The 4 Stages of Alcohol Recovery

The 4 Stages of Alcohol Recovery

What | Are they?

Alcohol recovery is a long journey, and is experienced differently by different people. While their experiences, backgrounds, and lifestyles are all different, and the way they withdrawal from alcohol is different, the treatment is generally the same. Almost everyone that goes through treatment for alcohol addiction at a medical facility go through what are known as the 4 Stages of Recovery or Rehabilitation. While the courses, and schedules might differ, and the help might differ, every person that enters rehab is evaluated, and a goal plan is made up, customized to the individual’s needs, background, and rehab requirements. The 4 Stages of Rehab are:

  1. Treatment Initiation
  2. Early Abstinence
  3. Maintaining Abstinence
  4. Advanced Recovery

Each of these is an important step to sobriety, and while everyone takes them differently, and achieves them at a different pace, to be truly effective, alcoholics need to complete each:

  • Let’s look at the first step. Treatment Initiation starts when you first seek help for your problem. It doesn’t matter how you ended up at rehab (be it on your own free will, by way of intervention, court ordered, or any other reason), everyone’s first step on the road to recovery is treatment initiation. This is when people begin to experience their first feelings of denial and ambivalence. This is normal, but don’t let these feelings take you over.

  • The next step in the process usually happens fairly soon after arriving, with some stepping to the next step only minutes after arriving. The second step is Early Abstinence. In this step, the individual commits to the program, and makes a stand to change their life, and become sober. Those that voluntarily enter rehab usually progress to this step the quickest, because they do want to change their lives. This is where detox begins, and usually where withdrawal symptoms will begin. This is also one of the worst stages, because the withdrawal symptoms and cravings will be the strongest, and the most frequent. You need to remain strong during this step. The good news is that with modern medicine, these cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be combated using modern medicine. This is also where your training on sobriety begins. You will meet your counselors, and attend your first classes and therapy sessions. This step is very important, because it helps build the foundation to life-long sobriety.

  • The next step usually happens to individuals about 3 months after they reach the second stage, and that’s Maintaining Abstinence. By this time, the person has been sober for about 3 months, and the withdrawal symptoms and cravings have all but subsided, except for the occasional craving, and these are usually not as strong. Most people at this point have been started to be weaned off withdrawal medications, while others are completely off them. It’s at this point, that most inpatient facilities release the patient to the care of outpatient facilities. This part of the stages focuses more on maintaining the sobriety, and ways to help prevent relapses, and ways to say no and even avoid alcohol all together. You learn how to use the tools you learned about in the last stage, and learn how to apply them to your life for sobriety success.

  • The last step in the process comes after the patient is discharged from the outpatient care. This is called the Advanced Recovery. Usually, the person has completed the outpatient care, and is now considered to be a recovered alcoholic. But it will take this person about 5 years of sobriety before they reach stage 4 of the recovery process because the chances of relapse are still strong. Once you reach this stage, you’re able to use the skills you learned, and are living a productive life, without the constraints of alcohol. Recovery isn’t just about stopping drinking; it’s about bettering your life. People in this stage generally are happier, and have better relationships.

Relapse Prevention:

The great majority of what we do in drug and alcohol treatment is centered on relapse prevention. From basic addiction education, to common coping skills. Even therapy for secondary issues such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar, is all about relapse prevention.

Relapse prevention is also the primary focus of our aftercare program. So long as a person can avoid picking a drink or a drug, they have a real chance of getting through whatever issue they are facing in a positive manner.

Some people may mistakenly refer to a relapse as a return to using alcohol or drugs, but we refer to that as the culmination of the relapse. The relapse itself begins long before that.

Sobriety means more than just the absence of drugs or alcohol in a person’s system. There are many dry drunks/addicts out there who are not currently imbibing, but are not behaving in a sober fashion.

Sobriety also means sanity. It means having a solid grasp on reality and the ability to life by certain principles.

Most relapses begin by a return to addict/alcoholic behaviors. This does not happen all at once. It starts small. A little white lie. A minor manipulation. Choosing self gratification over doing what’s right.

Violating personal integrity is not something we will allow ourselves to do all at once. Rather, we chip away, bit by bit. Eventually, it makes perfect sense to pick up a drink or a drug.

We teach relapse prevention as a proactive pursuit. If we practice our personal integrity every day. If we work our program diligently. If we read our book, talk to our sponsor, attend a meeting, and communicate with a higher power ~ if we do these things BEFORE we want to drink or drug ~ we are always stronger than the disease and never place ourselves in danger. If, however, we wait until the disease is in control, it is unlikely we will do any of these things.

If you or a loved one have reached the point where the disease is taking control, where you are about to pick up a drink or a drug (or have already picked up), please call and let us help.

Aftercare: While relapse prevention is a chief focus of much of what we do, aftercare is actually a licensed level of care.

Aftercare is the lowest level of care we offer at Sober Partners®, but that doesn’t diminish its importance. Aftercare enables clients to maintain the momentum they have developed during earlier levels of treatment. They may have learned new coping skills in relapse prevention counseling, but in aftercare, they have the opportunity to practice using those skills.

What usually happens is, a client successfully completes treatment and gets together with his/her counselor to discuss future plans. Suggestions will probably include continues abstinence from drugs and alcohol, 12-step meeting attendance, and at least one aftercare group each week.

An average aftercare session is basically the same as the group therapy sessions the client enjoyed during their primary treatment. It gives the client an opportunity to remain connected to their treatment and gives them, not only a therapist to talk to, but a support group among the other clients.

Since sobriety is a life-long pursuit, aftercare really never goes away. A person who works their individual sobriety program by practicing the principals of their 12-step program, is practicing self-directed aftercare. By attending meetings and/or periodic counseling sessions, they are practicing supported aftercare.

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