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Slip Vs Relapse

One of the challenges of recovery and maintaining long-term sobriety is the risk of slips and relapses. While many people use these terms interchangeably, they have different meanings. Whether you are in recovery or someone you care about, learning more about the differences between slip vs. relapse will further benefit the recovery journey. 

What Is a Slip in the Context of Addiction?

Slip is an acronym often used to refer to the individual’s Sobriety Lost Its Priority. A slip is where the person slips and uses drugs or alcohol after a period of sobriety. It typically takes place during early recovery from addiction and often involves a one or two-time session of using drugs or alcohol. A slip should be taken seriously, as it can cause the individual to lose motivation and give up on their journey towards lasting sobriety and transition into a relapse. 

Contributing Factors/Temptations into Slipping

Various factors can contribute to a slip or relapse. These include physical and emotional vulnerability, overconfidence in their ability to stay abstinent, old lifestyle patterns and habits, lingering cravings for drugs or alcohol even after long periods of abstinence, and being around those that still use substances (peer pressure). Other temptations, such as distant memories of circumstances or situations associated with using drugs and alcohol, may lead someone down a path toward a slip. Resisting these urges is integral to maintaining lasting sobriety.

Slip vs. Relapse

Although a slip and relapse are related, several important distinctions exist between them. A slip is typically viewed as one episode of drug or alcohol use after trying to stay sober for an extended period, while a relapse involves more than two sessions of using the substance after attempting recovery. Additionally, slips tend to take place during early recovery but can persist if not addressed properly, which may lead to an eventual full-fledged relapse.

Examples of Slips

  • Having one drink or using drugs after not doing so for a period of time
  • Going to an old familiar place that is associated with drug or alcohol use – a “trigger”
  • Socializing with individuals who have unhealthy habits and attitudes around substances
  • Giving into occasional temptations, such as fantasizing or ruminating about what it was like to drink or use drugs

Examples of Relapse

  • Retreating to the same cycle of using drugs or alcohol that was present prior to recovery
  • Regularly consuming more substances than originally intended
  • Excessive drug cravings and a lack of control over one’s own impulse to use drugs or drink alcohol
  • Engaging in negative behaviors such as lying, stealing, or financial irresponsibility in an attempt to acquire substances 

What Is a Relapse in the Context of Addiction?

A relapse is a return to active substance abuse following a period of abstinence or recovery. The process of relapse occurs in stages, beginning with increased risk factors, then slips, and ending with full-blown use of drugs and alcohol. 

Contributing Factors/Temptations into Relapsing

Factors that may increase an individual’s likelihood for relapse include lifestyle changes, stress from personal relationships, overexposure to triggers (environmental cues associated with past drug use), and mental health issues such as trauma or depression. 

What to Do to Prevent Slips and Relapses

Slip and relapse prevention is essential for individuals attempting recovery from addiction. This can include the following: 

  • Increase Your Social Support Network: Lean on friends and family who can provide you with emotional support during challenging times. Therapists, substance abuse counselors, and other mental health professionals may also help you prevent slips or relapses in the future. 
  • Practice Self-Care: Take time to engage in activities that bring joy or relaxation. Going for a run, practicing yoga, journaling your thoughts. These are all effective ways to nourish yourself mentally and physically without turning back to drugs or alcohol as an escape from stressors. 
  • Develop Healthy Habits: Make sustainable lifestyle changes that will last beyond recovery by engaging in healthy practices, such as eating nutritious meals, getting adequate rest and sleep, maintaining active social circles of sober individuals, avoiding those who still use substances, exercising regularly, and avoiding temptation triggers whenever possible. 
  • Deal With Underlying Issues: It is essential to continue working on underlying issues and triggers while developing effective coping skills. One should also take extra precautions when needed, like attending meetings, calling one’s sponsor, or seeking peer support. 
  • Use the Buddy System: Bring along a trusted friend for additional support before going into a potentially difficult situation that you cannot avoid, which is highly stressful or associated with drug or alcohol use before treatment.  
  • Learn How to Process One’s Emotions: Properly processing emotions caused by unresolved psychological issues helps reduce the risk of slips and relapses significantly over time. 


Slips and relapses are two common consequences of addiction. Regardless of the differences between a slip vs. relapse, both can have serious ramifications for individuals attempting recovery, but with proper support and adherence to healthy practices, slips and relapses can be prevented in order to achieve long-term sobriety successfully. 

Remember that it is okay to reach out for help whenever it is needed. There is no shame in seeking assistance to prevent a slip or relapse from occurring. In addition, the longer one is able to maintain their sobriety, the risk of slips and relapses gradually declines. 

Gender-Specific Support With a Personal Touch in Columbus, OH

Ohio Addiction Recovery Center in Columbus, Ohio, offers aftercare support, programs, and resources to help you maintain your sobriety and reduce the risk of slips and relapses. For further information, contact us today.

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