SLIPS, LAPSES AND RELAPSES in Addictions

Slip:

reverting back to substance use, but only for a single episode and involving a very limited amount of the substance i.e. a single drink, joint, or line

Lapse:

while similar to a slip in being a single episode, involves increased consumption of the substance i.e. a binge drinking session, or going on a “run”

Relapse:

when an individual returns to their previous substance using patterns, and involves a perception of loss of control, and feeling of failure in making a behaviour change.

What To Do When Slip, Lapse, or Relapse Occurs

  • it does NOT mean that you have forgotten everything you have already learnt;
  • it does NOT mean that you are a failure, that everything so far has all been a waste of time, and it’s all hopeless;
  • see it as a learning experience;
  • see it as a specific, unique event;
  • examine the incident OPENLY in order to reduce the amount of guilt and/or shame you may be feeling, as those thoughts can easily lead to a feeling of hopelessness and continuing with the substance use;
  • analyze the TRIGGERS for the incident;
  • examine what your EXPECTATIONS about the substance use were at the time i.e. what did you anticipate using would accomplish in THAT particular situation;
  • plan for dealing with the aftermath/consequences of the event;
  • tell yourself that control is only a thought and a moment away;
  • make immediate plans to revert back to recovery – don’t hesitate, do it NOW;
  • contact your counsellor and discuss the recent events.

William Stokeld, M.A.

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