Stages of change in addiction

Contemplation – 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”

(You are here)


StAGE 3 -  Preparation

“I’m preparing to change very soon”


StAGE 4 -  Action

“I’ve started my change already”


StAGE 5 -  Maintenance

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

The goal of the Contemplation stage isn’t to start your change. The goal is to become more conscious about what your life’s potholes are, and what it would be like to fill them in. 

Important things to know about this stage:

  • People in this stage are already aware of the problem, and seriously considering a change.
  • You can be in this stage for days or years depending on how much attention you bring to your habit, and what life throws at you (threat of separation, a DUI, etc.).
  • It’s normal to consider a change, but not feel ready. Don’t feel guilty about that.
  • Remember that everyone who you see make a change had to pass through this stage before they got there.
  • Unfortunately, most of the world doesn’t know the Stages of Change model and will judge people in this stage as being a procrastinator, lazy, or resistant. But if we apply this model, you can see it’s simply because they don’t feel ready. You can’t expect people to take action if they don’t feel ready to.
  • One of the reasons people get stuck in this stage is that they aren’t sure whether it’s worth it. It’s typical in this stage to have roughly equal pros and cons for change.
  • Still hard on yourself? Think about this: we all know what makes sense to be healthy (eat well, exercise, go to bed on time, etc.). But almost nobody does even the basics. We all struggle with making changes that make sense on the surface.

How to move forward in this stage:

  • You already have some reasons to change. It’s time to notice more about how those things impact your life.
  • Try to notice things your habits affects that you don’t already know. The more reasons you have to change the stronger your chance will be. If you aren’t sure, get other people’s perspectives on your habit. They may not be right, but they can at least be clues to consider.
  • A yoga expert shouldn’t judge people for not practicing yoga. That “expert’s” job is to first help people understand why yoga matters for that person to begin with. Help should always match where that person is in life.
  • In reality some part of you is actually ready, but more of you is not. Listen to the part of you that’s ready. The part that hopes the rest of your brain stops for long enough to do something.

Take a few minutes to think about these questions:

  • What would life look like if you took care of your habit?
  • What will life look like if you don’t take care of your habit?
  • What will it take to feel more ready for a behavior shift?
  • Are you afraid to challenge yourself?
  • If you tried to change before, how did that go?
  • We all have our inner demons. What internal barriers get in the way of taking action on what you already know is best? (afraid of people finding out, afraid of being judged, afraid you’ll fail)
  • What external barriers get in the way of taking action on what you already know is best? (family responsibilities, work obligations, time, no supports, supports that sabotage you, etc.)


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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