The Difference between a Relapse and a Slip

Note: This post is another from our contributing writer B.H. who has been regularly sharing her stories and experiences with her son’s struggle with addiction. 

When an addict completes a rehabilitation program for drug addiction (or alcohol addiction), it may be a very joyous time. Families and loved ones may think that it is all said and done, and the addict is cured forever.

This is just not true, by any means.

This is because the addict will always struggle with many different feelings, cravings, and emotions…long after attending and “graduating” from a rehabilitation program. This is why many rehabilitation programs have “aftercare”, where it is extremely important for the individual to attend weekly meetings. This aftercare is often held outside of the actual center attended, and include counseling and educational classes for the addict to understand the feelings and emotions, which can sometimes be very overwhelming, after rehab.

Addicts are also strongly encouraged to put their recovery first, before anything else, by attending approved drug or alcohol support meetings each week (at least). The recovery is for life, not just after the thirty-or-so days of being in a facility.


Unfortunately, relapse may occur during recovery. This can happen when the addict feels overwhelmed, is dealing with a lot of emotional issues or stress, or simply just want to use again. Some people say relapse is a part of recovery, and this may be true for some people. It can happen, and when it does happen, the addict may choose to continue using again several times or even long-term before something occurs to make them want to go back into a rehabilitation facility.

My son relapsed one time. He had been out of rehab for about one month and started using again when he was living in an Oxford House. He used for about a week, and told the House Leader that he needed to stop but just couldn’t do it on his own. So, he went back to the same rehab that he was in before and repeated the entire program once again. Being there before, everyone knew him, and after a few weeks he felt more like a leader during group therapy and a motivator for newcomers. The second time in rehab was successful, as he is still clean today and living at home. It has been 8 months and he is still going strong in terms of recovery.

A Slip

Oh, that dang slip. It happened four months after he came home, and he still beats himself up every day about it. This is because it was a costly slip. No, it wasn’t hard drug use, but it was alcohol (which is still a drug, but legal at his age). He was feeling very down one evening because he lost a close friend from rehab and the Oxford House (his roommate) to a drug overdose. My son decided to go out on his own, stop by a bar, and drink.

It was one night, and he was going out to his car to get his cigarettes. He drunkenly got into his vehicle and turned on the lights. He didn’t start the car, but a police officer was close by. The officer arrested him for intent to drive, and he was charged with a DWI. After 24-hours in jail, I had to go get him. His court date recently occurred, and, yes, he was found guilty. The ramifications of “the slip” are quite large, to say the least.

He continues to regret his choice. Luckily, his employer kept him, and has allowed him to have five weekends off in a row for his weekend jail time. He also has to have an interlock device on his car for 6 months.

Was he really getting ready to drive? I don’t know. Was it really fair that he got a DWI when he wasn’t driving? I don’t know that either. He had a slip, hasn’t had any harmful substance since then, and now has a restricted license for one year. Maybe in the end we will all be thankful that the courts chose to punish him for it. I just don’t know yet.

Relapses, and even slips, can once again affect the whole family. I know that time heals, and I don’t necessarily feel like we are anywhere close to the family tension we had when he was actively using drugs. But all of this goes to show that addiction is a family disease, and it completely changes the environment of the home, no matter if it is a relapse or a slip. The recovering addict is always working hard to keep up the good work, but sometimes weak moments occur, and it is time to start all over again. With a solid support system, like my son has, the greater the chances of the person in recovery is to succeed.



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