What is the difference between a Slip and a Relapse?

Slip vs. Relapse

Those in substance use disorder treatment focus much of their recovery efforts on relapse prevention and overcoming triggers in everyday life with the help of individual and group counseling. Triggers can range from things like places, smells, or tastes that recall negative emotions, but these encounters can evoke deep emotions stemming from unresolved trauma. When proper coping mechanisms aren’t in place, trigger episodes can pose major threats to a person’s sobriety, making these situations highly unpleasant. In addiction recovery, people work on these processes to develop healthier methods that don’t cause them to resort to substance use while also improving their lives and striving for better mental health.

Understanding Relapse

The threat of relapse is often a looming obstacle for many people in substance use disorder treatment, despite their efforts to recognize the signs and patterns that could lead them to an occurrence. While relapse prevention guides are handy and implemented early on during treatment, it’s not uncommon for many people in recovery to relapse, sometimes several times, during their journey. Experts continue to stress that relapse instances are part of the process and serve as roadblocks rather than stop signs. Still, when relapse happens, it can be devastating and lead to compounding guilt and shame that can drive someone far away from their recovery journey due to harmful stigma and unrealistic expectations, and pressure.

Differentiating between a “Slip” and Total Relapse

It’s become essential to dissect the occurrence of relapse, how it can happen, and how long it can last depending on a person and their situation. A slip can also be referred to as a “lapse” when a patient has a very brief relapse where they misuse a substance but immediately follow their post-relapse plan and get back on track with their treatment without further incidents. These experiences can often strengthen a patient’s will to remain substance-free, and the regret is used as a learning lesson that will deter a relapse in the future.

It’s important to note that a slip is still considered a relapse. However, the immediate redirection and resolution of the incident make it less severe than a relapse that can last days, months, and even years. These full-on relapse incidents often lead patients back into their previous lifestyle of misuse and abandonment of their recovery journey. It can be challenging to bring people back from a long relapse, requiring much more effort and rebuilding when compared to a slip-up.

A significant benefit of looking at the difference between a slip and full relapse is that it helps ease the overwhelming despair patients may feel when it happens to prevent a spiral further into self-defeating emotions. This doesn’t mean that slips should not be taken seriously and treated as a relapse; however, the patient’s reaction in returning to their treatment should be recognized. The goal for every patient in recovery is to approach sobriety in a way that is attainable long term, meaning people should feel assured that a lapse in their efforts doesn’t mean that they’ve failed.

The specialized medical providers, nurse practitioners, substance use counselors, and administrative staff at Middlesex Recovery are well-equipped to help those with substance use disorder reach long-lasting recovery. With the use of evidence-based methods, FDA-approved medications, and a convenient office-based format, patients are treated with dignity and respect as they work to overcome addiction and take control back over their lives. Please find a local Middlesex Recovery location and message or call us today to learn more about our treatment programs.