In honor of National Recovery Month, we thought we should focus on why the stages of recovery. It is important to know that recovery is a process – not just a final solution to addiction. You cannot simply snap your fingers and be “cured” of your dependence. Instead, recovery happens slowly and cannot often be rushed by outsiders.

An addict will work his or her way through the stages of recovery when the time is right. Whenever that time may be. And, as they begin, an ebb and flow will begin to occur. Perhaps that is why when an addict finds his or way into stage one, into treatment, or on a more positive path, every move forward is cause for a celebration. After all, each step builds on the one before it and you have to take one to reach the next.

When you are referring to actions taken in recovery and stages completed, the celebration is almost two-fold. Not only are you proud of the progress you have made, but you have a bright road ahead waiting for you, too. With new obstacles, new challenges, new surprises, and new rewards.

So, let’s take some time to look at these stages and applaud the accomplishment it takes to move from one to the next.

Stage One: Early Awareness

You have likely heard that admitting that you have a problem is the first step in recovery. Well, it’s often true – and this is the stage where you will find that. Here, individuals are discovering that they may have a problem. They are coming to realizations about their addiction and their skewed reality. And, as these realizations come, an awakening begins to stir inside.

Typically, this stage begins after talks with friends or loved ones. Or, after an encounter with a difficult situation or traumatic experiences, such as a health or financial situation.

However it happens or whatever it takes to get here, stage one is where this early awareness comes into mind and a seed is planted.

No action is taken at this time.

Stage Two: Consideration

When an addict contemplates their situation long enough, they will begin to want to learn more. This may begin with a desire to learn about addiction or about how it impacts those around them. It could also be a time of inward focus on the poor choices and decisions that have been made, as well as an outward focus on the pain that these choices have caused others.

Considering treatment and seeking help is the name of the game in stage two. Coming to the realization that something needs to be done to change the current situation makes an addict ready to take action.

Stage Three: Action and Exploration

Ready, set, go! Stage three is where all the action happens. Once the right amount of thought and consideration is put into an addiction, the action is almost inevitable. The individual begins to want the change as badly as it is needed.

One will begin to explore options, learning about what treatment is available. They may also make attempts to slow down their usage, in a personal attempt to focus on moderation. You will find that it is common to seek information on the recovery process – as well as the withdrawal procedures. This craving for knowledge is what leads to action.

Often times, actively seeking help occurs. Facilities will be sought after, looking for the best fit.  And, it is during this stage that there is usually an agreement to enter treatment.

What a time to celebrate – despite the long road ahead.

Stage Four: Early Recovery

In stage four, there will be a desire to celebrate all accomplishments while keeping eyes wide-open for danger. Early recovery requires great strength, as it leaves the individual completely vulnerable. It is important to applaud oneself for all the hard work that’s been completed. Completing treatment isn’t easy – and doing so should be celebrated.

But, life goes on and one must return to the real world. It is during this time when life, as it was known, is altered – old friends, habits, and activities are replaced with new, sober-friendly replacements. However, in the beginning, everything is going to seem so new. There will be aneed to be equipped with a backpack full of positive tools and skills that can help one succeed at every turn.

Relapse is real, and it is very common at this stage.

Choosingthe dismount from treatment properly- and with a plan- is key. Options such as choosing to go home or choosing a sober living facility should be part of that plan. The goal here is to gather up a support group, develop a set of healthy habits, and muster the strength to squash stage four and slowly slide toward stage five.

Stage Five: Active Recovery and Maintenance

Reaching recovery never ends. An addict is always on the quest to remain sober and healthy, avoiding addiction and harm. Reaching maintenance, however, means that stability has been reached. All the tears, pain, and hard work is paying off.

During the last and final stage, a transformation has occurred. Life likely looks nothing at all like it did before treatment. Armed with a variety of coping skills and tools, those who reach this stage are ready to fight to remain in recovery for the rest of their lives.

Thought patterns, habits, and behaviors are different. There is a positive light on life– one that has reformed the mind, body, and soul into a powerful, positive, sober being. While a support system and a focus on triggers are going to always be needed, this is the time when the chance of relapse begins to decrease, and a greater sense of stability makes its presence known.

Recovery requires constant determination. In celebrating National Recovery Month, you should celebrate all of those around you – including yourself – for taking the next step. Whether you are in stage one, stage five, or somewhere in between, you have something to celebrate.