Understanding Addiction & Recovery: Exploring the Stages of Change

Estimated read time 4 min read

Addiction and recovery are transformative processes that require dedication, time, and support. Acknowledging the need for help and embarking on the journey towards sobriety is a significant step. Julian Mitton, MD, sheds light on the stages of change model, which outlines the progression individuals go through as they transition from addiction to a life of recovery. While each person’s path is unique, there are valuable lessons we can glean from one another along this transformative journey.

The Stages of Change Model: A Roadmap to Transformation

The stages of change model, developed in the 1980s, seeks to explain why individuals may resist making positive changes in their lives. It emphasizes that transformation is a process that requires commitment, time, and social support. Let’s delve into the stages of change:


In the precontemplation stage, individuals may be in denial about their addiction or simply not considering change. They might believe that their life is satisfactory as it is, seeing no reason to make any alterations.


Contemplation marks the beginning of change. In this stage, individuals start to consider the possibility of life without addiction. They may weigh the pros and cons of change, conduct research on how to initiate it, and explore the support needed to accomplish this transition. During contemplation, one honestly evaluates their thoughts, feelings, behavior patterns, and habits, deciding if change is necessary.


When you are ready to embark on a solution, it is crucial to define the problem first. This is where many individuals encounter challenges, as they often start with an ideal vision of their desired life and then struggle to identify the steps required to achieve it. Instead, take a step back from focusing on the end result and contemplate the effort needed to attain the goal in three or six months.

Setting specific and measurable goals is the next step. Regardless of the nature of the change being pursued, tangible and measurable objectives are essential. For example, tracking weight loss on a weekly basis allows individuals to assess the effectiveness of their efforts.


The action stage is where transformation begins. It is when individuals make concrete changes and initiate their recovery journey. However, it’s important to remember that action requires significant adjustments in life, and these changes do not happen overnight. When embarking on the action stage, consider the following:

Develop strategies to resist temptation and prevent relapse.

Break down overwhelming goals into meaningful, manageable steps.

Seek support from healthcare professionals, counselors, or support groups.

Embrace healthy coping mechanisms and positive lifestyle changes.

Maintenance and Relapse Prevention:

Sustaining the gains made during recovery is crucial. The maintenance stage involves implementing strategies to prevent relapse and maintain a healthy, balanced life. Some key considerations include:

Building healthy routines like  Julian Mitton, MDand establishing boundaries with individuals who may influence relapse.

Avoiding high-stress or relapse-prone environments.

Engaging in ongoing therapy, counseling, or support group participation.

Nurturing a strong support network to provide accountability and encouragement.

Getting Help for Addiction: A Continuous Journey

Seeking treatment for addiction is a process that requires time and commitment. It is important to recognize that recovery is not a linear path. Instead, individuals progress through various stages of change, and even after attaining recovery, relapse remains a possibility if they revert to old habits and thought patterns. It is crucial to approach addiction treatment with patience, resilience, and a willingness to embrace ongoing support.

In conclusion, addiction and recovery are transformative journeys that necessitate dedication and support. By understanding the stages of change, individuals can navigate the path to recovery with greater clarity and purpose. Embracing the process of change, seeking help, and implementing strategies for long-term maintenance and relapse prevention are essential for achieving lasting recovery and a healthier, fulfilling life.

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Sage Ariana Davis: Sage, a financial news writer, provides updates on the stock market, personal finance tips, and economic news.

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