The Roadmap of the Recovery Process
by Bob Snyder BA, CADC II, NCAC I
The journey of recovery from addiction is a long one. When we say its “one day at a time” we mean it; yet it also means that we are breaking down a very large journey into smaller steps. Just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with single step, the following stages can help us understand the journey better.
- Pretreatment stage of recovery: This is the longest stage. The good news is that if someone is in treatment they are probably mostly done with this stage. It starts when someone uses drugs or alcohol for the 1st time, and ends when someone has arrived at the place where they have come to believe that drinking and using needs to stop. The pain of the consequences of continued use is too great. They have come to a place that they accept they have a problem and it is necessary to get into recovery.
- Stabilization: This stage is marked by someone’s first real serious commitment to stop using everything on a permanent basis. This is the beginning of what is referred to as Post Acute Withdrawals. This is directly related to the brain chemistry that starts to adjust itself back from a very unbalanced state caused from years of use, to a more normal state. This takes from 6 to 18 months. This is a time of high cravings. We see people attending many weekly meetings, spending time with sponsors, spending time attending clean and sober functions. This stage is marked by clients spending large amount of time devoted to their recovery. This is a day to day effort to not pick up that first drug
- Early Recovery: This stage is marked by clients attending meetings, spending time with sponsors, where recovery starts to become a lifestyle rather than a sense of survival from day to day. We see clients doing step work with sponsors. We see clients becoming involved with service positions in the recovery community. We see clients still spending a great deal of time on their recovery. Recovery remains as the primary focus in their life during this stage. This stage ends around 18 months after someone has stopped using. This stage is from 18 months to 3 years from last use.
- Middle Recovery: This stage is marked by clients starting to seek balance in their life. We see the time spent on recovery begin to taper off. They still attend lots of meeting and do step work with sponsors. They begin to sponsor others. They have little cravings at this point and their life is getting stable. They often have jobs and relationships which are fairly stable. Their goal in this stage is to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. This means that all major life areas are now able to be evaluated to determine if the job or the relationship they are in are in their best interest for the long term. The recovery is now quite stable and they have a very good set of tools they use to maintain it. This is years 3-5
- Late Recovery: This stage is marked by clients seeking to resolve any old unresolved issues from the past. We often see clients going to see private therapist to address these issues. This means that they are willing to resolve old abuse and childhood trauma issues that can continue to cause distress in their current life. This is years 5 to 11.
- Maintenance: This stage allows clients to fully relax into themselves without waiting for the other shoe to drop. At this point we have a life that should be working on all levels and are in full sustained comfortable recovery.
No one wants to hear that recovery is a long-term process. We want to somehow be able to rush the process and arrive at the end and be cured. But recovery is a lifelong journey that requires we never forget that we have a chronic disease that will always require we maintain our recovery. We are like diabetics who must stay on top of their illness to avoid problems. The good news is that it takes a small amount of time and effort to do this once we have completed the developmental stages of recovery.
Bob Snyder BA, CADC II, NCAC I
Adult and Adolescent Intensive Services Manager for PSCS
Program Director Deschutes County Outpatient
Best Care Treatment Services