“Why can’t he just stop using?“ “Why won’t she change?” These are common questions/frustrations felt by those who love and care about individuals suffering with alcohol or drug addiction. The consequences of substance abuse are immense, yet the addict often doesn’t want to recognize “life out of control” as a compelling enough reason to change. And those who do want to break free often find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of trying to stay clean, relapsing, trying again and then falling back—up and down like a “rollercoaster ride from hell.”

What many addicts and their loved ones don’t understand is that there is a specific “motivation cycle” we follow whenever we attempt to break free from unwanted behaviors and addiction. It’s known as the “Stages of Change.”


Stage #1—Precontemplation

If your loved one doesn’t want to change their addictive behavior, they’re in the “precontemplation” stage. Do any of these reasons for not wanting to change sound familiar—

•    Reluctant: “There isn’t a problem.”
•    Rebellious: “I want to live the way I want to. Don’t tell me to change.”
•    Resigned: “It’s not possible to change.”
•    Rationalizing: “There isn’t a problem because… I’m only affecting myself.”


Stage #2—Contemplation

If your loved one is open to learning about addiction and considering the possibility of change, then they are in the “contemplation” stage. It sounds something like this: “Yes, I have a problem, but it’s not really all that bad.”

If your loved one is in this stage, our professional staff at Action can help them start to understand and acknowledge the full extent and consequences of their addiction behaviors. We can help them “face the facts” head-on.


Stage #3—Determination

This is where the decision to truly commit to change and the actions required to get clean and sober is actually made. There may still be some reluctance, but the addict thinks, “It’s finally clear to me that the risks and consequences of my behavior far outweigh the benefits.” They are ready to get into a treatment program and start doing the work of recovery.

It is crucial that when your loved one is in this stage of change, they start taking action now, before they slip back into the previous stages of motivation. Do not delay the initial assessment and start of a treatment program! A plan needs to be created through which change can occur as soon as possible. This is where professional help is essential. The experienced Action team will do an initial assessment of biological, psychological, and social factors influencing the addict, so that a specific treatment plan can be developed.


Stage #4—Action

This is where the actual treatment/recovery plan is carried out. Addicts in Intensive Outpatient Programs, like those offered at Action Recovery Group, follow a detailed treatment plan. The plan includes interventions carried out by licensed and experienced professionals, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which are implemented individually and in a support group setting. A strict recovery program schedule is followed which includes life/recovery skills groups, reading and writing assignments, and much more.

When the addict and their loved ones follow the program, positive changes that are clearly visible start to take place, and confidence begins to grow. The recovering individual begins to feel, “I have hope and a growing sense of confidence in this process that is keeping me clean and sober.”


Stage #5—Maintenance

As the individual continues to “do the work of recovery,” a new positive, healthy way of life begins to unfold—but not overnight. In the “maintenance” stage of change, the addict often comments, “It’s still hard for me sometimes to not fall back into old thinking patterns, but I definitely feel my destructive behaviors decreasing and my desires to drink or use becoming less and less of an issue.

Relapse is always a possibility because there is no “cure” for alcoholism and drug addiction. This is why, after 60-90 days of an intensive outpatient program, Action Recovery Group offers clients a 2-year Aftercare program. Once or twice each week in the evenings, clients return to Action where they continue to reinforce what they have learned, gain advanced life/recovery skills, receive support from others in the group, and take the opportunity to work through any challenges that may arise in their lives.


Moving On

Eventually, an addict finds contentment with sobriety and a confidence that he or she can continue their healthy way of life without relapsing. While they no longer participate in Action’s Continuing Care program, they are highly encouraged to continue regular attendance at 12-Steps meetings in their community.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse, contact Action Recovery Group for a free initial assessment. We’ll help the individual determine exactly where they are in their “motivation cycle,” and develop a plan to get them on the road to full recovery and a healthy, happy life.

Prochaska, J.O., & DiClemente, C.C. (1984). The Transtheoretical Approach: Crossing traditional boundaries of therapy. Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin