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Understanding Slips vs. Relapse

In addiction recovery, there are always going to be bumps in the road. There is a great probability that individuals battling addiction will use alcohol or drugs again, even after treatment. When people do return to their life-threatening habits, the consequences can be disastrous. They can once again get caught up in the downward spiral of addiction and never have another chance at getting sober. In order to move forward and establish a healthy life, individuals need to understand the difference between a slip and a relapse and learn how to keep one from leading to the other.

Slips Defined

Through slips and relapses are used interchangeably, a slip is a one-time act that was unplanned, or a short-term abandonment of recovery. By slipping, the individual resumes drinking or taking drugs for some short period of time, generally a few hours or a day,  then returns to treatment.

Slips frequently occur as a consequence to momentary lapses in judgement when the individual gets stressed, mostly due to withdrawal. The main difference between a slip and a relapse is that the individual recognizes the mistake and puts a stop to it before it goes too far.

Individuals who slip after rehab manage to stop and automatically regret their decision. It is something they do in the spur of the moment, without having lost their motivation to stay sober.

Furthermore, it is the best case scenario, the individual recognizes their poor judgement and contacts a counselor, sponsor, or a treatment program. In the worst case scenario, an individual doesn’t tell anyone about the slip, shows no desire to resume treatment, and doesn’t seek help. A common mistake addicts do in this situation is continue drinking and using since they already had a slip. A few days turn into a month, and a month turns into a few years. Some users never make it back. Most slips occur during the first three months of recovery.

Reasons for Slips

There are multiple reasons for an individual slipping in recovery. Some of the main reasons include:

  • The individual has decided to return back to using alcohol and drugs. However, as soon as they slip, they recognize their poor choice and regret it.
  • The individual is not careful and they can accidentally use drugs or drink alcohol again. For example, an individual hangs out at a bar with his friends and orders beers out of habit.
  • In some cases, the individual wants to punish other people by turning back into their old habits.
  • The individual has had a bad day and turned to alcohol or drugs to ease the pain.
  • The individual has become overcome with emotions. They cannot think rationally and drinking or using drugs suddenly makes sense to them.
  • Cravings. They can be particularly disturbing at the early days of recovery. Sometimes, the individual might just give into this desire.

How to Avoid Slips

If the individual has given into their cravings, they are now on very risky ground. In order to prevent a full-blown relapse, they must not engage in further drug or alcohol abuse. Sometimes, they people tell themselves to stop using, but continue taking regardless of the promise they have given to themselves.

The best option is to seek help and assistance right away. Contacting a support group or a sponsor might be the ideal solution where the individual can get the advice and support they need. Furthermore, the patient needs to get to a meeting as soon as possible. It is vital for them to admit to feeling embarrassed about slipping.

As a result, the individual now has to make a greater effort in recovery. Staying sober without slipping has to become the number one priority in their life and they need to genuinely be willing to stay free of addiction.

It is important to note that most slips happen when an individual suffers from boredom in recovery. It is recommended they think of fruitful and creative ways to fill their time. In addition, a useful way to avoid relapsing is to make use of the aftercare services available at a treatment center.

Relapse Defined

Relapse is a term used to describe the situation where an individual who has been sober for some period of time, returns to alcohol and drug abuse. It is the abandonment of sobriety and returning to a pre-treatment lifestyle of using drugs and alcohol. Generally, relapses are a downward spiral in recovery, spirituality, and thinking.

Individual who slip, realize their mistake and understand there is nothing to feel ashamed about. On the other hand, individual who relapse are overflowed with negative opinions about themselves and decide that they are a hopeless case.

The act of relapse is a return to self-destructive patterns after a period of complete abstinence. Overall, relapsing can be highly stressful and disappointing. Most individuals, prior relapsing, experience strong cravings. With those cravings, come feelings of guilt, anxiety, and depression. If the individual is not careful, these feelings can feed into the relapse until they have turned completely back to drugs and alcohol.

Reasons for Relapse

A few of the feelings that can spark and fan a relapse include:

  • Stress: stress can be one of the most common triggers in relapse. It can arrive from both positive and negative situations. Whether the individual is coping with a promotion at work, new relationship, or a loss of a loved one, all of these scenarios deal with change which can be highly stressful. Although there is no way to fully avoid stress in life, an individual must learn to deal with it effectively. It is recommended to see a therapist, sponsor, a counselor, or friends in recovery.
  • Self-pity: often, individuals can become obsessed with feeling bad about themselves and start focusing on their past. These are dangerous thoughts that can give the individual room to justify getting a drink or a hit.
  • Overconfidence: self-confidence can be destructive to people in recovery. Some individual think they are in absolute control of their lives and that a small amount of their drug or drink will not hurt them. They become overconfident and indulge in irrational thoughts. With individuals struggling with overconfidence, it is vital to build a healthy balance of self-esteem.
  • Unrealistic expectations of recovery: it is essential for the individual to understand that recovery is a lifelong process and that rehab will not happen overnight. Recovery is hard work, dedication, and balance.
  • Unrealistic expectations of others: when an individual has unrealistic expectations of their parents, partners, or friends, then that individual is set for disappointment. It is vital to understand that one should be focusing on healing and rebuilding their life instead of holding their loved ones to unreality expectations. Change happens one day at a time.

How to Avoid Relapse

Staying clean and sober takes a lot of hard work and commitment. However, there are ways to decrease relapse potential.

  1. Join a support group: support groups will encourage you to keep it strong when going through some rough times. Support group connections can also connect you with addiction professionals when dangerous situations arise.
  2. Create a schedule: keep yourself busy by creating a weekly plan with all the tasks you need and want to do. Instead of focusing on drugs and alcohol, focus on getting to the next task on the schedule.
  3. Know your triggers: know yourself better and use that knowledge to your advantage. There are many ways to deal with your triggers, like calling a family member, talking to a friend, or doing exercise.
  4. Use your negative feelings to rebound: instead of letting your feelings of guilt bring you down, use those emotions to become stronger than before and more confident in yourself. Motivate yourself to move forward and break free from the chains of addiction.
  5. Create a support network: maintain daily contact with family, friends, co-workers, or professionals. This support network can greatly help you stay sober and control your cravings.
  6. Stay in therapy: when you are sober, you have many emotional issues to confront without the use of drugs and alcohol. You need to learn how to fit into society sober and learn how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. It is recommended to continue weekly appointments with your therapist for at least a year or two after getting sober.

For more information please call our Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a Free and completely confidential call. We are available 24/7. In many cases, your health insurance company will cover 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now.

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