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Recovery Centers: What Are the Stages of Alcohol Recovery?

What are the Stages of Alcohol Recovery

Recovery from alcohol addiction doesn’t happen overnight, there are multiple stages of alcohol recovery. 

Keep reading to find out what those stages are, and what they entail for a recovering alcoholic. 

Alcohol Addiction

Before we go over the recovery process, let’s address how you can know whether or not you have an alcohol addiction and may need rehabilitation. Some signs that your drinking habits could classify as chronic alcohol abuse are:

  • Blacking out often while drinking.
  • Lying about drinking, and underestimating how much you’ve had.
  • Thinking about drinking even when you’re not drinking.
  • Experiencing shame and regret regarding your alcohol consumption.
  • Avoiding contact with your loved ones. 
  • Drinking at inappropriate times like early in the morning or during the workday.

If you are experiencing any of these signs you may be addicted to alcohol, and it could be time to begin going through the stages of alcohol recovery. 


Precontemplation is the first stage of alcohol recovery. In this stage, people don’t yet have the desire to change. They are rationalizing, denying, and hiding their abusive behavior, although they are currently experiencing the negative impact of their addiction. 

Those in the precontemplation stage do not seek treatment on their own, and if they are forced into treatment by a loved one they are typically unsuccessful because they do not yet believe that they have an addiction. 

If you have a loved one in this stage, you can pave the way for them to enter into the next stage by facilitating a non-confrontational conversation about the pros and cons of their current drinking habits. 


Those in the contemplation stage of recovery have begun to recognize that they may have a problem, but are still non-commital about seeking treatment. People may try to curb their alcohol addiction on their own during this stage, and put off acquiring professional treatment. It’s easy for people to get stuck in the contemplation stage, where they know they need to make a change but they just aren’t ready to. Once a person has gone through the uncomfortable process of confronting their addiction and begins to seek out a solution they will move toward stage three.


In the preparation stage, an alcoholic has confronted their addiction and is now ready to make meaningful plans to seek treatment within the near future. People may begin to tell friends and family about their plans to change, although they are still drinking. In order to be successful in recovery, a lengthy preparation is required. If you have an addict in your life help them to build a detailed and practical plan of lifestyle changes, treatment program options, and behavioral therapy options, that will help to set them up for long-term success. Although it may be tempting for addicts to quit cold turkey, research has shown that those who spend more time in the preparation stage of recovery are more likely to have sustainable success. 


During the action stage, the plan put together in the preparation stage is now being executed. People typically detox and go through withdrawal in this stage. Withdrawal can be life-threatening, so it is advised to detox someplace with medical supervision like a treatment center. This stage is uncomfortable, mentally and physically taxing, and even painful at times. This stage can last anywhere from 3 to 18 months, and there is a high risk of relapse during this time. 


Recovering alcoholics enter into the maintenance stage, which can last anywhere from six months to years. Someone in the maintenance stage is maintaining the good habits they learned in the action stage while continually learning new sobriety techniques and coping skills. They are enjoying the benefits of their newfound sobriety while taking steps to maintain it in the long term. At this stage, they can also begin healing liver damage with diet and exercise. 


Termination is the final and most controversial stage in alcohol recovery. At this stage, some believe that the alcoholic has recovered from their addiction and no longer has cravings for alcohol, whereas others believe that alcoholism is a lifelong disease that you can never fully recover from. 


Addiction is like any other chronic illness, in that once you stop your treatment you are likely to relapse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 to 60 percent of people recovering from alcohol addiction will relapse at some point, but that doesn’t mean that their efforts were in vain. Most commonly people who relapse while in recovery will bounce back to the contemplation stage rather than the precontemplation stage, meaning that they don’t completely start over. The key to avoiding relapse is to avoid triggers that give you the urge to drink, like certain people, places, things, and moods. Prescription medications like Naltrexone, Disulfiram, and Acamprosate, have also been developed to help stave off cravings and withdrawal, and produce a calming effect.

The Cycle of Recovery

Some people with an alcohol addiction make their way through the stages of alcohol recovery in order, but more commonly people bounce back and forth from one stage to another.  Most people will go through the stages of recovery three to four times before completing the cycle successfully. 

Contact Ardu Recovery Center

The bottom line is that each individual is different, and some will take longer to progress through certain stages than others. No two recovering addicts are the same, and therefore no two recovery processes will be the same. The most surefire way to achieve success in recovery is to make and execute a well-thought-out plan. Going through the stages of alcohol recovery can be stressful, particularly if you don’t have the right support system behind you. Instead of going at it alone, take your first steps toward a new life and contact the experts at Ardu Recovery Center today. We offer specialized detox and rehab programs to suit whatever your unique needs may be and to make recovery as comfortable and successful as possible. We are located in the stunning Provo, Utah.