Recovery is often thought of as complicated. In many ways, it is: there are many feelings wrapped up in a proverbial ball and a lot of physical and emotional needs may have been unattended for some time. But at the same, it can also follow a typical pattern. While not everyone’s experience is exactly the same, we tend to think of recovery as following five stages:

Stage 1: Withdrawal (0-15 days)

You may sleep more, act impulsively, or feel depressed, anxious, shameful, fearful, confused, or self-doubt. Cravings to use are strong, and you may have trouble concentrating or coping with stress. You may become irritated easily with other people.

Stage 2: Honeymoon (16-45 days)

You begin to feel better physically, your energy increases, and you feel more optimistic and confident about your life. You may even begin to feel your addiction problem is under control or over and, as a result, you may want to drop out of treatment early or stop your recovery activities, such as attending NA, CA, or AA meetings or stop following the disciplines of recovery.

This may contribute to your using substances again.

Stage 3: The Wall (46-120 days)

This is seen as the major hurdle in recovery. You become more vulnerable to relapse as you feel reduced physical or sexual energy, depressed, anxious, irritable, or bored; have trouble concentrating; and feel strong cravings or thoughts about using.

Stage 4: Adjustment (121-180 days)

Once you get through the previous stages, you may feel a great sense of accomplishment. Life begins to feel like it’s leveling out  as you adjust to changes in your lifestyle.

Although your mood improves, you still continue to feel bored and may even feel lonelier than you did before if you have not developed social supports.

Cravings for your drug or behavior of choice occur less frequently and intensely, and you may begin to question whether you have an addiction. You may even put yourself in high-risk situations that increase your relapse risk.

Stage 5: Maintenance (180 days +)

In this stage, one of the primary goals should be to maintain the meetings and sober supports put in place during initial stage. You may start to feel some stability in your recovery.  If so, it may be time to get to the root of why you started using.  This can be done by talking to a therapist or other professional.  By this time, you may also be healing relationships with friends, family, your support groups, and the society. The best indicator as to how much progress you are making can be known by the feeling of balance within your mind.

What’s your path?

Each person’s path to recovery is unique to them.  The most important factor in determining a person finding a path to recovery that satisfies their needs is planning. And the most important part of planning is anticipating what’s ahead, these stages should help shed light on what to expect.

If you or a family member is in recovery, what is your experience relating to these five stages?

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Also published on Medium.