How to Support Your Loved One Through the 5 Stages of Recovery
September is National Recovery Month. For the last 32 years, each September Recovery Month shines a light on the hard work of those on the path to recovery and the support professionals and loved ones who have helped them along the way. The purpose of Recovery Month is to help spread the word about new treatments, recovery practices, and tips for the recovery community, professionals, and loved ones that make recovery possible. Each year Recovery Month has a new theme, and the theme for 2021 is “Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.”
So today, we are going to talk about the five stages of recovery and how you can support your friends, loved ones, and neighbors through each of these stages on their path to a happier, healthier life.
Stage One: Precontemplation
The first stage of recovery is the pre-contemplation phase. People who are in this phase are not yet ready to admit that they have a problem. They are still actively using and may not recognize or be willing to acknowledge the negative consequences of their substance use. They may be unwilling or even aggressively opposed to any discussion of their addiction, even if they may begin wondering if they need to seek help deep down.
During this phase of recovery, the most important thing to do for your friend or loved one is to be supportive without enabling them. It is often challenging for people to see the negative consequences of the addiction of a loved one, and the impulse to fix things for them becomes very strong. However, this type of help can often have a negative effect in the long run. Instead of trying to fix the problems caused by your loved one’s addiction, you should support them in ways that don’t save them from negative consequences. Some ways you can do that include: attending family therapy together, learning about addiction, avoiding the use of substances around them, being a listening ear, encouraging healthy habits, and maintaining healthy boundaries.
Stage Two: Contemplation
The second stage of recovery is the contemplation phase. People who are in this phase are beginning to recognize and admit that they have a problem. They may be beginning to see the negative consequences of their substance use. They may also be starting to think about getting help and show interest in finding different resources to help them quit.
During this phase of recovery, it is essential to be supportive without being confrontational. Your loved one may be open to talking about different treatment methods that could help them quit without actually committing to a particular path. This recovery phase can sometimes last for years, so being patient with your loved one is critical. Try to maintain a non-judgmental motivational approach to encourage your loved one to change without feeling pressured.
Stage Three: Preparation
The third stage of recovery is the Preparation Stage. During this phase, the person has begun to desire sobriety. They may have reached out to a treatment professional, made a plan for recovering independently, or decided on a treatment method discussed in the previous phase.
The preparation stage is an integral part of the recovery journey; you should encourage your loved one not to skip over this stage and to take their time making treatment plans. You can support them by helping them plan for the changes they want to make, how they will make those changes, what type of support they will need, putting those support services in place, and removing any triggers that could be a roadblock to their recovery.
Stage Four: Action
The fourth stage of recovery is the Action Stage. During this stage, the person has taken action on the life changes they planned in the previous step. For those seeking professional substance abuse treatment, the beginning of this phase could look like a stay in a residential treatment facility. For others, this phase looks like a drastic change in behavior and life choices. While for those trying to reduce their substance use versus stopping use completely, this phase can look like regular life for the most part, with some greater restraint and limitations put in place.
This stage is often the most difficult. This stage may include symptoms of withdrawal which can make a person feel ill, depressed, anxious, and painful. Loved ones need to be supportive throughout this phase. The problematic side effects of abstinence can be very discouraging for the person in recovery. It is essential to remind them that this stage is temporary. You should give them emotional support through the difficult moments, encourage them to fight their negative thoughts, and help them remember their reasons for quitting and their goals for a sober life.
Stage Five: Maintenance
The fifth stage of recovery is the maintenance stage. In this stage of recovery, it has become easier to abstain. The desire to relapse is much less than it was in the previous stage. During this stage, the person works hard to prevent relapse and follow the action steps they learned in the previous stage.
This stage can last for several months to several years. Try to remember that addiction is a disease, and the risk of relapse will always be present. Support your loved ones in the maintenance stage by encouraging them to maintain the healthy life changes they’ve made. Help them to develop and practice healthy coping mechanisms and ways to handle stress. Encourage your loved ones to continue to support their recovery with therapy, a 12-step program, or an outpatient treatment program to help them maintain their sobriety.
Remember that recovery is a hard road and that the most important way you can support your loved ones through their recovery is to remind them of your love and care, support them as much as you can, encourage them to keep at it, and celebrate their success!
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
“The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.”
HELPLINE: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Recovery Support Services
“Recovery support services is an evidence-based practice funded through SAMHSA that supports services to increase long-term recovery and recovery quality. Services are provided by peer specialists. Peer specialists help initiate services like counseling, sober housing, transportation, and medications. Peers provide support before, during, and after treatment.”
The Arbor Behavioral Healthcare
“The Arbor Continuum of Care was created out of the owners’ passion for effective substance use treatment. The Arbor is a privately held and owner operated company based in Austin, Texas.”
Alta Loma Transformational Services
“At Alta Loma, we treat men of all ages with mental health or psychiatric issues and co-occurring substance use disorders. We know that mental illness affects individuals from all walks of life, but it isn’t a topic that is openly discussed due to fear, uncertainty, and stigma. Our goal is to break the silence and provide high-quality care that meets the distinctive needs and challenges of men seeking treatment for mental and emotional turmoil, especially during the early and transitional periods of recovery.”