Life-altering shifts occur in stages. Just as a substance abuse issue does not develop in an instant, neither does the recovery from it. This is modeled in the stages of grief when someone deals with loss. Little by little, progress is made and a shift in the mind occurs. With recovery from substance use disorder (SUD), there is a similar process that can be viewed through the stages of change model.
5 Stages of Change
The SMART Recovery model is a scientific-based approach to recovery. Their website states that the model is “a transformative method of moving from addictive substances and negative behaviors to a life of positive self-regard and willingness to change.” Through exploring the five stages of change that SMART Recovery utilizes in its approach, one can better understand the shift that occurs throughout treatment and recovery from addiction.
#1. Precontemplation Stage
During this first stage, avoidance is common. The problem is not clearly recognized or accepted at this point. Hopelessness can be found here. A person may be struggling to maintain control of their use of a substance, but only those around them may notice there is an issue. They personally still feel in control, or don’t recognize the negative impact resulting from their use.
#2. Contemplation Stage
In the contemplation stage, the person can acknowledge that they have a problem. They may mull over possible solutions, but any action they may take remains in the future. SMART Recovery shares that the end of this stage is where one may begin experiencing anticipation, activity, anxiety, and excitement. They may now be aware there are negative impacts, but they are not ready to dive in or make changes yet.
#3. Preparation Stage
In this stage, the individual begins getting ready to change their behavior but is not quite at the point where they make the jump. They may complete small tasks in preparation, but still need a little more convincing to be completely ready. As they get ready to address the change that needs to take place, they may look into options or gather support.
#4. Action Stage
The action stage takes the most commitment. Others around them may notice the changes in behavior at this point. At this stage, an individual may enroll in an inpatient treatment program such as Destiny Recovery Center (DRC). They are taking active steps toward achieving the goal of recovery, health, and healing.
#5. Maintenance Stage
The maintenance stage is critical to relapse prevention. This is the stage that keeps the person working on their recovery. Identifying what supports the person’s needs can keep them on a positive path. As recovery is a life-long journey, the maintenance stage is essentially a life-long stage as well.
The creators of SMART Recovery describe the method as a science-based program with a focus on self-empowerment and self-reliance. There is an emphasis on gathering practical tools that one can utilize as needed. Compared to other methods that use support from others as a key strategy, SMART Recovery is centralized on personal choice, decision-making, and accountability. Through this program, individuals receive tools to maintain sobriety and encouragement to decide when and how to implement them as they deem necessary.
Having a sense of power and being in control is crucial for many of those struggling with SUD. This program supports that. With clear directions on how to implement the various strategies, this program is user-friendly for someone looking for something research-based and self-driven.
Combining a residential treatment program with SMART Recovery principles offers a smooth transition and can be a powerful part of one’s aftercare plans. DRC assists clients in creating their aftercare plan as they near the end of residential treatment. If the SMART Recovery method has been a good fit for them throughout treatment, this would be a solid option to consider.
Cycle of Change
SMART Recovery outlines the 5 stages of change as basically 5 steps toward sobriety. However, they state that in many cases, one must go through the stages multiple times to master the maintenance stage and prevent relapse. In this way, the 5 stages of change are more similar to a cycle than a linear process. Avoidance, thinking about the problem, thinking about addressing the problem, acting on it, then preventing another occurrence may happen in that order. However, it may require backing up a few steps and having another go.
As a cycle, the change process is more fluid, with the goal of remaining in the maintenance stage permanently. In recovery, remaining vigilant in maintenance is crucial for success.
Some find that group support meetings are a huge source of motivation for them and utilize this to maintain their sobriety. Others may continue working with a mentor or a sponsor, and complete tasks or exercises with them.
Some might use journaling and reflection as a strategy. Others may incorporate a new fitness routine or mental health support such as counseling or medication. When creating a solid aftercare plan, it is important to consider the 5 stages of change, ensuring to identify key factors that will support the ongoing maintenance stage.
When searching for a recovery program that will work for you, consider this an approach that includes the 5 stages of change. Does this seem like something aligned with your way of thinking? Maybe the 5 stages of change seem to pique your interest. Using proven methodology, SMART Recovery offers an approach that can be new and refreshing for those in recovery. Destiny Recovery Center is trained in implementing the SMART Recovery program, and it is one of the many options we offer within our treatment center. If you think this could work for you or your loved one, reach out today at (909) 413-4304 to speak to our knowledgeable staff.