Remember the time when everyone was telling you that you had a problem with drugs or alcohol and you disagreed?  You really thought you had it all under control and that if you really wanted to stop you could.  And you had no desire to stop using at the time anyway.  This stage is also known as “Pre-contemplation”.

Then you start to realize that your substance use is actually connected to a lot of other problems in your life.  Perhaps it’s starting to affect your relationships or finances or work. You start to wonder about changing your behaviour and if that would really make a difference.  But, you’ve been using drugs or alcohol so long that you can’t imagine your life without it.  Besides, you enjoy partying too much anyway.  This stage is known as “Contemplation”.

Next is the process of actually starting to change your behaviour.  You have come to a place of acceptance that drugs or alcohol is having some serious negative consequences in your life and you need to change.  You are now committed to seek the help of others, go to a detox center or call to make an appointment at CASON to see a counsellor about getting treatment.  This stage is known as “Preparation”.

You have now been abstinent from your substance of choice for a few months and you’ve also done all the paperwork with your counsellor so that you can attend residential treatment.  So far you’re feeling hopeful about your future as you’re staying clean and sober and noticing all the benefits.  This stage is known as “Action.”

It’s been almost a year since the last time you used drugs or alcohol and you’re feeling confident about your ability to sustain this new healthy lifestyle.  You’re life has changed so much and you’re feeling proud of your accomplishments. This stage is known as “Maintenance” which is six months or more of the new behaviour.

Your last drink or drug use was so many years ago that you no longer even think about it or identify with it because you are, in fact, a completely new person now.  This stage is known as “Termination”.

These stages are typically not linear as described but rather cyclical which means that sometimes people experience a “Lapse” or “Relapse” where they return to their old behaviour.  A “Lapse” is a temporary slip-up, typically a single instance of not identifying a trigger and using drugs or alcohol as a result. A “Relapse”, on the other hand, is a series of events that causes you to completely fall back into the old pattern of drug or alcohol use, after a period of improvement. The key is to not let a lapse turn into a relapse but rather to learn from the experience when the lapse occurred.

Being aware of which Stage you are in can possibly assist you in making the right choices, at the right time, to live a better and healthier lifestyle. Stay committed to the process of recovery, one stage at a time!

This is known as Prochaska and Diclemente’s Transtheoretical Model of Change and was developed in 1977.