Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC

Stages of Change Addiction or Alcoholism

Everyone always thinks that once a person “admits they have a problem” then they will automatically start getting better.

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that.  Let’s start with “admitting they have a problem.”

Coming out of denial actually happens in stages.  It is not like all the sudden the light bulb comes on and it’s all good.  This is a much more gradual process.  Usually a person begins to see that they have some problems and stressors but they don’t connect this with their use/drinking.  For example they may think, “my boss is always on my case,” “my wife is uber critical and I can’t ever please her,”  or “my anxiety is really bad these days.”  Although, it may seem clear to everyone else that these things are the result of the person’s drinking/using, the person will focus on the external problem and resist making that connection.

In the next phase of “coming out of denial,” the person may say things like “I am a problem drinker” or identify themselves as a heavy drinker, but not go so far as to think of themselves as a full on alcoholic.  Trust me, people and their families will call it ANYTHING else before they think it is addiction/alcoholism.  They would much rather believe it is bipolar disorder or schizophrenia rather than a substance use disorder.

During this stage they may try to cut back on their use, but it is unlikely that they will think they need to stop altogether.

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