Stages of Change: Maintenance

We have come to the fifth and final part of the 'Stages of Change' series. Please see my other articles regarding the Stages of Change model of recovery, to get a better idea of where the MAINTENANCE STAGE fits in. In brief summary, the Maintenance stage is supporting, stabilizing and accepting an important change as part of your life. This is a change that you worked very hard to make and accepting this change as part of your life is of utmost importance. Let’s quickly review the previous four Stages of Change, so we know where we stand.

Life's curve balls

A person may take a long time in denial of the need for change (Pre-Contemplation stage). That person may finally accept the need for change but may not be prepared or sure of the best way to make the change, or if it is even possible (Contemplation stage). Eventually, the person has committed to the change and begins making tangible plans for action (Planning/Preparation stage). Once the plan has been decided upon, the person begins to act on the plan and ultimately, to make the change that is required (Action stage). Now that we are all caught up, let us consider the Maintenance stage. As I have mentioned before, it takes a long time to get to the point of action or change. The Maintenance stage is no different. Even though the change has been accepted after long thought and effort, our lives tend to throw us curve balls constantly and maintaining the acquired change may take concerted effort. Also, it is important to consider that no one is guaranteed to STAY in the same Stage of Change.

Real, serious change requires diligence and self-awareness, even under circumstances of extreme duress. Sometimes the change may have seemed permanent, but something happens to drag us off course. I will share a little of my experience with the Maintenance stage. I quit drinking when I was 30 years old (I am 43 now). I did not have a swig, sip or swallow of alcohol for nine and a half years. Well, I got divorced that year. I lost my house that year. I also started drinking again that year. You see, I was so hurt and distracted by all of life’s pitfalls that I relapsed all the way back to the beginning. I was actually in the Pre-Contemplation stage again. I thought I had my drinking under control and that no change was necessary. AFTER NINE YEARS. Fortunately, I made my way through the stages again…all the way back to MAINTENANCE. I have been sober now for the better part of four years.

Staying vigilant

I'm not looking for any pats on the back…it doesn’t help. I have to always be vigilant with ALL of the important changes that I have made in my life. Because they are important. These changes have helped me immensely. We could just look at all the changes we have made to manage our IBS alone. If we let one slip, there is a good chance others will go by the wayside as well. Stages of Change are not static. You may move from one stage to another without even knowing it. But, by understanding how this thought process works, I believe we are better equipped to make the changes we need to and maintain those changes.

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