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Navigating the Waves of Addiction 

 February 5, 2024

By  Kerryn Ashford Hatherly

A Journey Through the Stages of Change

The Stages of Change model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, acknowledges that the process of behavioural change is not always linear, and individuals may move back and forth between stages. It’s a dynamic and cyclical process where people might revisit earlier stages or skip stages altogether.

Embarking on the path to addiction recovery is a transformative journey, marked by distinct stages that guide individuals toward lasting change. At our Specialist Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Service, we understand the complexities of addiction and the importance of recognizing and navigating the stages of change. In this blog, we will delve into the five stages of change model, shedding light on the unique challenges and triumphs individuals may encounter on their recovery journey.

1 - Precontemplation

The initial stage of precontemplation is characterized by a lack of awareness or acknowledgment of the addiction issue. Individuals in this stage may not recognize the negative impact of their substance use on themselves and others. Questions you may consider during this time are:

  • Awareness:
    • Have you taken the time to honestly reflect on your substance use and its impact on your life?
    • Are there aspects of your behaviour that you might be overlooking or denying?
  • Information Gathering:
    • What do you know about the potential risks and consequences of your substance use?
    • Are you open to learning more about the effects of addiction on physical and mental health?
  • Self-Reflection:
    • How do you envision your life without the influence of substances?
    • What are some concerns or fears you have about making a change?

2 - contemplation

In the contemplation stage, individuals begin to recognize the need for change but may feel ambivalent about taking action. Our AOD specialists work collaboratively with clients, exploring the pros and cons of change and helping them weigh the significance of recovery in their lives.

  • Ambivalence:
    • What are the pros and cons of continuing with your current substance use patterns?
    • How do you feel about the idea of making a change, and what emotions does it bring up?
  • Importance of Change:
    • What aspects of your life would improve if you were to overcome your addiction or make changes to your use?
    • How does your substance use align with your values and long-term goals?
  • Commitment:
    • What steps are you willing to take to explore the possibility of change?
    • Are you open to seeking support or professional guidance at this stage?

3 - Preparation

As people move into the preparation stage, they actively plan for change, making commitments and setting concrete goals. The MATRIX Program can play a crucial role in providing a Comprehensive Full Assessment to helping individuals develop a personalized recovery plan, which may include supportive referrals to detox (if required); engagement within the MATRIX Program; and/or 1:1 counselling with an Alcohol and Other Drug Specialist for the person in recovery, as well as for their support systems. Things to consider when preparing for change:

  • Setting Goals:
    • What specific, measurable goals do you want to achieve in your recovery journey?
    • How can you break down your larger goals into manageable, actionable steps?
  • Building Support Systems:
    • Who in your life can provide support and encouragement during this process?
    • Have you communicated your intentions to make a change with those closest to you?
  • Skills Development:
    • What coping mechanisms or life skills do you need to develop to navigate challenges?
    • Are there resources or programs that can help you build these skills? The MATRIX Program can provide a full assessment to assist in developing an individualised treatment plan.

4 - Action

The action stage marks the initiation of behavioural changes. People actively implement their recovery plans, engaging in treatment, adopting healthier habits, and working towards sustained sobriety. MATRIX Program specialists provide ongoing support, education, monitoring progress, and helping individuals navigate challenges that may arise during this crucial phase. Some things to initiate during this stage:

  • Behavioural Changes:
    • What specific changes are you making in your daily life to support your recovery?
    • How do you plan to cope with triggers and cravings as they arise?
  • Progress Monitoring:
    • How are you tracking your progress, and what milestones have you achieved so far?
    • What adjustments might be necessary in your recovery plan based on your experiences?
  • Seeking Support:
    • How are you utilizing the support systems available to you, such as friends, family, or support groups?
    • Are you open to professional guidance through therapy or counseling?

5 - Maintenance

In the maintenance stage, individuals work to sustain the positive changes made during the action phase. The MATRIX Program emphasize the importance of ongoing self-care, relapse prevention strategies, and continued support from their networks. For those that complete the Program an optional “Graduates Program” is available. This includes access to specific groups targeted at the challenges faced by people and their support systems in ongoing recovery; access to return to MATRIX core groups as required, as well as access to a closed section of our website.

  • Long-Term Vision:
    • How do you see your life evolving as you continue to maintain your recovery?
    • What steps can you take to ensure that your commitment to change remains strong?
  • Self-Care Practices:
    • What self-care routines contribute to your overall well-being, and how can you incorporate them into your daily life?
    • How are you prioritizing your mental and physical health in your ongoing recovery journey?
  • Adapting to Challenges:
    • How do you plan to handle potential setbacks or challenges that may arise in the future?
    • Are you consistently reassessing and refining your strategies for maintaining sobriety?

Relapse:  a Learning Opportunity

Relapse is not uncommon in the recovery process, and it is essential to view it as a part of the journey rather than a failure. Reflective questions during and after a relapse include:

  • What triggers or stressors contributed to the relapse, and how can I address them differently in the future?
  • What coping mechanisms can I strengthen to better navigate challenging moments?
  • How can I use this experience as an opportunity for growth and renewed commitment to my recovery?

The MATRIX program provides relapse analysis sessions should relapses occur during the program to ensure that the individual is supported to look at these questions and more and formulate a strengthened recovery plan.

Understanding the stages of addiction recovery provides a roadmap for individuals seeking change. The MATRIX Program is a non residential treatment program for those wanting to choose abstinence from Drugs and/or Alcohol. It includes psycho-education, cognitive behaviour therapy, motivational interviewing, schema therapy, family and friends education evenings and contingency management to empower individuals to navigate their waves of change and embrace a fulfilling life in recovery.