnight and everyone experiences the process differently depending on their background and the severity of addiction. Typically, however, there are specific stages of recovery that are addressed in treatment.
Most people that attend a rehab facility with professional medical treatment are expected to go through the four stages of recovery: treatment initiation, early abstinence, maintaining abstinence, and advanced recovery. Each person in a rehab facility must go through every stage to achieve their full recovery and be completely prepared to leave treatment.
The First Stages – Initiation and Detox
The very first step of recovering from an alcohol problem is making the decision to finally quit and enter a rehab facility. For some patients it could be as a result of an intervention or a court order but the first stage is the moment they begin their treatment. This stage could involve many feelings of denial or ambivalence to becoming sober but an alcoholic will eventually overcome these obstacles. For people that have not entered the facility of their own free will, a big issue may be recognizing that they have a substance abuse problem. They may believe that their drinking is not out of control and they may also be reluctant to quit permanently.
Initiation may only last a few days until the patient then moves into stage two which is their early abstinence. This phase involves full commitment to the program and going through the process of detox by abstaining from any and all substances. This stage can be one of the most difficult because of withdrawal symptoms that often become intense depending on their level of addiction. At this point, cravings will be at their strongest and most frequent making it a painful experience physically and psychologically. Some programs can offer medication to help ease some of the withdrawal symptoms and cravings so that detox can be easier to get through. Early abstinence also involves receiving training on how to deal with these symptoms and cravings so that patients can handle these problems on their own in the future. Patients will first begin to meet with counselors and attend therapy sessions in this second stage.
Maintaining Sobriety and Continuing Recovery
The third stage of recovering from alcoholism occurs after detoxification has been completed and there have been a few months of therapy and counseling. At this point the patient will be sober for about three months and the majority of their cravings have likely subsided. Some addicts will remain in the facility for further treatment while others might be transferred to an outpatient facility. Throughout this stage, alcoholics must focus on maintaining their abstinence and handling any of the occasional cravings that they might experience. The goal in this stage is to do everything they can to avoid relapse and remain sober while they are still receiving care. Patients will begin to apply tools that they learned in the second stage and learn to achieve success on their own.
The final stage of recovery for alcoholics is known as advanced recovery after the patient has been discharged from their inpatient or outpatient facility. In this stage, the patient is now considered a recovered alcoholic but it could take years for them to finally reach this point. Many people relapse more than once before reaching the stage of advanced recovery. A recovered alcoholic has usually been sober for more than five years and is able to lead a productive life without any kind of drinking. Patients in recovery can look forward to the happiness and stability of this last stage but it will take time and hard work to get there.