stages of alcohol recovery

Becoming addicted to alcohol is not something that happens overnight. In reality, there are stages of alcoholism that start with excessive drinking and lead to serious health complications. Below, learn more about the stages of alcoholism to assess if you or a loved one might be struggling with addiction. Regardless of the stage you might be in right now, recovery is possible and it is something that would change the course of your life.

The 5 Stages of Alcoholism

stages of alcoholism

There is a common misconception that developing an addiction to alcohol is something that happens quickly. The truth is that the stages of alcoholism are not linear. This means that people who struggle with an addiction to alcohol often go through ups and downs when it comes to using. In fact, one of the stages of alcoholism includes making attempts at recovery without being able to see them through. 

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the stages of alcoholism can look different depending on your personal situation and experiences. This is especially true if you have co-occurring mental health disorders, since they can lead to you using alcohol to self-medicate. Generally, the stages of alcoholism as well as the warning signs of addiction are as follows:

  • Binge drinking—Often, the first experience somebody has with alcoholism includes binge drinking. This is where you consume alcohol in large amounts. It can be challenging to detect when you are drinking too much, but a good rule of thumb is to keep track of how many drinks you have within a certain timeframe. At this stage, drinking might not happen as often as in later stages but the dangerous aspect of this is that binge drinkers are not able to put a limit on how much they are drinking.
  • Developing a tolerance to the substance—The more you drink, the more your body becomes used to (and dependent upon) the effects of alcohol. Therefore, the second stage of alcoholism is when you find that you need more of the substance to feel its effects.
  • Drinking to “cope”—Using alcohol to numb emotional pain is considered problem drinking. Problem drinking often progresses throughout the stages of alcoholism because having an addiction can put significant strain on your relationships, professional life, and your mental health. However, using alcohol to push away uncomfortable emotions only makes the symptoms worse in the long run.
  • Dependency—At this stage, your body becomes dependent on alcohol, meaning that if you try to stop drinking, you might feel withdrawal symptoms that can impact you physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is often why people who try to stop drinking end up going back to alcohol again: your body and your mind no longer know what to do without it.
  • Addiction to alcohol—This final step in the stages of alcoholism is the complete addiction to alcohol. Addiction is a serious condition that requires professional treatment, a strong support system, and determination in order to recover.

If you feel that you have gone through or are currently experiencing any of these stages, it might be time to find an addiction recovery center. Remember, your journey toward recovery doesn’t have to end with this final stage. Instead, you can heal from addiction and any underlying mental health concerns to get yourself on an upward path once again.

Types of Treatment for Substance Abuse Recovery

alcohol addiction timeline

There are many different treatment options for alcohol addiction to help you work through these stages of alcoholism. As stated above, one of the most significant stages of alcoholism is when you start problem drinking or using alcohol and drugs to cope with uncomfortable emotions. If this is something you are going through, consider co-occurring substance use disorder treatment.

It is important to treat addiction and co-occurring disorders simultaneously because you need to learn recovery skills for both in order to fully heal and to maintain sobriety and mental wellness after your time in a treatment facility. In a dual diagnosis program, you will have access to various treatment plans, including:

Furthermore, if you are currently only experiencing mental health concerns and you would like to prevent the risk of substance use, there are mental health treatment services that could help you manage your emotional wellbeing before you reach any of the stages of alcoholism. 


Call us today to take your first step towards recovery.

This preventative care could help you live with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, phobias, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, and many others so that you do not have to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking to get through the day.

Quitting Alcohol Starts Now

Regardless of where you are in your alcohol addiction recovery journey, the mental health professionals and addiction specialists at Georgetown Behavioral Hospital are here to help. To learn more about the stages of alcoholism and your options to recover, give us a call at 937-483-4933 or submit a confidential contact form to start your recovery today. Though you might feel stuck in the stages of alcoholism, the stages of recovery at Georgetown Behavioral Hospital can get you back on track to a healthier, happier lifestyle.

For some people, the end stages of alcoholism are when they hit absolute rock bottom and they simply cannot stop drinking. But this doesn’t have to be the true end—when you decide to get addiction treatment for alcoholism at a facility like Georgetown Behavioral Hospital, you can work your way up from rock bottom to find happiness, mental wellness, and strength in recovery.

The number of stages in alcoholism might vary depending on your school of thought. Typically, however, there are five recognized stages of alcoholism that begin with increased alcohol consumption and progress through all of the physical and emotional struggles that come with this disorder.

There are several different stages of alcoholism, including being unable to control how much you drink, continuing to use alcohol even if you you notice that it is a problem, and unsuccessfully trying to stop drinking.

According to the DSM-5, people can be diagnosed with alcohol use disorders after a year of persistent usage that interferes with their personal, social, and professional lives. Of course, the timeline for becoming addicted to alcohol depends on the person and the situation.

An alcoholic is somebody who has an alcohol use disorder. This means that the person is emotionally, mentally, and physically dependent on alcohol. They may struggle to go more than a day or two without alcohol, or they may go several days to weeks without alcohol and then binge drink.

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