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Recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol comes with an innumerable amount of trials on a daily basis. During recovery, each person is working on establishing a new “normal.” They are planning out their goals and strategies for their own lives while continually dealing with biological and environmental stressors. While slips and relapses are undoubtedly a bad thing, they are also common. As a result, it is essential to know the difference between a relapse and slip and what someone can do if they do have a slip during their recovery journey. 

What’s the Difference? 

Slips and relapses may seem to be used interchangeably when discussing addiction recovery. Still, there is a crucial distinction between the two. Experiencing a slip can mean that someone had taken a drink at a party or wedding reception, but immediately put it back down. They are typically entirely unintentional and a result of someone being in a dangerous area without access to their support system. However, they generally are anomalies and exist in isolation. The person experiencing a slip may immediately recognize and rectify their behavior, as seen in putting the drink directly back down. They need to be addressed but also showcase that someone has remained dedicated to the recovery process and isn’t re-engaging with addictive behavior. Instead, they tend to occur fast, in the moment, and are just as quickly addressed. 

Relapses, however, are a lot more dangerous. Someone experiencing a relapse may be re-engaging with their addictive substance deliberately and reverting back to many addictive behaviors. They know they are using drugs again and have begun to hide their usage from others without acknowledging their relapse. Relapses are dangerous, but not impossible to recover from. However, they often indicate that someone needs to make significant changes to their own recovery plan while in an IOP. A relapse may even mean that someone needs to return to inpatient or sober living to address their addiction’s roots. They will also need to continue to find new, more effective coping strategies for someone’s urges and stressors. 

Addressing Someone’s Slip

Slips need to be addressed immediately with support systems or professionals, or during someone’s next outpatient appointment. While there can be a lot of shame or guilt involved with a slip, they aren’t indicative of a failure in any way. While they may indicate the need for a new coping strategy, those who suffer from a slip are typically still fully committed to the recovery process. They may even see the event as a real-world example of how quickly stressors and urges can take hold. Addressing a slip means talking about where someone was, how they felt before they took a drink, the people who were or were not around, and the feelings that someone had immediately after realizing what they had done. This information can give light to other, potentially unknown stressors in someone’s life and help inform what someone’s next step in recovery will be. While those who experience a slip may not necessarily have to revert back to a previous recovery stage, it can help look at someone’s own recovery model and find a way to better express their needs and quell these stressors urges. 

However, something is empowering about a slip, despite the harmful nature of the event. When someone experiences a slip, they also can realize their actions and put the drink back down or push drugs away again. They can showcase a great deal of strength in such a problematic scenario and still not fall into a trap that could lead to a full relapse. Someone doesn’t recognize a slip as an excuse to begin using drugs or alcohol again. Instead, they showcase a great deal of strength and agency to regain control of their situation. While several factors need to be addressed to help someone not slip up again, there is also something to be celebrated about not allowing a slip to develop into a relapse. 

In outpatient recovery, there is always a wealth of strategies that someone can use to pivot their own recovery process. Slips may require someone to try new therapeutic practices, and there are both peers and professionals available to help someone create a new plan. After a slip, a new program is needed, and what needs to change will vary from person to person. However, there are many resources available to those who go through a slip and reemerge with a newfound motivation to see the recovery process through. 

Every step of recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is difficult. There can be an innumerable amount of stressors and urges that someone can experience daily. At Lighthouse Recovery, each person will be encouraged to set their own recovery goals while learning about the various coping strategies and life skills pertinent to them and their own goals. From sober living to intensive outpatient care, each program can be personalized to help fit someone’s goals and new, sober lifestyle. With a strong sense of community and shared motivation, each person is encouraged to build each other up, and create a community focused around sobriety and the future.