Addiction does not happen suddenly; It is a cycle of repeated use that causes a person to become dependent on an illicit substance to function normally. The pleasurable feelings that substance abuse once provided becomes a desperate attempt to prevent sickness and withdrawal symptoms. Here are the four different stages of addiction and how to break the cycle:
The Stages of Addiction
Stage One: Experimentation
Experimentation is the first stage in the development of addiction. This can occur in the younger stage of one’s life due to peer pressure to try drugs or drink alcohol. People often turn to drugs and alcohol to escape emotional trauma and use it as a way of self-medicating. In this pre-addiction stage, the appealing effects of drugs or alcohol overshadow the risks, leading one to ignore the potential consequences. This substance use can later lead to the development of physical dependency as time goes on. For some, substance abuse ends with experimentation and does not produce adverse life affects. But for others, this first stage begins a downward spiral into a dangerous and harmful substance abuse disorder.
Stage Two: Habitual Use
Experimentation shifts into the next stage of addiction development when one begins indulging in habitual use. This may cause one to develop an increased tolerance for the substance of choice, often requiring larger amounts to produce the desired effects. During this time, you may also begin experiencing illness and negative effects of substance use, which begins the cycle of abusing substances just to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Stage 3: Risky Use
Addiction truly begins to have an impact on one’s daily life at this stage. Despite the legal and social issues that may rise because of substance abuse, one continues to use drugs and alcohol. As addiction takes hold of the mind and places itself as priority, responsibilities and obligations fall behind. At this stage in addiction development, relationships become strained and behavioral issues arise.
Stage 4: Addiction
This final stage is when one becomes fully dependent on illicit substances, convinced they are necessary for continued functioning. One may find it difficult to even believe sober living is possible at this point- much less that it is achievable in their own lives. People who are active in their addiction engage in risky, compulsive behaviors and may rebel against anything that prevents their continued lifestyle. At this stage, help and intervention is vital: the only other possible end is tragedy.
How Do I Break the Cycle?
The first step in breaking the cycle of addiction is acknowledgement. The person who is abusing substances begins to recognize the damage caused by their addiction and opens themselves to the possibility of recovery. This contemplation is a vital first step to beginning the recovery journey ahead. One who is contemplating recovery may begin developing an earnest desire for change, but doesn’t know where to begin. While negative experiences as the result of substance abuse can spark the desire to change, without proper guidance or resources it can seem impossible. They may feel powerless to change their circumstances, eben in recognizing the harm being done by continued substance abuse.
The next step in breaking the cycle is to prepare for the change they want to make in their life. At this point of the journey, having access to support and resources for recovery is crucial to long-term success. Taking action in finding treatment and following through with the recovery goals begins a brand new chance at a sober life. Enrolling in a detox facility, seeking private therapy or counseling, joining local support groups, or participating in any other program will help them to effectively overcome their addiction. Through these programs, anyone can achieve addiction recovery.
The final step to fully break the cycle of addiction is the maintenance of sobriety. Long-term recovery is a continued daily commitment to making the right choices to protect your sobriety. You can find ongoing support by becoming a part of a sober living community, attending group meetings, and continuing to work with a therapist or counselor. Going through these steps will allow you to address the underlying causes of addiction and ultimately overcome it.
The support of your family can also help you to achieve recovery. Those who are experiencing addiction often feel alone on their path and need others to be there to provide comfort, companionship, and love. While the path of recovery is personal and cannot be walked for you, having others walk beside you in support and encouragement can make all the difference. Your support network can help you bridge moments of vulnerability and self-doubt without giving up on your ultimate goal of living free of substance abuse. Surround yourself with people who care for you and want to see you succeed.