After years of repeating the same behaviors over and over again, we’re prone to falling back into old patterns every now and again in our recovery. Our goal is to avoid regression as much as possible, especially in the specific ways which can hurt us, hurt our loved ones, and hurt our lives the most.
In the world of recovery, the word relapse carries more shame than compassion and understanding. Some circles, like conservative 12-step philosophies, see relapse as a condemnation and a need to start completely “over” again, no matter the devastation or lack thereof. Due to the importance of a sobriety date, any event of breaking abstinence is a complete and total relapse, necessitating the “restart” of a sobriety date, the 12-steps and everything in recovery as a whole.
Shaming recovery regressions has a negative result. Told that they aren’t “getting it” or that they aren’t “willing”, individuals absorb toxic messages about themselves and their sobriety which lack motivation, encouragement, and most importantly, empathy. Addiction is, in many ways, a relapsing and remitting disease. As much as addiction is behavioral, it is also medical- even the healthiest body can become cancerous despite years of remission. Relapse is not inevitable, but it is possible. When someone relapses, we have to work together to understand what happened, fix the damage, and prevent it from happening again. Moreover, we have to understand the severity of the regression so that we are not unintentionally punishing or shaming someone who is otherwise fighting for their lives.
Today, the idea of a “slip” is gaining traction as a counterpart to the idea of relapse. People make mistakes in their recovery because getting sober isn’t a guarantee of immunity from humanity. It is, however, a commitment and a set of tools for handling the ups and downs of being human more effectively, and most hopefully, without drugs and alcohol. Slips are mistakes which are quickly remedied and show a sign that something briefly went amiss, but that the foundation of recovery is not broken as a whole. Relapse, on the other hand, paints a different picture. Relapse tends to carry on for days, weeks, months, or even years, without any consideration toward wrongdoing- a sign that the foundation has been broken. Those who relapse most often have to go through an entirely new journey of suffering until they reach the point where they can understand, once more, that their behaviors are the cause of their pain. Like forgetting and relearning, relapse is a process that has to be cycled completely. A slip, in contrast, is a momentary lapse in judgment, which is quickly remedied.
By dictionary definition, a slip, as a verb, is to “slide unintentionally for a short distance, typically losing one’s balance or footing”. When someone slips by taking a drink, taking quite a few drinks, going on a short bender, participating in drug use, or some other self-destructive behavior, they are usually just “losing balance”. Most often, something more triggering than they were fully prepared to handle has happened and they “slid” backward “a short distance” unintentionally. The short distance is key. After a slip, individuals quickly realize the reality of their decision making and are eager to get back on track with their recovery. All the work of their recovery is not lost, but was lost for merely a short moment. Their foundation doesn’t have to be rebuilt but does have to be repaired.
To relapse can be defined as to “suffer deterioration after a period of improvement”. A relapse is not a slip, by any nature. Someone who relapses dives deep into their old behaviors with abandon- deteriorating the foundation they have built in recovery. It is difficult to know what someone’s intentions are when they choose to use again, then don’t stop using for some time. However, their motives are made clear when they don’t stop and don’t come back to recovery. After a period of improvement- no matter that amount of time- they suffer a deterioration. A foundation which has been deteriorated has to be rebuilt.
The Monitoring Services program at Hired Power can help you and your family maintain accountability with a loved one’s sobriety with regular breathalyzer testing, urinalysis testing, and an open communication system with a Care Manager which promotes honesty and transparency. Data-driven communication with real-time testing results takes the mystery out of our loved one’s activities and gives us direct information without question. Whether your loved one is new to recovery for the first time, or has had a slip, or has relapsed, maintaining accountability will help with healing. Our team has experienced addiction first hand either personally or through the journey of a loved one. We know that tight teamwork and communication it takes to support someone we care about through the challenging task of changing their lives completely. The mission we hold dear to our hearts here is simple: We’re here to help you bring recovery home. You’re never alone. We’ll stand by you.
Call Hired Power today for information on our unique recovery services designed to help you focus on bringing recovery home. Our dynamic team of recovery professionals strives to support you and your loved ones through every stage of the recovery journey. For information, call us today: 1-800-910-9299
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“I don’t look at you (Hired Power) as hiring a service, I look at you as saving my life.” (referring to his ability to stay sober after returning home).