The Stages of Alcohol Recovery

Learn about the stages of alcohol recovery you will go through as you end your addiction once and for all.

Recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is a “process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” Recovery isn’t easy, and there will be setbacks, but staying mindful, sticking with it, and trying to make each day better than the day before will go a long way toward achieving lasting success in ending an alcohol addiction. Although recovery can occur through many pathways, the stages of alcohol recovery are generally universal.

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Each stage of recovery has its own risks of relapse, and each stage has developmental tasks that need to be mastered in order to make it to the next stage. The alcohol recovery timeline is different for everyone, but in general, there are three broad stages of recovery, according to an article by addiction expert Steven Melemis, published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.

Stage One: The Abstinence Stage

During the abstinence stages of alcohol recovery, which begin as soon as you stop drinking, your focus is on dealing with cravings and other triggers and maintaining abstinence. This stage can last for one to two years. During the abstinence stage, you’ll focus on a number of tasks largely concerning emotional and physical self-care, including:

  • Accepting that you have an addiction.
  • Practicing honesty with yourself and others.
  • Developing coping skills for handling cravings, negative emotions, stress, and other triggers.
  • Practicing self-care.
  • Setting boundaries.
  • Learning about the stages of relapse and their signs.
  • Developing healthy relationships with other non-users.
  • Developing hobbies and finding purpose and meaning in life.
  • Seeing yourself as a non-drinker.

During the abstinence stage of the alcohol recovery timeline, the risk of relapse is high. However, a relapse is no longer considered to be a catastrophe, but rather a natural part of recovery and an opportunity to identify what went wrong and develop the skills you need to prevent it from happening again.

Stage Two: The Repair Stage

The second of the alcohol addiction recovery stages is the repair stage. This stage typically lasts two to three years. During the initial abstinence stage, you feel increasingly better, but once you’ve mastered the tasks in stage one and move on to the repair stage, you may feel worse temporarily. This is because during the repair stage, you’re confronting the damage the addiction did to your relationships, finances, self-esteem, and health. This is the stage where you strive to overcome the guilt and negative self-talk that the addiction brought on. You may feel that your addiction has damaged you beyond the ability to feel joy and confidence or have healthy relationships. But this isn’t true. The tasks in the second stage help you through these difficult times and include:

  • Overcoming negative self-labeling and other harmful patterns of thinking.
  • Understanding that you are not your addiction.
  • Repairing relationships and making amends where you can.
  • Learning to feel comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
  • Continuing to improve self-care and making it an iron-clad habit.
  • Developing a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
  • Continuing to engage with your self-help groups.
  • Continuing to develop purpose, meaning, and healthy alternatives to drinking.

According to research, the most common causes of relapse during this stage are poor self-care and skipping support group meetings.

Stage Three: The Growth Stage

During the growth stages of alcohol recovery, you’re developing the missing skills that contributed to the addiction. Here, you’re moving forward in recovery. The growth stage typically begins three to five years after quitting drinking, and it lasts a lifetime.

The tasks of the growth stage include:

  • Continuing to identify and change self-destructive thought and behavior patterns.
  • Letting go of resentments, anger, and grudges so you can move forward.
  • Challenging your fears.
  • Maintaining healthy boundaries.
  • Giving back and helping others.
  • Periodically re-evaluating your lifestyle and choices so you can stay on track with long-term recovery.

The growth stage promotes living a meaningful, joyful life and achieving authentic happiness through increased self-awareness, acceptance, and mindfulness.

You Can Start Today

The stages of alcohol recovery lead to lasting abstinence and a higher quality of life and sense of wellbeing. WhiteSands Treatment offers holistic rehab that addresses issues of body, mind, and spirit for whole-person healing. With the help of high quality treatment, you can master the alcohol addiction recovery stages and restore your life once and for all.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.