Precontemplation. People at this stage usually are not intending to take action in the near future and may not be aware their behavior is problematic. Precontemplators may show up in therapy or mutual-help groups under duress-pressure from spouses, employers, parents or courts. They resist change and usually place responsibility for their problems on external factors such as genetics, family society and the legal system.

At this stage I saw my drinking as a complete solution to all my problems. There would be occasional problems and some people would tell me that I should cut down or that it has become the only thing that I do but drinking was so great that I saw that as a threat. I would ignore anything bad about my habit.

Contemplation. People start weighting the benefits and costs of change and may experience the mixed feelings-ambivalence-that people normally feel about change. Many find that writing down the benefits and costs of change help them decide.

I started weighting benefits/costs as soon as serious hangovers started hitting me. The pain was main factor. It was no longer that drinking has provided me purely just pleasure. I started having hard time getting through my workday, my digestion went south and acid flux became insane. I had dui and my life was becoming complete mess. All my time was spent either drinking or trying to cure myself from hangovers. Occasionally I would have to call off from work and go to emergency room. Hiding my addiction was becoming harder and harder.

Preparation. At this stage, a person has decided their life needs to change and are open to seriously considering options. They gather information, and take small steps toward changing their behavior. They start looking towards the future and less at the past.

This stage was one of the most complicated for me. Thats when I found out how hopelessly I am addicted to alcohol. I felt defeated before I even tried to quit. I couldn’t imagine myself being sober. That was impossible! How will I live without alcohol? I remember driving by the store and fighting myself not to buy beer that night. I failed. I secretly started reading and listening to audio books on how to quit alcohol. I went to my first ever alcoholics anonymous meeting even if I was scared out of my mind. I wanted a solution. I started drinking because I didn’t know how to stop. I went on a crazy binge that ended me in the hospital. My biggest mistake at this stage was that I was trying to quit by myself. I was so isolated that asking for any kind professional help was impossible. Alcoholics anonymous didn’t do much for me. When I went to the open meetings I did love hearing war stories, they were inspiring. Actually some people do tried to to call me but my isolation had me pinned down. Nevertheless I quit for a very short time like a couple weeks but thats all I was able to accomplish. Not understanding big book truly alienated me. I felt weird in aa and it had no benefit to me. I know that people who are pro aa and I respect them, would say that my big ego and selfishness prevented me form getting it. I am sure they would claim that I wasn’t working the program neither…

Action. Here’s where a person takes the plunge. Action can take many forms, from controlled environment of inpatient treatment, to working with a professional counselor, to attending mutual-help groups, to working on their own-or some combination of these. Here’s where people try new ways to handle old situations, uncomfortable emotions, urges, and other challenges. This stage requires the greatest commitment of time and energy, but also is where new changes start to be visible to others. People in this stage usually need supportive relationships. They start substituting some new, healthier activities for old ones. Some people experience anxiety at this stage, but learn to accept a certain amount of discomfort in return for achieving their long term goals.

For me this stage started when I was allowed to go to rehab right after the hospital. I was so ready to accept and do anything it takes to change that my only obstacle was not knowing how to change. Rehab truly changed me. I started believing that I can actually battle my cravings and deal with my feelings. I am still in this stage. I am working on adopting new ways and moving towards accepting living life as a sober person.

Maintenance. People continue building confidence as they progress on the new direction of their lives. But challenges remain; unexpected temptations may require new thinking approaches. People are usually keep seeking support from those they trust and keep doing healthy activities to cope with stress.

Exit. After a long period of maintenance, most people adopt a new lifestyle consistent with their ‘new normal” behavior. Old, harmful behaviors no longer have a place in their lives. They express confidence and self-control, and live healthier, happier lives.

References: Smart recovery handbook
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