The 4 Stages of Drug & Alcohol Recovery

When a person decides to seek out professional drug and alcohol addiction help, they embark on a journey comprised of 4 unique recovery stages as they learn to develop a sober and happy future.

These stages – Initiation – Early Abstinence – Abstinence Maintenance – Advanced Recovery – were initially created by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a guide to recovery success. Below, we will summarize each stage in an effort to inform and support those considering the journey.


Upon reaching out for professional help, an addict begins the initial stage of recovery – initiation. Whether the individual is coerced by exterior forces or seeks help on their own accord, the recovery process will commence with the individual initiating professional help.

During a patient’s initial time in rehab, it’s natural to experience feelings of ambivalence toward their recovery decision. Though many patients tend to view their addictions as, “not so bad”, these feelings have the ability of threatening long-term rehabilitation success.

Early Abstinence

Once a commitment has been made to participate in the recovery process, patients enter the 2nd rehab stage – early abstinence. Of the four, early abstinence can often be the most difficult due to an array of factions, including physical cravings, withdrawal, and psychological dependence. During this stage, patients are properly educated in regard to the coping skills needed to enjoy a sober and happy life post rehab. The tools gained here will serve patients throughout the remainder of their recovery.

Abstinence Maintenance

Following a continued 90 days of sobriety, patients will graduate to the 3rd recovery stage – abstinence maintenance. Patients who have begun their recovery in a residential facility will now move to the follow-up or continuing counseling phase of the recovery program while living outside the facility grounds.

With the tools and education gained in rehab, this stage’s main focus lies in relapse prevention. Here, coping skills and tools are utilized to help repair and address various areas of the patient’s life:

-Dealing with the past

-Anger Management

-Building healthy relationships

-Nutrition and exercise


-Addiction substitution

Advanced Recovery

After a 5-year sobriety period, addicts will reach the 4th and final aspect of their recovery – advanced recovery. During this phase, addicts should be able to take the skills and tools gained throughout recovery and utilize them in achieving a happy, fulfilling and satisfying life.

Not only are addicts in advanced recovery able to maintain their sobriety, but they will also hold the skills necessary to become a healthier, involved, and well-rounded individual.

Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in learning more about the recovery process, our Above it All addiction counselors are on hand to help! Give us a call today, and get moving towards the sober, happy and exciting lifestyle you deserve!

Responsibility and AA

“I am responsible when anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help I want the hand of AA always to be there and for that: I am responsible.”

When it comes to AA it is important that once we get sober we behave responsibly and are good examples of Alcoholics Anonymous. Because the tools in sobriety were so freely given to us it is important that alcohol addiction help remain available to others through us. It is important that we give back. There are many ways we can do that such as through sponsorship, a drug addiction detox, AA, or perhaps even through volunteering at a 30 day rehab program. It’s imperative that we carry the message to others because if we didn’t and Alcoholics Anonymous wasn’t available to us then we would surely drink and to drink means to die for us. For most of us who are sober we can recall a time when we needed the help of others as well as AA and it was always there. It was there when we didn’t know how to stop drinking, when we needed a solution to this seemingly hopeless state of mind and body, and it has continued to be there for us throughout the years as we encountered rough patches in our sobriety. It is only right that we pay it forward. After all, where would we be without the people that came before us in Alcoholics Anonymous? We would probably still be lost and we definitely would have missed out on this amazing life that we come to find through sobriety; it is a life full of peace, happiness, joy, and love. It is a way of life worth passing on!