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Defeating Alcoholism: The Stages of Alcohol Recovery

    15 million Americans aged 18 and over are living with an alcohol use disorder.

    Only 6.7% of those have received treatment.

    Alcohol treatment is needed to save lives but recovery does not begin or end with treatment. 

    If you or a loved one is recovering from alcoholism, here are the common stages you can expect to experience.


    In the first stage of alcohol recovery, you are not ready to change or even think about changing. 

    You probably don’t think you a problem and will disagree with and/or ignore anyone who tells you differently. 

    This is because, at the beginning of this stage, most situations surrounding the addiction are still pleasant and there are few negative consequences associated with the alcohol use disorder.

    This is a stage of denial. 

    Eventually, the negative effects of alcohol use disorder will begin show, which pushes you into contemplation.


    In this stage, you are becoming aware of a problem and are thinking about making changes.

    You are also torn because the effort doesn’t seem worth it. 

    This is probably the most difficult stage because there are a lot of conflicting emotions that eventually leave you feeling ambivalent about the whole situation. 

    This ambivalence makes it feel impossible to move forward, however, the contemplation can highlight the need for a change, which makes you interested in knowing more.  


    In this stage, you’ll start taking small steps towards reaching your larger goal of recovery.

    You might cut back on drinking or set rules around when you can and cannot drink. 

    It’s typical to explore different types of support, like looking for online resources, reading self-help books, talking to friends and family or even seeing a therapist. 

    In this stage, you are gathering as much information as possible about recovery because you are set on taking the action needed to reach your goal. 


    In this stage of alcohol recovery, you’ll follow through with the plan you created in the preparation stage. 

    The small changes you took in the previous stage have convinced you that you are ready to get treatment and live a sober life. 

    The follow-through may look like attending a dual diagnosis drug rehab or some other form of treatment.

    This stage usually ends when treatment is completed and you are officially in maintenance mode.


    The final stage for a recovering alcoholic is the maintenance stage. 

    In this stage, you are maintaining your sobriety by avoiding triggers and following the guidelines and using the tools you learned in treatment. 

    There is usually some form of ongoing aftercare to help you maintain your sobriety. 

    Unfortunately, this stage can also involve a relapse, which is why many view the stages of recovery as more of a cycle of recovery. 

    At any given point, you can find yourself in any of these stages, even if you have already been through all of them. 

    Final Thoughts on Recovering From Alcoholism

    While each journey is individual, these are the common stages people go through when recovering from alcoholism.

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