Slip Versus Relapse: What’s the Difference?


When you are in recovery for addiction, you are focused on staying sober and regaining your health. You may be concerned about the possibility of relapse, which is a realistic concern; two-thirds of people may relapse in the first 90 days of sobriety.

Even the most committed person can still slip up and use drugs or alcohol, but a lapse does not mean that addiction treatment and relapse prevention doesn’t work. When you understand more about the difference between a slip and a relapse, you may be more prepared if you need treatment after a relapse.

Learning New Habits

It can be helpful to think of addiction treatment as a journey rather than a trip from one destination to another. Along the way, you may hit some bumps, or pull over and rest, but that doesn’t mean that you are going to have to turn back to your starting point. Addiction treatment is based on more than detox and sobriety; it also involves learning new coping mechanisms to deal with stress so that you don’t turn to drugs and alcohol. Part of that learning process can involve the possibility of relapse and recovery.

Slipping Up

What if you give in to an urge and use drugs or alcohol during your recovery? A slip or lapse in one instance is common, so you should not use it as an excuse to give up on yourself and your treatment. Instead, you can use your slip as a teaching tool. Some of the things you may want to consider after a lapse are:

  • Avoiding people, environments, and situations that may lead you to use again
  • Acknowledging your mistake
  • Recommitting yourself to your recovery
  • Speaking with a sponsor, friend, or member of your support system
  • Meeting with a mental health professional to work through your slip

Going Too Far

While a lapse may be a moment of poor judgment, you may still continue with your treatment. If you give up on your recovery and return to using regularly, you may be relapsing, which can be more difficult to stop. Remember that recovery is a time of healing of both your body and mind, and you may not be ready to handle the stress of life without developing new ways to cope. A slip does not have to turn into a relapse if you stop yourself before you abandon your recovery.

Experiencing a relapse does not mean that treatment does not work, or that you are not motivated in your recovery. Rather, it may be an indication that you should work closely with your relapse treatment support team to try inpatient or outpatient treatment again.

A smart approach to any addiction treatment program is a component of relapse prevention and treatment to help you find success during recovery. Pyramid Healthcare offers drug and alcohol addiction treatment for both teens and adults who are ready to reclaim their health and wellbeing. Our services can help you at any stage of your recovery, including relapse treatment.

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