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While the terms are often used interchangeably in discussions about addiction and recovery, there is a difference between a slip and relapse. The main difference has to do with the user’s intentions. Slips often occur “in the moment” when temptation presents itself and human nature takes over. On the contrary, relapse involves premeditated use of drugs and/or alcohol with no intention of returning to sobriety.

However, it is not always immediately evident whether a slip or relapse has taken place. In fact, sometimes when people relapse, they begin to use slips as an excuse to feed their addiction. How do you know when a slip is the beginning of relapse?

One: A Single Slip Spirals into Several

It’s very easy and common for a recovering addict to slip from time to time. It is very similar to being on a diet. You may have the best intentions to stay the course and avoid cake and processed foods at all costs. However, when you visit the restaurant with your favorite dessert, calorie count and controlling sugar intake is the furthest thing from your mind. You eat the cake, feel guilty and promise to do better next time. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is comparable. Sticking with a solid recovery plan is easy when temptations are not present, but the minute they are in front of a recovering addict, human nature takes over and you’ve slipped!

It’s important to realize that an occasional slip may not send you spiraling back into a pattern of feeding your addiction. However, if one slip leads to another, and then another, and so on and so forth, you could have a major problem on your hands. If you find yourself in a pattern of slip after slip, you could be snowballing hard and fast into relapse.

Two: No Remorse or Refocus

When someone in recovery has slipped, there is usually an immediate feeling of guilt or remorse associated with using the drugs or alcohol. This leads them to refocusing and recommitting themselves to their recovery plan for sobriety. If you have a slip and you do not have this feeling tugging at your conscious, this could be a warning sign that you are headed for relapse.

You could be in denial, rationalizing the drug or alcohol use because the problem is not “as bad” or does not “occur as often” as before you began recovery. Instead of drinking heavily every day, for instance, you may only be drinking heavily on the weekends. The pattern has changed, but the addiction is still very real.

Three: Use Becomes Premeditated

As the alcohol and/or drug use becomes premeditated, the slips begin to morph into relapse. A conscious decision is made to abandon the recovery plan. Even though the behavior is intentional, you may not realize that you have relapsed until it has spiraled out of control.

Read about the Top 5 Reasons People Relapse

How to Prevent a Slip from Becoming Relapse

When in recovery, an addict must remain aware of his or her environment and the temptations that may come their way. Often, the best way to avoid relapse is to avoid situations where the temptations may arise. However, this may not always be possible and a slip becomes likely. For this reason, it’s important to have a plan for quickly bringing you back on track.

A solid action plan may look something like this:

  1. Remove yourself from the environment and avoid going there again in the future.
  2. Contact your support system and let them know what is going on and how they can help.
  3. Consider individual counseling to evaluate your treatment plan. After a slip or relapse a more intense course of treatment may work best to keep you focused on recovery. Outpatient Rehab or a Sober Living home might be considered as a more effective treatment at this time during your recovery.

If you would like to learn more about slip vs. relapse or need to talk to someone about your drug or alcohol addiction, contact us to set up an appointment. We will connect you with someone who can help.