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Understanding The 5 Stages Of The Addiction Recovery Process

Posted by Dr Terry Spokes
on 04 Mar 2022

All addictions go through stages, from experimentation to regular use, on to high-risk use and eventually, dependence. It’s no surprise then that unravelling uncontrollable behaviour is also not instantaneous. The addiction recovery process isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a set of learned coping mechanisms that need to be implemented over a lifetime for a person to remain in active recovery. Often, the only way someone can achieve lasting abstinence is with professional help.

At Delamere, we provide support to overcome alcohol addiction, drug addiction and other addictions, at our purpose-built wellness retreat in Cheshire. We recognise that each person goes through several stages in the cycle of recovery and every journey is personal to them. In the 1970s, psychotherapists developed the Stages of Change Model which identified that, whatever the addiction, people needed to go through the same steps to achieve change (1). Understanding this process will help to explain how Delamere’s unique approach can help you through and beyond addiction.

Stage 1: Pre-contemplation

At this stage, a person may not even realise that their addiction is problematic. They may also be in denial, unable to understand the implications or impact of their actions. Whether it’s everyday drinking that’s out of control or a dependence on illegal or prescription drugs, people in this stage can only see the negatives of quitting their addictive behaviour rather than the positives. They simply aren’t ready to take action and don’t recognise they need help. This can be especially hard on family members and friends.

At this point, staging an intervention may be the only way to help someone you love. At Delamere, we offer a range of intervention services and work closely with families to get people the individualised treatment they need. If you notice that someone’s addiction is having negative consequences on their work, relationships, safety or mental health, please get in touch in complete confidence and find out how we can help.

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Stage 2: Contemplation

During the contemplation stage a person might start toying with the idea of changing their addictive behaviour. They will weigh up the pros and cons of altering their approach to alcohol, drugs or other addictions, such as compulsive eating, gambling or gaming. At this point, they are ‘getting ready’ to make a change but still finding reasons to stick with the status quo. Contemplation usually begins around six months before someone decides to reach for help which is the key to beginning the recovery process.

There are many reasons preventing someone from asking for help. They may feel ashamed or guilty. They might worry about the impact on their job or family. It can sometimes seem easier to just weather the storm themselves. This is where Delamere’s holistic therapists can offer unrivalled support. Even if you’re still contemplating embarking on a recovery programme, they can offer non-judgemental advice to guide you on the right path.

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Stage 3: Preparation

This is sometimes referred to as the ‘determination’ stage because it’s the point at which someone is ready to take action in the immediate future. It could start with taking small steps to change their behaviour at home, such as giving up drinking or drugs, but this can result in dangerous withdrawal symptoms if someone is physically and mentally addicted. You can support a person you love in their pursuit of overcoming addiction by helping them to get professional treatment.

A residential rehab programme at our state-of-the-art facility beside Delamere forest encompasses everything from a medical drug or alcohol detox, to one-to-one counselling and group therapy sessions. Deciding to take action is the first step to a successful recovery and we can get you there.

Stage 4: Action

During the ‘action’ stage, a person has recognised they have a problem and been brave enough to do something about it. At this point, they may have decided to commit to a residential rehab programme that will help them to overcome the mental and physical addiction to drugs, alcohol or another addiction, while also developing new strategies to change their old habits and adopt healthier behaviours.  

At Delamere, we focus on each person individually and look at their life as a whole to determine the best recovery strategy. People respond differently to therapeutic treatment which is why we offer a wide range of options, from somatic healing to grounding techniques. We identify triggers and help our guests to develop coping mechanisms that they can use while they stay with us and in life beyond our retreat. 

Stage 5: Maintenance

Recovering from an addiction isn’t like getting over a cold. Active recovery takes discipline, determination and ongoing support to prevent relapse. When someone has been in recovery for six months and has managed to sustain their behaviour change, they are in the ‘maintenance’ stage. Using the tools they have learned to cope with challenging situations will help a recovering alcoholic or person with a history of substance abuse to remain abstinent in the years to come.

As well as the coping tools we develop with our guests, Delamere offers a comprehensive aftercare treatment for 12 months which includes access to our clinical therapy team for one-to-one support along with group therapy sessions for peer-to-peer guidance. We’re also here to offer continued support to friends and family members who want to help someone in active recovery.

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How can Delamere help with addiction recovery?

We can help at every stage of the recovery process. Whether you have a family member who hasn’t yet recognised they have a problem or someone struggling with alcohol or drug abuse who needs to find a new direction, Delamere is ready to support you. We can prepare you for what’s to come with a clinically managed detox and individualised therapy in the restorative surroundings of our retreat.

We take a unique three-step approach to treatment for alcohol addiction and  drug addiction, which enables our guests to stop destructive behaviours, start the healing process and grow beyond addiction. The programme is challenging and varied with no two days the same. You will leave feeling invigorated with a renewed sense of self and lust for life. It is rare for someone to have no desire to return to unhealthy behaviours, but we hope that with our guidance and ongoing support, you will remain in active recovery for life. 


1. Wayne W. LaMorte, MD, OhD, MPH. The Transtheoretical Model (stages of change). Boston University School of Public Health. Sep 9, 2019.

About the author: Dr Terry Spokes

Dr Terry Spokes, Outcomes Director and Head of Recovery. Terry, a clinical psychologist tracks outcomes here at Delamere and heads up our therapy team.

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