4 Stages of recovery


By David Joel Miller.

How does recovery grow and develop?

Recovery does not happen suddenly, out of nowhere. It takes time and work. From my way of thinking there are customary predictable stages of recovery. People may move through these stages at varying rates, some people move backward at times, but the goal for all should be to reach a final place where recovery is stable and less at risk.

The concept of recovery use to be mostly applied to substance abuse. Recently the concepts of wellness and recovery have been incorporated into Mental Health and physical health issues.

In a series of earlier posts, we talked about stages of change. Those stages begin with Pre-contemplation, the I don’t have a problem and even if I did I wouldn’t want to change anything, to Contemplation, yeah so – maybe I do have a problem but I am not sure I am ready to do anything about it. After that is Preparation, sometimes called Determination, and finally the action process, which we divided into Early Action and Late Action phases. The last part of this recovery journey was Maintenance.

In this model, Relapse is seen not as part of recovery but as the inability to maintain recovery once we reach it. This is understood as a common result of failure to do the maintenance activities. There has been lots of literature on relapse, triggers and lifestyle changes to make to avoid relapse. Much less has been written about what someone might expect during recovery.

Here are the four stages of recovery as I see them

1. In recovery.

People in this stage are seeking answers, working on themselves and investing time in their recovery. This is the time when people are taking action steps or may begin to do maintenance to hold onto the gains they have made. Lots of people will describe themselves as “in recovery”

2. Recovering.

People who describe themselves as recovering have moved from the point of being hopeless and lost to having hope and seeing their symptoms reduced. The urges and cravings may decrees even if they are never totally gone. People with mental health symptoms, while not fully back on their feet, may find they are able to do more things more days. Symptoms while present are shrinking.

3. Recovered.

Some people are afraid to say this. They are afraid that feeling recovered, they will let down on working on themselves and relapse. The A.A. Big Book uses this language on the title page of Alcoholics Anonymous, “The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Woman Have Recovered from Alcoholism.”

People who call themselves “recovered” are quick to point out that they are not cured. Just as when someone is diagnosed with diabetes they may get their disease under control but they will never go back to being a non-diabetic. With any chronic, relapsing disease you may recover but you are never really cured.

People who are recovered begin to get their life back. They may go back to work, volunteer or be able to participate fully in everyday life.

4. Life on life’s terms.

Every recovered person will have bumps on their road of life. This is a real life, good happens and bad happens. A person’s recovery is secure when they are able to withstand the things that happen, good or bad, in life without a return to active symptoms.

Doing the maintenance steps helps, so does building a comprehensive support system. The real test of someone’s recovery is – can bad or unexpected things happen in your life without triggering a return of your symptoms.

Best wishes on your recovery and having the happy life you deserve.

Other posts on this topic can be found at: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Early Action, Late Action, Maintenance, relapse, recovery, triggers, support system, more on support systems, Resiliency

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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One thought on “4 Stages of recovery

  1. Pingback: What are the stages of change? | counselorssoapbox

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