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Recovery from an alcohol or drug addiction takes a lifetime. It is a lifetime of commitment from the moment you take the last substance that enters your body. It is detox, therapy, group sessions, sensible decisions, and a change of the way of life. Yet it is also living, thriving, and trying new things.

Yet recovery doesn’t always go as planned. There is always a chance of a slip or a return to addictive behaviours occurring after trauma or grief. But what is the difference, and are both a cause for concern?

Is a slip the same as a relapse?

Yes, and no. A slip (also called a lapse) can be a single unplanned use of a substance. The issue is when a slip can progress into a full relapse due to the mental relapse phase. You can read more about this in our article, ‘the stages of alcohol or drug relapse’. After this single use, there may be obsessive thoughts and cravings that occur, which can then lead to a complete physical relapse once again.

Yet a slip can be addressed with quick action and support. It does require open and honest communication from the person with the addiction, and support from others in their network. In our article ‘how to help an addict who has relapsed’ we share the tip: don’t ignore, dismiss or enable the problem.


What does it mean to have a slip?

Each person will have their own understanding of what a ‘slip’ is, but it is widely thought of as unplanned substance use. This may be because an opportunity has arisen for a substance to be used, and the recovering addict didn’t anticipate or plan this.

For example, being on an all-inclusive holiday and being served an alcoholic drink by accident. Rather than sending it back, the person drinks it instead.

This would be different to a full rejection of recovery principles, where the person could have been reminiscing about drinking or drugs, and trying to find an opportunity to start using again, not concerned about their recovery plan.

Man worried if his addiction problems are coming back to haunt him


Recovering from a slip or a relapse

The final consideration is what to do in the event of a slip or a return to active addiction. Taking action as quickly as possible is important in order to avoid the addiction from progressing to a worsened state.

But addiction and relapse is nothing to be ashamed of, and a person who has started to use again – whether one time or more – should not feel like they have failed. Take a look at our article about the chances of relapse for a better understanding of why.

You can get in touch with Delamere at any time to discuss your own recovery needs, or those of a friend or family member. You can get in touch by phone to speak with our admissions team, or reach out to us via our web chat, contact form or by email.

Struggling with an addiction? Contact Delamere

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