What’s The Difference Between The Types Of Relapses (Slips, Lapses & Relapses)?

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Completing a drug treatment program and successfully returning to civilian life are wonderful accomplishments for recovering addicts. That said, recovery is a lifelong process filled with many peaks and valleys.

Occasionally, the valleys might involve some type of mistake where the subject in question revisits past habits and uses the drug they were formally dependent upon again.

It is important for healing souls to know the difference between the specific types of errors, the reasons such mistakes might happen, and what steps they can take to overcome them.

The Different Types Of Relapses

Not all relapses are created equal. One category is known as slips, which are also classified as lapses. The other classification is called a relapse.

Slips And Lapses

Slips or lapses happen when the recovering addict experiences a tiny slip-up. Such events include using the drug they were formally dependent upon for a short spurt. That said, such individuals quickly recognize their transgression and abruptly stop this behavior.

In a solid percentage of instances, lapses or slips are minute blips on the screen and the recovering subject returns to the straight and narrow without any further complications.


Relapses are far more severe. Such events occur when recovering dependents consume large amounts of the substance they were once addicted to or imbibe on several separate occasions. Sometimes, relapses lead the stricken individual back into the pattern of full-blown addiction.

Additionally, relapse is often associated with several warning signs such as:

  • Experiencing significant cravings for drugs or alcohol
  • The belief that the subject in question can once again use without falling into dependency
  • Isolating or withdrawing from loved ones and other close relations
  • Reacquainting themselves with questionable or detrimental influences

Relapsing persons might no longer participate in support groups or disassociate with sponsors.

The Reasons Such Mistakes Happen

Addiction specialists stress that these type of events happen for various reasons including:

Life Stressors

Coping with the everyday personal, professional, social, and familial stressors life typically provides can prove daunting for anyone. This goes manifold for a recovering dependent.

Inadequate Self-Care

Industry professionals urge healing subjects to adequately care for themselves. Actions such as failing to keep the mind properly stimulated, not engaging in productive hobbies, consuming a poor diet, and not obtaining enough sleep can adversely impact one’s body and mind are crucial but underrated contributing factors regarding relapse.

Idle Time

Everyone has heard some variation of the cliche dictating how idle time is dangerous. This is particularly true for recovering addicts. Excessive free time gives said subjects too much liberty to think about their past and worry about their future.


While displaying a positive attitude about one’s recovery proves key to a successful outcome, one should never be too confident. Such feelings might convince the improving soul they do not need help from anyone or are further along in the process than they truly are.

Bad Influences

Adversely influential individuals, environments, and events should be avoided wherever and whenever possible. This is especially the case if such people, places, and happenings once involved drinking or using drugs.

Steps One Can Take Following Some Type Of Relapse

Fortunately, experiencing a relapse is not the end of one’s recovery. They can quickly get back on the right track provided they follow suggestions such as:

Not Being Too Hard On Themselves

Most addiction specialists stress that everyone is human and recovery is a lifelong process. With those facts at hand, it is not uncommon for healing individuals to err every now and then. Moreover, those who have should not consider themselves weak or flawed. They are encouraged to adopt the attitude that they made a mistake and should take all necessary steps to correct said action.

Own Up To The Mistake

While mistakes happen, recovering addicts should not run from them or make excuses for why they occurred. Rather, they should take responsibility, identify what precipitated the issue in question, and quickly move to remediate whatever problem led to the slip-up.

Reach Out

Relapsing addicts should immediately reach out to supportive and understanding subjects like trusted family members, support groups, or sponsors. Said subjects can provide a sympathetic ear, in addition to a supportive and safe environment that can prevent the problem from escalating.

Learn For The Future

When the experience is over, the healing soul is urged to review the events in their entirety, note what they learned, and apply such lessons to future challenges.

Contacting Us

Relapse is a major pitfall of the recovery process. However, it is only a speed bump and not a derailment of their journey. Persons with questions on this or any other addiction-related topic are encouraged to reach out to us at 833-285-1315. Our team of experienced treatment professionals welcome questions and concerns.

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