Stages of change in addiction

Preparation – 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”

(You are here)


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 Preparation stage isn’t to start your change. The goal is to look at your life’s potholes methodically, and figure out what approach will fill them in. 

Important things to know about this stage:

  • People in this stage already have enough reasons to change (pros outweigh the cons), and genuinely intend to do so. Congrats on being at that point!
  • Before you take steps to change, you need to take steps to prepare for change.
  • It’s normal (and often wise) to look into options and imagine your next steps before jumping in.
  • It’s not procrastination if you’re genuinely preparing.
  • This is a time that can be exciting because of the dreams of what a change will bring, but scary since the next step is to actually do something.
  • One of the reasons people get stuck in this stage is that they don’t have good supports, or are afraid to talk to people and ask for help.

How to move forward in this stage:

  • You probably already have some plan. Think about what will turn those rough ideas into a solid plan for permanent changes.
  • Look for more ways to feel prepared (like who you can turn to for support, how to make time and space for something new, who needs to know about your plans, etc.)
  • Support is nice, but you need guidance you can trust. Figure out what type of help matches your style.
  • Accountability can help you move from preparation to action. This works best when they are consequences you create for yourself. Other people’s rules will often throw us on the defense and make our effort feel like punishment.  
  • Think about who to involve, and how to set up a conversation around your habit with them. That conversation should come at a calm time, and be a special moment to share your commitment to change.
  • Find help that understands you aren’t changing yet, but you are preparing for it. Anyone who expects that you’re already changing may make you feel pressured or like a failure.

Take a few minutes to think about these questions:

  • What will it take to feel more confident and prepared?
  • Is there something you can add to your plan to make it more fun and exciting?
  • Who might be able to help guide or support you in your preparation (without making you feel judged for not changing already)?
  • Are you afraid to challenge yourself with action?
  • 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.)
  • How am I going to decide who to trust as my guide? (a professional, someone with experience, someone that has offered help that feels suited for 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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