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By Donna Loza, LCPC, CADC, CODP I

A person might be wondering, do they have a problem with either alcohol or other drugs?  A person might be hearing from family members, employers or even friends, repeatedly, mentioning to them that there is something off about their behavior.  For example, are they needing more sleep, less focused at work, getting into fights with peers, or forgetting to pick up the kids from school.  It can be an opportunity to pause and reflect on what is going on.

There are five stages of change in recovery that anyone can check out to identify where one is at.  It is helpful to reflect if there is a change that needs to occur, when are the changes necessary and what does life look and feel like once the change has taken hold for several months or years.

The first stage is precontemplation.  This is where someone might be in denial, not recognizing that what they are doing is actually affecting others or themselves.  Someone might say to themselves, “I can handle this,” “I can cut back.”  “I don’t have anything to worry about.”

The second stage is contemplation.  This is where someone is starting to notice that they are showing up to work late or missing project deadlines.  This is where someone isn’t following up with the friends, they used to spend time with.   People are finding themselves having less energy, bills aren’t being paid and they start to notice they are struggling.  This stage the problem behavior still continues but they are starting to question some of the things they are doing.

The third stage is preparation. This is where someone has come to realize that they need to change their behavior due to some consequences such as their spouse or loved one are threatening to leave, they possibly received a DUI, or the employer had a talk with them about work performance.  This stage is where they might start attending AA/NA meetings www.alcoholicsanonymous.comor Smart Recovery meetings www.smartrecovery.org.

The fourth stage is action. This is where someone is carving out time for AA or Smart Recovery meetings, or having sessions with a substance abuse counselor to work on goals to stop using and finding out what led them to use in the first place.  This stage is where they are rebuilding their lives by exercising, eating healthy, talking with friends, or finding a Church they can connect with and build those relationships that are healthy for them and will hold them accountable.

The fifth stage is maintenance. This is where someone has been abstinent for a few months.  After 120 days, the brain has substantially recovered.  A person will have clearer thinking, they have more energy and more time in their lives to actually, do the things that once brought happiness and contentment.   The person may continue to face challenges, be triggered, yet, being sober will be able to use the coping skills they learned in meetings or in individual sessions to navigate life.

Recovery is going to be challenging.  Learn to offer yourself grace and know that you are doing what you can to get back in the race.   Recovery is about asking for help and working through what brought you to using in the first place.  Recovery is what you do one step at a time and one day at a time. Recovery is finding new enjoyments without using.  Recovery is about knowing that you do have the ability to handle or cope with life’s troubles.