The process of recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is challenging. For some people, it can be a long journey. If you find yourself struggling, you are not alone–and we don’t just mean that in the stereotypical way. Many people find themselves going back to old habits before considering themselves fully recovered.

Don’t Give Up

While the goal for anyone in recovery is to avoid a drug abuse relapse, it does not mean that you are a failure if you have gone back to using. If you feel ashamed about a relapse back into drinking or drug use, that feeling can actually be a good thing as long as you don’t let it consume you. The feeling of shame tells us that we still care about what our loved ones think of us. The important thing is that you want to continue investing in your life, your career, your family and your friends. A key part of recovery is focusing on what can be done to improve the situation now.

Differentiating Slip vs Relapse

Whether it is a slip or a relapse, going back into your vice can be a traumatizing and painful experience. Many addicts describe the feeling of withdrawals after a relapse as being worse than the first time coming off of their substance of choice. However, going back into using is not always a full-on relapse. Knowing where you are in your recovery process is helpful, and this knowledge can be enhanced by being able to differentiate between a slip and a relapse.

Slips Are Often a One-Time Issue

Sometimes someone who is in recovery will use once or have a drink, and then instantly regret doing so. A slip can strengthen someone’s path to recovery if they are willing to recognize that it was a mistake. If it only happened once and did not get too out of hand, a slip does not typically carry with it the same withdrawal issues as a full-blown relapse. If you are an alcoholic and you have just one drink, even after years of being sober, this would be considered a slip rather than a drinking relapse.

Relapses Can Be Challenging

The thing about slipping is that sometimes we can get right back up again, but other times we end up sliding much further back. The origin of the word “relapse” actually comes from Latin, and literally means “a sliding back.” A drug abuse relapse goes much further than just one episode. Someone who relapses goes fully back into addiction.

Harm Reduction Strategies

A relapse or even a slip is not something that everyone in recovery goes through, but if you do find yourself facing this challenge, there are ways to mitigate the risks. If you find yourself romanticizing about past drug use or believing you can use a little and moderate, you are at risk of a relapse. It is a good idea to avoid old friends who still use, and instead talk about your urges with a therapist or in a recovery group. Remember that even if you have had a slip or a relapse, you can still fully recover.