Generally speaking, relapse means a slight fall-back after a period of improvement. Relapse can also apply to those suffering from a physical condition or mental illness. In most cases, little slips toward a goal happens quite often. When trying to loose weight, the urges for that candy bar or bucket of ice cream can become too strong, and relapse can occur. But this doesn’t mean that this one slip makes you gain all of your weight back.
So why then, when it comes to addiction, do we teach the self-defeating principle that if an addict slips, he have to start all over again as if no improvement was made?
Striving toward any worthwhile goal usually results in minor slips here and there, set backs and stumbles. If this happens, it doesn’t mean that you are failing but you are cultivating your capacity to get there.
Besides, to think that all the days, weeks, months or even years of sobriety didn’t mean a thing you slipped, feeds discouragement, depression and despair – the very emotions research has shown to trigger relapse!1
Research shows that addicts who are able to maintain some abstinence and sobriety have increased improvement in mental and physical health. In one study, brain changes including cell regeneration occurred only after a couple weeks of sobriety.2
Many 12-step addiction recovery groups teach that if you slip, you’re “powerless” and you have to start all over again. This is far from the truth.
Research shows that those who obtain long-term sobriety, actually relapse around 2-3 times.3 So what does this tell us? It tells us that relapse can be a stepping stone through recovery, not a stumbling block. It can be a means to cultivate your capacity to obtain your goal, not and end to it.