Alcoholics Anonymous

The Six Stages of Substance Use

Note: “Negative consequences” is defined as anything that would be considered non-pleasurable. Hangovers, for instance, are a negative consequence of drinking too much. 

Abstinence: Not using at all. All people start off abstinent. People can also return to abstinence after a period of experimentation or using. People who unknowingly ingest substances are also considered “abstinent” if they did not willingly take said substance. 

Experimentation: Becoming curious to use to see what a substance does/feels like. At this stage, substance is usually not sought after but provided either by friends or family. Negative consequences usually do not occur at this stage. 

Recreational or social use: At this stage, one is seeking out a substance to experience a desired effect, however, use is irregular and has no established pattern. Negative consequences usually do not occur at this stage. (Most people would consider themselves “recreational users,” but if there is any type of pattern to your use, you usually do not fall under this category!)

Habitual use: At this stage, a definite pattern of use has evolved (daily, every other day, every weekend, etc.) and a stronger craving for the drug is developed. Negative consequences at this stage may not occur, but is more likely. 

Abuse: Habitual use becomes abuse when negative consequences occur and yet use still continues. For example, if you are drinking alcohol every weekend and experience hangovers each time, you may fall under this category. 

Addiction: Abuse becomes addiction when there is an apparent compulsion to use. At this point, tolerance has developed (needing to take more of the drug in order to experience the same desire effect), withdrawal symptoms are present, attempts to moderate use or stop completely are ineffective, negative consequences are occurring, the drug has become a priority, anxiety is present when the substance is not available, and the substance is often needed to function (whether emotionally, physically, or other). 

“But I’m a functioning addict?” 

Congratulations, you’re in denial. 

there is one thing i do not see enough of on this website- support for people trying to get clean and/or stay clean. addiction has ruined my life. addiction has ruined so many lives and recovering alcoholics/addicts NEED support to continue with their recovery. so, for those of you who are working on your first 24 hours or your first week, month, year, your 2nd year or 20th- i am so proud of you. you have given yourself something incredible today. addiction is one of the most insidious diseases in the world, but today, you did not let it win. remind yourself of all of the strength you have. you are a miracle.

Mindset of a recovering drug addict

Sometimes I just wanna quit. I think about all the good times I had while using. I got such a rush from the chaos that was my life. Getting high was the only thing I cared about. I miss it, but then again I don’t. I miss the people I used with. I miss the feeling of being high. I miss the adrenalin rushes. I miss the crazy parties. I miss snorting. I miss shooting up. I miss smoking. I miss pill popping. I miss drugs. Sobriety is wonderful and all, but late at night when my mind is racing I can’t help but think about my old lifestyle. Everything was so exciting back then. But with how much fun I was having, I don’t miss having shit on me. I don’t miss feeling like shit the next day. I don’t miss being paranoid of cops. I don’t miss the relationships I fucked up while using. I don’t miss the puking. I don’t miss the hangovers. I don’t miss worrying if I’m going to pass a piss test. I don’t miss the insanity of putting shit in my body to numb myself. I don’t miss the fucked up shell of a person I used to be. I’m sober, I’m free, I’m me.

I must learn to give those I love the right to make their own mistakes and recognize them as theirs alone.
—  Unknown