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The Stages of Change in an Outpatient Alcohol Program

outpatient alcohol program

More than 14 million Americans aged 12 and over have an alcohol use disorder. So if you are struggling with alcohol addiction, you are not alone.

Nevertheless, alcohol addiction can have a huge impact on your life. It can make it difficult to maintain financial stability, work, or sustain personal relationships. This can also affect your emotional wellbeing — in fact, around 63% of people struggling with alcohol addiction also suffer from depression. 

Fortunately, help is at hand. An outpatient alcohol program provides support while you change your relationship with alcohol. This includes practical support with withdrawal symptoms and counseling to address your addiction. 

If you are concerned about alcohol addiction, then you are already engaging in the early stages of recovery. So what do these stages of change involve? Read on to find out more.

What is an Outpatient Alcohol Program?

Rehab clinics run outpatient programs to support people overcoming various substance-use disorders. This includes alcohol addictions. 

As an outpatient, you will have regular appointments with a clinic to support your recovery. However, you will live at home or in a supported living facility for the duration of your treatment versus inpatient treatment. 

The Importance of Stages in Alcohol Recovery

Seeking professional support can increase your chances of successfully managing alcohol addiction.

However, tackling your relationship with alcohol involves more than cutting it out completely. In fact, treatment for alcohol use involves much more than stopping drinking.

While this might be your ultimate goal, it is important that you have a deeper understanding of your relationship with alcohol first. This will help you make a long-term change and stick to sobriety in the future.

Because of this, it is important to understand the stages of change involved in alcohol recovery. Some of these start long before you join an outpatient program and others continue throughout the program.

Each of these stages builds on the last and helps you focus on the factors at play in your individual journey. Understanding which stage you are at in your journey can help you recognize what you need in terms of support. This will also help you be proactive about your recovery so that you can move on to the next stage.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the stages of recovery.

Stage 1: Precontemplation

Precontemplation usually begins long before you think about getting help with addiction recovery. In fact, most people in the precontemplation stage will be in serious denial about their addiction. 

This is usually due to one of the following reasons: 

  • Reluctance to change your habits or lack of awareness of the impact it is having on your life
  • The use of alcohol to rebel against pressures in your life and exercise control
  • A feeling of resignation about your ability to change, especially if you have struggled with substance abuse for a long time 
  • Your ability to rationalize your drinking in a way that you feel comfortable with

During this stage, loved ones may try to address your drinking with you. However, you will often deflect these conversations or make excuses for your drinking. You may also find yourself avoiding certain people to prevent these conversations from happening at all.

Stage 2: Contemplation 

Over time, you may become more aware of the negative impact that your drinking is having on your life. Or you might notice more people trying to talk to you about it. 

This can be a difficult time. After all, admitting that there is a problem can be very scary and signals that it might be time to make a change. 

However, people in the contemplation stage do not tend to act on this impulse just yet. Instead, you might find yourself: 

  • Researching the signs of alcohol addiction
  • Reflecting on whether or not these affect your life 
  • Looking at treatment options for people struggling with addiction
  • Making lists of how alcohol has affected your life
  • Weighing up the pros and cons of drinking versus not drinking

Generally, this is something that you do privately, and it can take a long time to reflect on the factors at play.

Stage 3: Preparation or Determination

The first two stages of recovery are vital, as they let you reach a place where you want to make a change in your life. Without this, it can be difficult to commit to an addiction recovery program. 

The determination stage comes when you decide it is time to make a change. At this stage, you are committing to action, even if you don’t know what this involves yet. Usually, the cons of drinking have started to outweigh its pros. 

At this stage, you may start to open up and reach out for support. You may admit to your loved ones that you want to make a change. 

It is also a good idea to reach out to healthcare professionals or support lines. They will be able to give you more information on where you can turn to for professional support.

Stage 4: Action 

The action stage is fairly self-explanatory. This is where you take practical steps to make a change and a huge part of this involves seeking outpatient drug and alcohol treatment. 

You may have done a lot of research during the contemplation and preparation stages of change. However, during the action stage, you start reaching out for support from the organizations you have researched.

This might involve: 

  • Asking your doctor to refer you for substance use disorder treatment
  • Joining a local AA or NA group 
  • Reaching out to your insurer to find out what sort of coverage you have 
  • Joining an outpatient treatment program

Other practical steps might involve addressing your addiction in your daily life. For example, you might make a list of places that can trigger your addiction and choose to avoid these places. Or you might take some time off work to focus on your recovery.

If you feel like it, you can also open up to close friends about the journey you are about to start. Having this sort of support outside an outpatient program can really help. It ensures that people are sensitive to the process that you are going through.

Stage 5: Maintenance 

Acknowledging that you want to make a change is an amazing step on the road to recovery. Nevertheless, it is important to be patient with yourself during this process. 

Sustaining your want to change requires serious commitment. After all, there is no quick fix when it comes to addiction recovery. 

The maintenance stage usually starts during outpatient addiction treatment. However, it should continue for years after this.

This involves acknowledging your triggers and the emotional ties that you have with alcohol. It also involves adapting to these and acclimatizing to a life without alcohol. 

You may find that some relationships change or that you enjoy certain activities less. Most people also find that this process of adaptation becomes easier with time.

This happens as you regain control over your addiction, and so the threat it poses to your life becomes less dangerous. This may mean that you feel more confident spending time in situations that would have been very triggering in the past. For example, you may find it easier to socialize in bars or go to the work Christmas do again!

It is important to note that relapse can be a big part of the maintenance stage. A lot of people wrongly view relapses as failures and think that they will have to restart an intensive outpatient program all over again. However, this puts a lot of pressure on you emotionally and doesn’t reflect the true nature of addiction recovery. 

It can help to think of addiction as a chronic condition, like asthma or a heart condition. These conditions can change over time and require constant support and (importantly) adaptation.

So don’t view returning to outpatient alcohol treatment as a sign of failure. This is an important part of recovery from addiction.  

Get Support For Alcohol Addiction Today

As you can see, the road to recovery from alcohol addiction can be a long one. This varies a lot depending on your individual experiences. But, for most people, this involves going through various stages of change. 

If you are looking for support with alcohol addiction recovery, help is at hand. Get in touch today to find out more about the New Life Recovery outpatient alcohol program. We’re here to help.