A common misunderstanding in recovery revolves around of the words lapse vs relapse. A lapse is considered a single episode, and not severely re-initiating of an occurrence of substance use reflecting a previous addiction or abuse. Lapses are normal in the process of recovery as from time-to-time people use without any major negative consequences.
A relapse on the other hand should be considered far more serious than a lapse and as an indication that an individual has returned to their former addiction. It consists of an initial slip back into using but is maintained for a period of time and has severe consequences. For example, a previous alcoholic could experience a blackout and remain drunk for days. The relapse they experienced can have detrimental effects on their recovery plan and harm their social, mental, and physical well-being.
Through the process of recovery there are obvious ups-and-downs which an individual can use to motivate themselves toward greater achievement and success. The normalcy of lapses indicates areas where the individual can improve and where they are struggling. The key take-away to preventing a relapse as the result of a lapse is learning from the mistakes made that caused the slip. As a learning experience, a lapse makes the recovery process stronger, by highlighting areas that need improvement and assistance. Knowing these shaky areas is vital to avoiding them in the future and preventing a more serious relapse.
While in some cases lapses can be beneficial, relapses are only harmful. Not only are relapses destructive they can be extremely discouraging. Regardless of the amount of progress made prior to the relapse, the effects are overwhelmingly negative due to a return to drug use after a drug-free period.
The process of relapses often begin with lifestyle imbalance which feeds into a distortion of reality, impaired thinking, denial, and delusion. As a result the individual returns to their substance of choice. Common after effects of a relapse consist of: depression, anger, anxiety, frustration, and suicidal thoughts.
Avoiding relapses take extra energy and identifying personal triggers and risky situations can promote your awareness about your addiction. While, lapses can be used to learn and improve your recovery plan they should remain infrequent and never encourage a relapse.