Stages of change in addiction

Maintenance – 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”


StAGE 5 -  Maintenance

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

(You are here)

The goal of the Maintenance stage isn’t to expect endless progress without more life potholes to take care of. The goal is to be aware we always have more potholes, and enjoy filling in more of them to build resilience.

Important things to know about this stage:

  • People in this stage are seeing results from their change, and working to keep it up.
  • This is the time to build on your success so new routines become reliable.
  • You might have some days where the power of self control is more rewarding than your old habit.
  • This phase can last from months to several years. The longer you can stay focused on your change, the more likely it will stay a permanent change.
  • It’s normal to sometimes feel bored or exhausted with maintaining your change. That’s OK, but it means you should consider doing something more.
  • It’s common to wonder whether you can handle certain situations again, now that you’re feeling stronger around temptations.  

How to move forward in this stage:

  • Beware of old patterns. Have respect for your past, and learn from it.
  • It takes at least six months 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 only seeing partial progress, 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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