Outlining the Stages of Recovery

stages of recovery

Recovery is a long and difficult process. While it’s common to want to attend a recovery program and quickly overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol, the actual recovery process isn’t something a person can rush. Recovery happens in stages, and understanding them can help each person understand the path ahead while scaffolding realistic goals through each step of the recovery process. From treatment initiation to advanced recovery, each of these steps is important to move through in pursuit of a new, sober lifestyle.

Treatment Initiation

Treatment is the first step that a person takes in their journey to sobriety. Entering treatment is an acknowledgment that there needs to be a change in one’s life. Those looking to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol may still not fully be aware of, or in denial about, the full extent and effects of one’s addiction. However, addressing these feelings is part of this treatment initiation phase. Tackling this step means addressing the scope of the problem, including the frequency and intensity of one’s use of an addictive substance, as well as how it affects other aspects of one’s life. 

It is also common during this step to still be unsure about recovery as a whole. Those who suffer from addiction may have difficulty visualizing what life could be like without using an addictive substance and may still harbor resistance to giving up a known way of life, despite its destructive nature. Overcoming this initial step means going through a detox program to remove traces of the addictive substance from one’s body and beginning to understand the breadth of the issue. While it isn’t necessary to have everything figured out in this phase, it is essential to find a personal motivation for recovery, such as professional development or romantic pursuits. During this step, one will begin to establish a trusted support team made up of a combination of friends, peers, professionals and family members. This step also includes learning the basics of how to quell urges or cope with anxiety or depression. 

Early Abstinence

Maintaining abstinence is the first journey into learning how life feels after the cessation of addictive substances. This step heavily focuses on further individualizing one’s coping strategies and acknowledging feelings of anxiety, depression, panic or trauma associated with one’s use of drugs or alcohol. This step challenges people to better understand the nature of addiction and how it has personally developed and affected their lives to create a more personal approach to recovery. 

During this step, it is common to experience urges or cravings to reengage with an addictive substance. Feeling these stressors is not an indication that recovery is in any way a failure or that an individual somehow can’t recover. Instead, these feelings are a normal part of the process, and early abstinence focuses on learning how to address these feelings. Early abstinence, often correlated with inpatient, residential or partial hospitalization programs, involves not just learning about urges but identifying personal triggers in one’s life or environment and making necessary adjustments. This step is the cornerstone of future success. During this time, it is paramount that individuals continue to focus on nutrition and filling downtime with new hobbies or interests to help prevent the chances of a relapse. 

Maintaining Abstinence

Those who were in residential treatment may then move towards outpatient programs. While some may look for sober living facilities, others may begin to live independently or with families or trusted friends. This phase is one of the most difficult, as it involves an individual beginning to guide their progress in a less recovery-focused environment. While attending regular outpatient therapy sessions or recovery groups can continue support, there will also be more freedoms involved. This phase puts identifying triggers and stressors, as well as employing necessary coping strategies, on the individual themselves. 

However, this phase also means that an individual will have more freedom to continue to adapt their strategies in ways that are more effective for them personally, creating one’s own exercise routines, pursuing personal interests and further developing one’s new sober lifestyle. Remaining vigilant for stressors or signs of relapse is essential for this step. Still, this transition can also be incredibly rewarding as an individual learns to realize their agency and the progress they have made. 

Advanced Recovery

The final and most profound step of recovery is advanced recovery. For most, it can take years to see this step come to fruition, but this time is well spent. This step involves continuously adapting coping strategies to a changing environment, and people may be living wholly on their own. Some may even act as alumni in outpatient group sessions to give back to the recovery community. This phase involves chasing long-term goals that sobriety has made possible and is closely associated with self-actualization or the practice of finding genuine happiness and a sense of fulfillment. One will still be vigilant about stressors but find themselves less bound by stressors as one pursues happiness, develops meaningful relationships, or establishes new routines focused on recovery and other goals they may have set for themselves. One’s recovery or use of an addictive substance moves towards being an afterthought as one’s transformation of lifestyle and priorities shifts towards new, healthier goals in life. 


Each stage of recovery comes with its hurdles, and setting appropriate goals and timeframes is paramount for maintaining a positive relationship with the recovery process. If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and is ready to take the first step in your recovery journey, Brighton Recovery Center can help you. With a comprehensive campus that encompasses each aspect of the recovery process, all backed with a strong sense of community and fellowship. We can help you through each step in your transformation. We offer various programs, from detox and sober living facilities to partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, all of which can be personalized to fit you and your unique needs and goals in recovery. Our recreation center also provides a sense of community, along with a yoga studio, coffee shop, thrift shop, gym, and much more. For more information on how we can help you, or to speak to a caring, trained professional about your unique situation, call us today at (844) 479-7035.

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