Stages of change in addiction

Action – Stages of Change Series

Here, I’ll introduce you to an extremely important model to know about if you want to make any type of lasting change.

You have to know where you are now before you can figure out where to go next. 

We don’t jump straight from bad habits to success. Just like we all learn addition before multiplication, we need to go through a journey to change a habit. I see people make this mistake of trying to skip to the finish line all the time, and I don’t want you to waste your efforts.

I’m going to show you a more reliable way, based on science, of moving forward through your life potholes. The research on lasting behavior change reveals that it’s a process that unfolds over time through a sequence of known steps. 



StAGE 1 -  Precontemplation

“I’m not ready to change”


StAGE 2 -  Contemplation

“I’m thinking about a change”


StAGE 3 -  Preparation

“I’m preparing to change very soon”


StAGE 4 -  Action

“I’ve started my change already”

(You are here)


StAGE 5 -  Maintenance

“I’ve been doing well with my change for months already”

The goal of the Action stage isn’t to charge through your life’s potholes with willpower and force. The goal is to look at what you’re doing to fill your potholes in, and whether it’s working or not so far.

Important things to know about this stage:

  • You already know the ways your habit affects your life, and don’t need anyone to educate you on that. In fact, it might feel irritating when someone does.
  • Only about 20% of people with a bad habit are in this stage, so good for you!
  • It’s easy to come up with ideas for change. People in this stage have the courage to test those plans out.
  • Just because the change makes logical sense doesn’t mean it’s easy. Your habit was there for a reason, and that’s OK.
  • It’s normal to have doubts when you’re trying out your change, and not seeing immediate results. Long term changes require long term practice and effort.
  • A common reason people don’t succeed with this stage is a lack of immediate results. That doesn’t mean failure, it’s simply a signal. It could mean you need to be patient, or it could mean you need to try a new approach.

How to move forward in this stage:

  • It takes an average of six months in this stage to complete a change. Be patient and remember the saying: “nothing worth having comes easy.”
  • Make sure you have proper guidance and support to keep pushing through your tests. Consider friends, family, books, programs, or a professional.
  • If you are seeing success, keep doing what you’re doing! Take note of positive changes so you’re encouraged to continue them.
  • If you’re far along and doing well, challenge yourself to make it interesting and fun. Boring routines will be hard to keep in place (even though it’s something you care about).
  • If you’re trying to fill in a life pothole and not seeing success, it’s probably a sign you need to get over yourself and find more help. If it was something you could easily do on your own, you would have a long time ago.
  • Make it as easy as possible to make good choices. Try to hang out with people who are at your stage of health, or healthier. You want your success to feel normal and accepted.

Take a few minutes to think about these questions:

  • What excites you about your progress?
  • Does your routine feel boring? If so, is there a way to make it more fun?
  • Are you scared you won’t keep up your changes? If so, what might help you feel more confident?
  • We all have our inner demons. Are they making you doubt yourself? If so, what are you doing to address underlying issues?
  • Do you have external barriers in the way of your progress? (unhealthy relationships, obligations, no time, no support, etc.)
  • Are you humble enough to ask for more help or guidance when you need it?


Fill in your life’s potholes.

There is a series of potholes that always stand between where we are and where we want to be. If you want solid, long term change you need to fill in those gaps. It helps to have proper guidance so you can learn your potholes, and how to fill them in.

The most common pitfall.

It’s common for changes to be “all or none” where we want to go straight to the end result. Most self help products prey on the fact that we all have a tendency to be impatient and shortcut our way to the end. At the same time, we all know that developing a reliable and healthy underlying process is the key to long term results.

 Why don’t we all do things the right way?

Because it takes effort. More technically, it forces us to tolerate reaching our limit and feel a sense of difficulty or even failure. If you’re going to grow muscle, you simply have to do exercise that hits your limit or else your body has no reason to get stronger. It’s no different with any change. Do you wonder why people try to diet or workout for a few weeks and then fizzle? It’s because of this part of our human nature.

Anyone can apply the science of behavior change to increase their chance of progress.

We’re all unique people in different situations, so we all work at different speeds and have different barriers. But you’d be surprised at what anyone is capable of with the right process. A journalist who set out to write about people with the best memories wound up winning the US Memory Championship after learning their techniques. He didn’t win because of natural talent, but because there is so much we are all capable of when we have a strategy based on research.

Stop waiting for miracles and start doing what real change takes.

I don’t speak to you as a cheerleader or motivational speaker. People like that help inspire us, but it doesn’t stick because the change isn’t coming from within. Instead, I speak to you as a physician putting actionable information together from 1,000’s of studies funded by over $100 million of our tax dollars to research behavior change.


You’ve already taken steps towards change if you're reading this right now. Change is not some far away thing. It’s about continuing to do what you’re already doing right now.

I designed Self Recovery as your guide to easily continue incremental steps that systematically fill in your potholes. It’s all science-based, easy to access with any device, and can be done on your own time.

If you are ready to take your next step towards change, click here.

Thanks for being interested in yourself,

Daniel Hochman, MD

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