There is a view that in some circles that addiction is something that one never makes a full recovery, with relapses being a normal part of a life-long problem that people suffer with. We simply disagree.
One of perhaps most respected scientific models of mapping the process of addiction, abstinence and relapse is the ‘stages of change’ by Prochaska & DiClemente (1983) otherwise known as the trans-theoritical model of change.
This identifies that people seem to go through similar stages and that after every relapse, there can be learning that can reduce the frequency and severity of this happening again until the cycle simply stops and the person exits this process.
There are 5 stages in this model but in our professional experience it is useful to break down stage 5 into a further step; making a total of 6 steps.
- Pre-contemplation: This is when someone is engaging in addictive behaviour with no thoughts about stopping. What is commonly called being in denial of the problem.
- Contemplation: This when there is thinking about stopping, the problems and consequences of addiction may have started to bite and the person is seriously considering that maybe they should stop.
- Action: This is when the individual has started doing something positive about their situation. Maybe they are trying to cut down, or attend NA/AA meetings or even just asking for advice from their doctor.
- Maintenance: Their action was successful and now they enjoy the positive change. Here it is possible that someone exits the addiction process for good at some point.
- Lapse: When there is a return to the addictive behaviour momentarily, this needs not be a relapse, and if the person sees it as a warning signal instead of an excuse to return to former levels of using then one can return into maintenance straight away.
- Relapse: This is a return to previous levels of use and the person returns back into stage 1 of this process and cycle repeats.
We have seen this in practice in ourselves and in our clients in over 20 years of professional experience. With the right treatment it is possible to exit the cycle and keep the positive change for long enough that not using becomes the status quo for the person and cements in their personality in a way that the chances of relapse are far less than the odds of sustained, life long recovery.
So please do yourself a favour and don’t believe the pessimists; addiction can be beaten successfully. We see this all the time.