Addiction follows a very specific process. It does not matter if you are addicted to an over-the-counter medication, heroin, marijuana or alcohol, the addiction process remains the same. Understanding the five steps of addiction may help you enter into recovery faster or help save someone that is suffering with an addiction.
Step 1 – Experimental Process
his is often seen as the harmless use of drugs or alcohol. During this process you may find yourself trying a drug or alcohol to be socially accepted, to cure a problem such as a pain event you are experiencing, or out of sheer curiosity. You may get a “pain killer” from a friend for a really bad headache and then overly appreciate the effects of the pill. You may sit down to have a few drinks to celebrate something with a family member even though you do not regularly drink. You may even find that certain over-the-counter meds give you a physical feeling that makes you feel like you are great. Each time you’re experimenting with drugs and alcohol and truly enjoy the results, you are at risk for addiction.
Step 2 – Social Use and Interaction
As a person becomes more comfortable with their substance use, they will place themselves in more situations where using their substance is acceptable This means that many people will start shifting their friendships at this point to be around people that actively use the same type of substance or are open to its use. Many people working in drug rehabilitation centers also call this stage the “acceptance” stage because people seek out acceptance for their substance use.
Step 3- Risky Behaviors
Now that the person is actively using the substance, they start to make decisions that would otherwise be considered risky to them. These types of behaviors include:
- Making poor financial decisions like paying their bills so that they have more money for their drugs or alcohol use
- Missing work because of inability to wake up or being able to function enough to work
- Going into risky areas to acquire more of the substance that you use
- Breaking laws to acquire more of the substance that you use
- Having unprotected sex, sharing needles or other similar issues that could lead to serious health risks
- Driving while under the influence
- Binge use of the substance that eventually leads to continual use
Other risky behaviors also can occur, this list is only the most common issues seen by people that work with people suffering from addictions.
At this point in the addiction, you may also notice the following behavioral changes in the person suffering with the addiction:
- Withdraw from family and friends
- Health issues that crop up unexpectedly
- Depression, anxiety or severe agitation that was never present before
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Loss of interest in things that were once important
Step 4 – Complete Physical and Emotional Dependency
Once you have passed through the first three stages, the next stage is complete dependency. At this point, your body can no longer function without the substance. When you are not using the drugs or alcohol, you suffer from physical withdrawal symptoms. Your body only feels “good” when you are under the influence.
You will also experience emotional or psychological addiction as well. You believe that you can not function without the substance or reached a point where you no longer want to function without using. You have become emotionally dependent on what the drugs “does for you” and you become anxious and afraid when not using.
It is at this point that you are at the most risk because you will do anything to keep using the drugs or alcohol. Thankfully, there is one more step to addiction.
Step 5 – Recovery
The final step of addiction is in fact the best. It is when a person decides that they want to enter into recovery. It is a point in their lives when they realize that the substance that they have been using is not actually providing them relief but actually controlling their life. It is at that point when Step 5 can officially begin.
Recovery is a multi-step process and requires the assistance of a professional and quality addiction recovery center. Why does it require rehab to enter into recovery? Simple, drug rehab and alcohol rehab provides you with a support system that you need to break your addiction.
A rehab center can provide you with the security, medical care, and emotional support you need to overcome your addiction. It is the most logical choice to overcoming any type of substance abuse problem.
A Thought About Recovery
Think about it, the recovery process is very similar to the addiction process. You begin by experimenting with what it is like to function without the substance in your body. You experiment with different thoughts and feelings while your body detoxes from the substance and you learn what you like and what you do not like while you are sober.
The next step is associating with people who accept these choices. Working with a caring addiction counselor, you will surround yourself with other people in the program that accept your choice to enter into recovery and give you the acceptance you desire for living substance-free.
The next step would include “risky” behavior. You will start acting in ways that are in your best interest instead of in the interest of getting more of the substance that was your addiction. You will start doing things that you have not done in a long time and you will find that you want to do them more often.
The next step in recovery is total recovery. It is when you are physically free of the substance and have learned how to function socially again. It is when you are in control of your health, your emotions and your life. You are now completely “addicted” to your new life.
The final stage, Stage 5, is continued practice of what you learned in the rehabilitation centers programs. Through continued support systems you have mastered recovery.