How is a lapse different from an addiction relapse?

The relapse rate is fairly high among drug addicts, between 40-60% according to a report by The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). A slip is somewhat expected after a treatment program, depending on the patient’s problems. For this reason, treatment programs consider recovery to be a continuous process without any specific end date. A “lapse” or “slip” is not considered to be as serious as a full relapse into drug addiction and behavior. It is important to realize that a slip does not mean that treatment has failed. By believing a slip means recovery isn’t possible, the person may lose hope and a full blown addiction relapse will follow. Treatment can be even more effective after a slip or relapse if you are committed to working your recovery program.

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A slip means a person starts using again after a time of sobriety, but almost immediately stops. After one night or weekend of using their drug of choice, the person sobers up, realizes it was a big mistake and returns to their recovery plan and sober lifestyle. A slip is a sudden lapse in judgment, is not planned and lasts for a short period of time. A slip is comparable to taking a wrong turn on a trip. You don’t abandon the entire trip. You find your way back to the right road and continue on to your destination. A slip is a chance to examine the triggers that sent you back to using. It is a chance to improve your recovery efforts by developing coping strategies to avoid making the same mistake again.

A little slip, if not stopped immediately, can turn into an addiction relapse. An addiction relapse is a more serious matter. An addiction relapse means a slip got out of hand and the person returned, for days or longer, to their former addiction and old patterns of behavior. The person may have abandoned their attempt at escaping their drug addiction. The longer the relapse lasts, the more dangerous their situation will become. Some people never make it back to recovery and their drug addiction problem becomes a death sentence. It can be tempting to think that since you’ve already blown it, you may as well continue. A day or two of relapse won’t derail all of your work in recovery, but heavy, extended use will put you back to day one.

If you have had an addiction relapse, it doesn’t mean that treatment is hopeless or will be less effective. It can actually mean the opposite, but it depends on the way you deal with it. A relapse can motivate you to work harder in recovery after remembering how bad drug addiction can be. There is a reason for the slip or relapse and it is important to find out what it is. Treatment will help you recognize the reason that caused you to slip or relapse and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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There are many reasons people slip or relapse. Too tired and too much stress can be dealt with by setting a bed time for yourself to allow for sufficient sleep. Yoga, breathing exercises, healthy eating habits and physical exercise are good for beating the effects of stress. Finding ways to successfully avoid triggers is one of the many tools learned in recovery. Avoid feelings of shame and guilt as they can take you back to using. By forgiving yourself, you are able to continue your recovery with a positive attitude. No matter what your situation may be, it is absolutely critical that you get help now. Recovery is always within your reach.

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