How Do I Know When My Child Is Ready To Change

4 tips to stay sober during the holidays

No matter the problem: cocaine, alcohol, opioids, prescription drugs, or any other highly addictive substance. Addiction kills and causes untold trauma on the family structure. Addiction is a mental health disorder and should be treated as such. Substance Abuse Disorder compels an individual to constantly and repeatedly abuse highly addictive substances or engage in behaviors even though harmful consequences will result.

Addiction not only destroys the individual from the inside out, but it tears apart meaningful relationships, threatens a person’s career, financial status, and health and safety. It has been recorded that almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only 10% of those Americans have received treatment. Almost everyone has been impacted by addiction.

With the prominence of addiction in the American culture, it is important to know how to support our loved ones. Change is often a process. And it can look different to many. Understanding where people are in their process of their change can help us as a support group to know when to press in and when to pull back. To do that, we must know some addiction treatment lingo: The Stages of Change.


The stages of change model helps treatment professionals and family members better understand an addict’s motivation for recovery. Within the medical field, an addict must accomplish two stages of change to get to and stay on the road to recover truly. The first stage is precontemplation.


Individuals who are within the first stage are not yet quite ready for treatment. Most will appear to be in denial. People are often unaware that their behavior is problematic or produces negative consequences. They will often underestimate the pros of changing behavior and place too much emphasis on the cons of changing behavior. This stage is characterized by defensiveness and endless justification of their behavior towards addictive substances. The individual will show a lack of insight into the harmful consequences caused by their impact of excessive alcohol and drug abuse.

At this point, the addict is not interested in hearing what any medical professional has to say to quit or even begin reducing the number of addictive substances they use. A person with addictive behaviors who is not yet open to change will often be grouped into the following four categories:

Rebellious. The individual does not want to or feel the need to let go of their addictive behaviors since they do not like being told what to do.

Reluctant. The individual lacks awareness of their addiction as well as any motivation to change.

Rationalizing. The individual does not think that substance is an issue for them and believes they have all the answers.

Resigned. The individual sees no light at the tunnel with their addiction; they are often overwhelmed by their behavior and have ultimately given up hope of changing.


Contemplators have acknowledged that they have a problem that needs addressing if they are to improve their lives. Individuals within this stage often have the motivation to change, but even with this recognition, people may still feel ambivalent toward changing their behavior.. However, it is a perfect time for the individual to learn about the potential consequences of the actions and visit possible available options. people are intending to start the healthy behavior in the foreseeable future (defined as within the next 6 months).

Many individuals in this stage have tentative plans to take action within the coming months. The contemplation stage can last for years, with individuals at times ready to move to the next stage but at other times reverting to stage one.


The preparation stage is when the individual feels an array of emotions from anxiety to excitement. In this stage, people are ready to take action within the next 30 days. People start to take small steps toward the behavior change, and they believe changing their behavior can lead to a healthier life. During this stage, the medical professionals and the individual will begin putting together a plan of action. The recovering addicts have accepted the responsibility to change their behavior.

Individuals will be considering the future thinking about what their change may look like and
determining exactly how they are going to achieve the results they want.


In the action stage, the individual believes that they can change, and is actively involved in taking the correct steps on the road to recovery. The addicted individual would have made a significant number of changes to their lives already. This is usually characterized by prolonged periods of abstinence from addictive substances and the inclination to turn to a medical professional or seek help from a trusted family member for help if the individual begins to feel as though they may relapse.

Group therapy, one-to-one therapy, and medical analysis will ensure the individual is equipped with a healthy, robust, and effective strategy for coping with triggers and stress to get them into the maintenance stage without experiencing or fearing a relapse.


Sustainable change takes time. While getting through the first four stages would have been hard for a recovering addict, the real challenge is to go into the real world and stay on the road to recovery while utilizing everything they have been taught.

The individuals who have fought their way to this stage would have established a new version of themselves regarding their self-control and behavior patterns. Characteristics of this stage will include:

– Maintaining focus on relapse prevention.
– Remaining on high alert for situations that may be a trigger.
– Positive behavior patterns.

These individuals are learning to integrate their new changes into the way they live their life.

It is sporadic that a recovering addict will make it through each stage without relapsing. Most successful recovering addictions will go through the steps at least three times before making it through the entire cycle. If you or a loved one is navigating through this process of change, take heart and know that many people do not get it on their first time through. That is not to say you can’t. Strive for success with no reservations. But if you fall backward, go back to your last stage and renew your commitment to change.

Having a loved one who is navigating addiction recovery is difficult. Knowing these stages can help the family member know when to press in, when to offer assistance (and what kind), and when to allow them to stand on their own. If your loved one is struggling with addiction recovery, please reach out to us at San Diego Sober Living. We are trained professionals who can help you navigate your desired change from addiction.

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