Alcohol Addiction & Rehab

Stages of Recovery: What to Expect On the Road to Sobriety

Stages of Recovery

The moderate consumption of alcohol is supposed to be good for you. This is especially true for red wine when it’s part of a healthy lifestyle and diet.

For many individuals, though, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is impossible. Instead, they struggle every day with alcohol addiction. In fact, about 15.1 million Americans are alcohol abusers, and this number doesn’t include people who binge drink on weekends or at special events.

If you have faced this battle, you know what a monumental decision it is to become sober. But what happens after that decision? What are the alcoholic recovery stages you have to go through?

Knowing what to expect makes the process a lot easier. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the stages of recovery. Let’s go!

Recovery Phases: An Overview

Recovering from alcoholism is an individual process. Factors such as how long you were drinking, your mental health, and your home life all influence how long it will take you to heal. And whether it is a smooth or difficult process.

Even so, there are standard timelines when you decide to become sober. This article will explore the first year of sobriety, breaking it up into three-month periods.

In the next section, let’s look at the first three months of being sober.

Alcoholic Recovery Stages: The First Three Months

This phase of recovery begins with the active and positive decision not to drink anymore. Inpatient treatment programs generally last three months. Because of this, we will limit our discussion in this section using that deadline.

Alcohol Withdrawal

After deciding to become sober, you enter detoxification, which is commonly referred to as detox. This is your body, especially your nervous system, adjusting to the sudden absence of alcohol.

It can begin as little as six hours after your last drink and is usually over three to five days later. For some people, though, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can linger for weeks.

Regardless, detox is mentally and physically grueling. It can also be dangerous and should never be attempted without medical supervision.

Adjusting to Sobriety

Once the physical detoxification process is complete, you can begin acquiring the tools to help maintain sobriety. The first three months of recovery are an active stage.

Action plans are made, and you are working hard to develop and maintain new, positive habits.

This is the time to address the physical destruction alcohol caused. Individuals in recovery might work with a dietitian to craft a diet and exercise plan. Foods that benefit and repair the liver are especially important since many recovering alcoholics have some form of liver damage.

The physical recovery from alcohol is just the beginning, though. Recovering addicts have psychological, social, and behavioral problems that need to be addressed.

There are many different kinds of treatment programs where they can get help. These include:

  • long-term residential treatment
  • short-term residential treatment
  • outpatient treatment programs
  • individual counseling
  • group therapy
  • 12-step programs

Working through the reasons that caused the drinking is challenging, both mentally and physically. It is even more difficult because depression is very common at this point in the recovery.

Excessive alcohol consumption lowers the number of neurotransmitters your brain produces, especially serotonin. It takes a while for the brain to recover after the alcohol disappears, and without the correct amount of serotonin, recovering addicts often feel depressed.

At any point in the process, relapse is possible. The physical demands of detox, guilt over damage done to personal relationships, or depression are all motivations to begin drinking.

Not everyone goes through the recovery process in a straight line. Relapse can be discouraging, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try again.

Alcoholic Recovery Stages: Three to Six Months

During the next phase, all the new behaviors and habits developed during the first three months are maintained. It is during this time they become second-nature.

But the problems that loomed large during early recovery may not seem like the big struggle at this point. Indeed, it is during the fourth month that you might be released from an inpatient center.

Returning home, setting your own schedule, and interacting with old friends can create new sets of problems.

Your spouse and family may have a schedule or dynamic that doesn’t support your new goals. Communication is key to fixing that dynamic.

Furthermore, old friends you were glad to see might now seem unhealthy. Maybe they are drinkers and don’t support your sobriety. Or they don’t give you the positive feedback you need to keep going.

For all these reasons, you might have to make some changes during this time. In fact, the most successful sober alcoholic behavior focuses on friends and relationships that support their new goals. Avoiding triggers is essential to success, and unfortunately, sometimes these triggers are old friends or situations.

It is important at this point to find new ways to have fun that don’t involve drinking.

Alcoholic Recovery Stages: Six Months to a Year

This last phase continues where you left off. Many of the healthy habits learned during the last six months are second-nature.

It is important, though, to make sure you have a support system in place. While it may be tempting to feel like you are done with recovery, a crisis will inevitably occur for which you will need help and support.

Whether an alcoholic can recover completely is controversial. The longer you go without drinking, though, the less chance you have of relapsing.

Conclusion: Stages of Recovery

That’s the first year of sobriety, then. The stages of recovery progress from the important decision to stop drinking to the maintenance of a new and healthy lifestyle. It can be hard to stop drinking, but it’s also completely possible to get through the stages of recovery.

If this article affected you, maybe you are thinking you need support. We are happy to help you get the proper treatment you need to lead a sober, productive life.

Please feel free to reach out to us! We would love to hear from you.

About the author

Dr. Michael Carlton, MD.

Leading addictionologist, Michael Carlton, M.D. has over 25 years of experience as a medical practitioner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and returned for his MD from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1990. He completed his dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and his Fellowship in Toxicology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

He has published articles in the fields of toxicology and biomedicine, crafted articles for WebMD, and lectured to his peers on medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Carlton was a medical director of Community Bridges and medically supervised the medical detoxification of over 30,000 chemically dependent patients annually.

Leave a Comment

Have an addiction specialist help you.
Find the treatment you deserve!