Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on 8/31/23
Recovery from alcohol addiction doesn’t happen overnight; there are six distinct stages of alcohol recovery.
We’ll cover the stages of change that you’ll go through on your journey and highlight how you can maximize your chances of kicking substance abuse.
The first step to recovery is admitting to an alcohol addiction problem and seeking help. You’re already doing that by reading this article.
If you abuse alcohol or are addicted to alcohol, consider a qualified alcohol rehab to guide you through the stages of alcohol recovery. It’s much easier than doing it on your own.
There are six distinct stages that every alcoholic passes through on their way to recovery.
Relapse is a common experience, so if you fall off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up. Climb back on and get the support you need.
Precontemplation is the first stage of alcohol recovery. At 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 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-committal 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 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 the preparation stage.
In the preparation stage, an alcoholic has confronted their addiction and is now ready to make meaningful plans to seek treatment in the near future. The alcoholic may begin to tell friends and family about their plans to change, although they are still drinking.
If you have an addict in your life, help them build a detailed and practical plan of lifestyle changes, treatment program options, and behavioral therapy options that will help 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 at this stage.
Alcohol withdrawal can take some time and is potentially life-threatening, so it is advised to detox somewhere with medical supervision, like a treatment center. Depending on the severity of your addiction, the following withdrawal symptoms can manifest when you quit alcohol.
This stage is uncomfortable, mentally and physically taxing, and even painful at times. The action stage can last anywhere from 3 to 18 months, and there is a high risk of relapse during this time.
For the first part of the action stage, we recommend you seek the support of a qualified alcohol detox and rehab facility.
You can initially benefit from our inpatient program, which helps you overcome your withdrawal symptoms and teaches you healthy coping strategies to deal with alcohol cravings. After completing the inpatient portion, you can continue on the road to recovery with our intensive outpatient program.
Recovering alcoholics enter 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. They attempt to reverse the effects of their previous drinking in as many ways as possible, from health to social relationships to earning potential.
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: 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 been developed to help stave off cravings and produce a calming effect.
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.
Each individual is different, and we recognize that your recovery process will be different from that of others. The most surefire way to achieve success in recovery is to make and execute a well-thought-out plan, with the support of caring professionals.
Going through the stages of alcohol recovery can be stressful, but it’s less difficult with the right support system in place.
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 stunning Provo, Utah, and have a full range of recovery programs and addiction resources.
While the body begins healing immediately after quitting alcohol, it realistically takes 1 year or more for the organs to fully heal and undo much of the damage caused by heavy alcohol consumption.
Here’s a timeline to healing from the effects of alcohol:
The longer the period of alcohol abuse, the longer complete healing will take. Ongoing support also aids in full recovery.
It typically takes longer than a month for the liver to fully heal from alcohol damage. Here are some key points on the timeline for liver recovery:
So while the liver starts recovering quickly, truly healing from substantial alcohol-related injury and disease realistically takes a year or more. Maintaining complete abstinence from alcohol is vital throughout.
Here are some of the major ways alcohol affects kidney health:
The effects are usually reversible if alcohol abuse stops. But long-term abuse increases the likelihood of permanent kidney damage and failure. Getting help for alcoholism is important to protect long-term kidney health.
Ascites is fluid buildup in the abdomen caused by alcohol abuse. If you stop drinking, ascites can often go away on its own. Here’s the low-down:
So for ascites caused by alcohol, abstaining and allowing the liver time to heal itself is typically the first line of treatment. But it does require patience for the fluid to fully resolve.
Residential treatment programs can be very beneficial for overcoming alcohol abuse and addiction. Here are some of the main advantages of residential treatment:
The main drawback is the cost associated with 1-3 months of residential treatment. Visit our insurance verification page to see if your policy covers alcohol detox and rehab.