The 4 Stages of Addiction

The 4 Stages of AddictionShape

Drug & alcohol addiction takes many different forms and shapes but has four distinct stages. Call The Forge today to see how we can help you.

Addiction recovery can seem daunting and extremely challenging before it becomes the rewarding, massive accomplishment that it is. It may be constantly shadowed by denial, guilt, and doubt. 

However, addiction to the substance itself is only part of the problem. Most of the healing from addiction is healing what lies beneath. The underlying factors that led to addiction are what demand attention, focus, and healing.

Before they seek help and professional assistance, many people who use drugs and alcohol struggle with admitting to their addiction. It may have been going on for weeks, months, and even years before some people can finally come to terms with substance abuse and how they are in dire need of help.

There are different phases of addiction that an individual goes through. These phases and everything that they bring along varies from person to person. There is nothing “textbook” about addiction; it affects everyone differently. As it progresses to a more severe stage, it has the power to change a person completely and how they perceive life. 

Stage 1: Enjoying the High

The first stage of using addictive substances is devoid of any guilt, shame, or second thoughts. Everything seems perfect, and the high seems worth the risks – if the risks are considered at all. For most individuals, the initial use starts from social gatherings, parties, weekend activities, and special events. 

This is the stage where the only real consequence of using an addictive substance or alcohol is the hangover. And quite honestly, hangovers or a bunch of embarrassing photos from the previous night don’t exactly seem like the kind of reasons why someone would remain sober during the next gathering. 

Stage 2: Guilt, Secrets, and Little Lies 

Looking back, most people cannot think of the exact moment when they slid into the second phase. This stage still involves using the addictive substances, but this time with a slightly vocal conscious every time the individual reaches for the next puff, drink, snort, or jab. 

This is the phase of self-realization, albeit a minor one. An individual may find themselves trying to convince themselves that “This is the last one for the night” or, “Just this one and then I’m done,” only to find themselves reaching for another hit or drink moments later. 

The individual may now subconsciously be counting every time they use the substance, feeling a twinge of guilt weighing them down every time. They may also be hiding the fact that they are now using more of the substance from friends or loved ones – keeping little secrets, telling little lies, and accumulating little mounds of guilt within themselves.

Stage 3: Chaos, Confusion, and Clutter 

By the third stage, most people have already experienced how their addiction has disrupted or destroyed their social, personal, and professional lives. Helpless and often numb, individuals struggling with addiction during this phase may struggle with: 

  • Trying to keep a job or maintaining a career

  • Paying bills or rent

  • Consuming a proper diet

  • Keeping in touch with friends and family

  • Keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay

  • Maintaining a routine

In this stage, an individual may only focus on finding ways to acquire more of their substance of choice to shut these things out of their mind. Phase three is plastered with lies, secrets, guilt, false promises, failed attempts at quitting, and unintentionally hurting those who try to help. 

Stage 4: When Addiction Assumes Control of Self

Stage four is easily the most severe. This is when the substance an individual is addicted to assumes control of their life, dictating their decisions, actions, and overall routine. Their day revolves around that puff, snort, shot, or jab – at this point, their want for the substance has turned into an acute need.

This is when more people hit the absolute lowest in their lives – rock bottom. At this phase, they may only make it out and into recovery with the help of family members, loved ones, or professionals. The substance, the chemical changes that it induces within the brain and body, and the thoughts that come with it can render a person entirely incapable of making any rational decisions. 

Overcoming Addiction

A combination approach involving medical treatments, behavioral therapy, support groups, and most importantly, the presence of family and loved ones can turn things around. 

Addiction recovery is a tough road to tread on, one that is teeming with hindrances and obstacles at every corner, but it is anything but impossible. Courage, dedication, and willpower make it possible for even the most avid users to lead a sober life for themselves and their loved ones. 

Many men and women manage to get the help they need before they reach the fourth stage. The sooner one admits to having a problem, the faster one will be able to rid themselves of substance dependency. Denial takes you further and further away from reality and deeper into the chasms of addiction. 

Understanding the different stages of addiction can help those who use substances realize the consequences of their “occasional” usage before it turns into a problem. Addiction is not acute; it is built from the ground up. It always starts from one drink, puff, snort, or recreational jab that eventually becomes the one thing a person looks forward to every day.

At The Forge Recovery Center, we are here to help you recover from addiction, no matter what stage you are in. Based in Orange County, CA, we are a drug and alcohol rehab provider which establishes strong foundations for long-term drug and alcohol recovery for you or your loved one. Our combination of group and therapeutic connections helps our clients master themselves, forging new, fulfilling lives, and achieving their dreams. We’ll help you move past it. Call us today for more information.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

April 22, 2022