Slips, Relapses, and Getting Back on the Sober Path

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Sobriety is a lifelong journey that doesn’t have any kind of definite end date. Whether an individual is just taking their first steps out of a recovery program or is celebrating another year sober, there can still be any number of stressors that can threaten one’s sobriety. While relapse prevention strategies are learned and developed from the first moment in a recovery program, there is always still a chance that an individual will experience an unfortunate slip or relapse. 

However, while a setback in one’s recovery, going through these difficult experiences doesn’t mark one’s journey through recovery as a failure in any way, and there are ways to bounce back and strengthen one’s recovery and coping strategies following one of these difficult times.

What Are Slips?

While some may use the terms “slip” and “relapse” interchangeably, there is a key difference between the two terms that can greatly inform how an individual can recover and reconstruct a new strategy for their sobriety. 

Slips in one’s sober journey are defined as one-time stumbles or lapses in reliable or effective coping strategies. Those who experience a slip may find themselves taking a sip of a drink while at a wedding party or another situation where they did not expect that they would have to employ a coping strategy. Those who experience a slip may then immediately put the substance back down and begin to re-employ coping strategies or contact supports to help remove them from the high-risk scenario.

This kind of slip may be incredibly detrimental, as the reintroduction of an addictive substance into one’s body can be a complicated and dangerous experience. However, while slips may indicate that an individual once again partook in an addictive substance, they do not indicate that an individual has returned to a mindset that prioritizes the use of an addictive substance, and one’s recovery and sobriety are still in focus. 

When a Slip Becomes a Relapse

Relapses, however, indicate a reversion back to previously practiced, dangerous behaviors and are not necessarily limited to the one-time use of an addictive substance. Those experiencing a relapse may begin to seek out addictive substances with intention or will begin engaging in dangerous behaviors previously associated with addiction. Those going through an addiction may no longer prioritize their sobriety over their use of addictive substances and may even see recovery as a hurdle to their re-engagement.

Getting Back on the Sober Path

Going through a slip or relapse is unfortunate, but it is also common and doesn’t mean that one’s recovery is a failure or that an individual is beyond help. Rather, admitting that these things have happened and being dedicated to preventing a repeat occurrence in the future is the first step towards getting back on a sober path. This will involve telling your support network or professionals about the incident and may include returning to a detox program to remove the toxins from one’s body again. 

Take a Moment to Breathe

Acknowledging that one has slipped or relapsed takes a huge emotional toll, and acting rashly can further complicate one’s situation. Taking a minute to breathe and ground oneself to help calm one’s nerves for the coming steps. These are difficult experiences, and taking a few minutes to breathe, engage in self-care, or otherwise detach oneself from their emotional turmoil can provide new context and perspective on one’s situation. 

Talk About the Event

Discussing the details surrounding a slip or uncovering the reasons behind a relapse is paramount in maintaining a more robust understanding of one’s recovery path going forward. Discussing these factors can allow an individual to begin developing dedicated plans to prevent these events from happening again. 

For those who found themselves in unexpected, high-risk situations, reevaluating one’s escape plans may be a priority, while those who experienced a more drastic relapse may want to look into their lives to uncover new sources of stress that may not yet be addressed, such as a change in one’s work-life or relationships to begin focusing the development of new plans. 

You Don’t Have to Restart Recovery

While detox may be necessary depending on the nature of one’s slip or relapse, that doesn’t mean that each individual will have to go through all of the same recovery steps they have already accomplished. Talking with professionals about one’s re-engagement with an addictive substance and the details surrounding it can help better indicate parts in one’s recovery that they may need to revisit.

For some, this may mean that a sober living facility can prove the most beneficial or a return to residential treatment while new, appropriate strategies are developed. However, returning to these points in one’s recovery doesn’t mean that an individual has failed in their recovery — rather that they are prepared and willing to address these unforeseen factors and continue building upon their recovery toolkit. 

Experiencing a slip or relapse doesn’t mean that a person has forgotten their effective strategies, just that they may need to add another new approach to cope with these unique, nuanced situations. 

Experiencing a slip or relapse on your recovery journey is a difficult experience, and there can be a lot of self-doubt and self-criticism that can come along with it. However, at Everlast Recovery, we are prepared to help you get back on the sober path and develop a plan that is right for you. Our programs are designed to meet you where you are on your recovery journey and provide a number of options to help you create the most robust recovery toolkit for your unique situation. Between art therapy, individual and group sessions, mindfulness practices, family programs, and more, our safe, home-like atmosphere is ready to invite you to explore your own best practices and sober goals. For more information on the various ways we can help you reclaim your sober path or to speak to a caring, trained professional about your unique situation, call us today at (866) 338-6925.

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