During treatment for addiction to drugs or alcohol, there are stages characterized by the early, middle, and late stages. Since addiction is an individualistic experience, each stage differs due to the condition of the person suffering from substance use disorder (SUD), the therapeutic strategies that are effective for them, and the characteristics of guidance from the treatment.
Early Stage of Treatment
In early treatment, people seeking help for a substance use disorder (SUD) may be emotionally unstable, hesitant about quitting the drugs or alcohol and resist treatment. Therefore, treatment strategies concentrate on these immediate issues, such as achieving abstinence, dealing with cravings, and preventing relapse.
In the early stage of treatment, those suffering from SUD may be in multiple stages: pre-contemplation, preparation, contemplation, or early action. Regardless of which stage they are in, resistant to treatment is common, and contemplating quitting the drugs or alcohol is difficult for them to comprehend. Mental impairment, or irrational thinking, is at its most severe in the early stage of treatment, which limits one’s ability to solve problems or be flexible in their thinking.
It is common for those entering treatment to maintain a desire for their addiction to drugs or alcohol, and an idea of returning to using substances after their crisis is over. This lingering desire is likely because most enter treatment due to familial intervention, court-mandated consequences, or other reasons that are not their own. Some actively resist treatment, while others passively resist it. Therefore, it is common for those to comply with treatment and its expectations in the early stage, as it comes from fear of more consequences than from a genuine desire to stop using substances.
In early treatment, it is crucial to instill hope, self-esteem, social skills, catharsis, cohesiveness, and connection with others. It is the goal for those suffering from SUD to feel connected to others, realize they are not alone, and that there is hope that life can continue without drugs or alcohol.
Middle Stage of Treatment
The middle stage of treatment is also called the action stage. During this stage, those suffering from SUD need help to realize that their drug or alcohol abuse is the root cause of many of their problems and inhibits them from obtaining the things they want to in life. This stage involves quitting substances and finding healthy substitutes. Managing emotions is also a crucial part of the middle stage of treatment.
Sadly, insurance issues, institutional limits, and other constraints limit access for those suffering from SUD to maintain ongoing treatment. It is well known, however, that they remain vulnerable for long periods and need support to prevent relapse. Studies show that issues persist for up to six months after stopping drug or alcohol use. It is common for those in the middle stage of treatment to experience impaired thinking, learning, and memory. It is also common for this mental capacity to grow and return to normal in the middle stage.
Emphasizing self-knowledge and selflessness as the person suffering from the SUD gains some mental stability is essential. Hope, self-esteem, and connection with others remain crucial in the middle stage as well. The motivation for change in the individual with the SUD, whether it be work or family related, can power the movement towards recovery. Identifying and recognizing the negative relationship between substance abuse and the current problems in their lives is the goal of the middle stage of treatment.
Late Stage of Treatment
The late stage of treatment is also known as the maintenance or ongoing stage. The late stage of treatment focuses on identifying the accomplishments of the person suffering from the SUD, how they can maintain them, and identifying the risks that may cause a relapse. There is also a focus on living issues after treatment, reducing shame, resolving guilt, and embracing a reflective, personal view of oneself.
It is crucial to learn to foresee and avoid tempting situations that may trigger a relapse. Deterring relapse involves evading situations, people, and environments that once encouraged the drug or alcohol use. Many people in the late stage of treatment experience a return to substance use and revert to an earlier stage of treatment. The knowledge gained throughout the treatment stages can help the SUD sufferer to recognize issues they would not have before treatment, and therefore be better equipped to attempt recovery again. Relapse is not a failure, but it is a learning experience, to which one can ultimately overcome and succeed at recovery.
The late stage of treatment also brings about underlying issues like relationship problems, shame, poor self-image, or past traumas. The substance abuse once covered and dulled these issues. For example, a high amount of those with SUDs are men and women who survived emotional or sexual abuse. When this underlying pain from the past is recognized and resolved, the SUD sufferer starts to understand and experience healthy ways to cope with past trauma. If left unresolved, the SUD sufferer is at a higher risk of substituting the substance abuse with another compulsive behavior, such as gambling or overeating.
Looking for Help?
Understanding addiction to drugs or alcohol is imperative to overcoming the disease. The development of an addiction is a different path for every individual suffering from a substance use disorder, as is the recovery from the addiction. As those suffering from substance use disorder move through the different stages of recovery, treatment must move with them. At Fort Worth Recovery, we understand that addiction to drugs or alcohol is difficult to face alone, and we offer a safe space to instill and nurture hope for the future. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 844.332.1807 or visit us online.