The Process for Maintaining Sobriety in a New Year
The things I like most about a New Year are the new opportunities it brings. For many people, that includes recovery from alcohol, drug, and/or mental health disorders. One thing that I don’t like about New Years Day is making resolutions, simply because they are typically doomed to failure. There’s just no process for maintaining them.
Luckily for people in recovery, there is a process. It’s called the Stages of Change model. It’s a way of describing the process by which people overcome addiction and lifestyle disorders. Of course, stages of change can be applied to a range of other behaviors that people want to change, but it’s most well-recognized for its success in treating people with addictions.
The model was developed from research that looked at how change occurs in ‘natural recovery’ from addictions. It’s been embraced by health care providers seeking to move away from confrontational and pathological approaches toward motivational and person-centered approaches.
Basically, there are four stages we all go through to get to successful and lasting change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, and action. Maintenance and relapse are also sometimes included as additional stages.
These stages are represented as a cycle. In theory, people go through the stages in sequence. In reality, we jump about between stages, go backward and forward, and can even be in more than one stage at a time. The sequential model provides a useful way of understanding the process of change, giving structure to how changes in addictive behaviors can be encouraged and managed.
In the precontemplation stage, we are not very interested in hearing about negative consequences or advice to quit our addiction. People experience addictive behavior as a positive or pleasant experience. Eventually, negative consequences do affect us – such as arrest. And it’s the negative consequences that can push people into the contemplation stage.
It is not unusual to be in the contemplation stage for many years. From here, we tend to move forward to the next phase — preparation stage — or we can move back to the precontemplation stage. Contemplators benefit from non-judgmental information-giving and motivational approaches to encouraging change (rather than confrontational methods).
In the preparation stage, we move forward to planning and preparing for carrying out changes we learned about in the contemplation stage. A typical objective in this phase is exploring treatment options.
Finally, the stage of change, action, involves active participation in a recovery program. If that’s something you or someone you care about needs, L.A. CADA can help. We’re here for you in 2023!
Watch: The Stages of Change for Recovery