How to Define Relapse
Relapse is a term that is used far beyond drug and alcohol addiction. Generally speaking, the heart of relapse is simply a turn for the worse, or a return to an unfavorable condition after improvement has been made. This is often a medical term, and can be applied to the status of almost any disease or condition.
Relapse or Just a Mistake?
For the purposes of substance abuse, it is a return to use after a period of sobriety. But how is relapsing different from “slipping up”? It’s a bit of a grey area, but it is possible to make a mistake without suffering a full-blown relapse.
For example, say an alcoholic has been sober for 6 months. He or she gets depressed or has anxiety one day, and decides to have a few drinks. The next day, the effects are felt, and the person feels guilty. How this event is handled and perceived mentally can make a big difference in determining whether this is a just slip up, or heading for major disaster.
What often happens in the cases of relapse, is the first event is taken as a sign of failure. An already depressed or anxious person who is struggling mentally and emotionally may sink deeper into these thoughts after succumbing to their old additions.
Unfortunately, for many addict and alcoholics, mistakes and relapses may be inevitable. That is the nature of addiction – it may take a long time to really get over substance dependency, and it can be a daily battle. Therefore, it is critically important that in these moments, abusers cut themselves a little slack.
In other words, it’s better to get back on the horse and fall off again, than to walk the whole way by yourself. And how you personally define relapse can make or break you.
Also, the human brain can benefit from ANY period of abstinence. That is, quitting and starting back up is better than never quitting at all. Really!
Relapse in the Eye of the Beholder
How to define relapse is also a personal observation of one’s own self-image. Moreover, if you panic and chose not to forgive yourself, it’s going to be that much harder to stay sober during the mental duress. It can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe you are going to relapse, you probably are. However, if you forgive yourself for the slip up and believe in your ability to avoid a full relapse, the chances are much greater that you will.
You can choose to define relapse for yourself. And it may be a great mental tool as long as that definition is realistic. Moreover, you can be TOO forgiving of yourself, and that is the same thing as denial.
If you or someone you know is an addict or alcoholic, please seek help immediately.
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