Addiction and Mental Health

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Stopping a slip from becoming a relapse

with 4 comments

Stopping a slip from becoming a relapse

by Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

Licensed Clinical Psychologist in San Diego;  http://www.DrJulieMyers.com

For many with serious substance abuse problems, any drug or alcohol use can be problematic. These people must abstain.  If they drink or drug again, they can slip into full-blown relapse, even after months or years of abstinence.  For some, even a brief lapse may generate so much self-doubt, guilt, and a belief about personal failure, that the person gives up and continues to use.  This tendency is referred to as the abstinence violation effect.

So does this mean that even a brief lapse must lead to a full-blown relapse?  Does it mean a person must continue to drink or drug until the use returns to the initial level?   Is spiraling out of control inevitable?   Simply put, no.  A lapse need not become a relapse.  After a slip, you have not unlearned all that you have learned.  You have not unchanged all that you have changed in your life to support your recovery.  You do not have to start counting again from day one.

If you view your lapse as a mistake and as a product of external triggers, rather than as a personal failure, research shows that you will have a much better chance of return to abstinence quickly.  Your lapse becomes a tool to move forward and to strengthen your motivation to change, your identification of triggers and urge-controlling techniques, your rational coping skills, and the lifestyle changes needed to lead a more balanced life.

Does this mean that a person should view these lapses as a good thing?   Of course not!   Clearly, if one wants to abstain, lapses are not preferred.  But by recognizing that mistakes can happen and learning how to quickly right oneself, long-term abstinence can be achieved.   Lapses may occur, but relapse is not inevitable.

Copyright ( 2012) Julie Myers, PysD:  Psychologist in San Diego.  All Rights Reserved.

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4 Responses

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  1. Hi there to every one, the contents existing at
    this web page are truly remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the
    nice work fellows.

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    June 4, 2013 at 1:02 am

  2. I am not sure where you are getting your information, but
    good topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this info for my mission.

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    June 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    • Thanks so much for your comment. The information comes from many years working in the field of addiction. (I am trained both as an addiction counselor and as a Psychologist.) Best wishes to you and your “mission”!

      Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

      June 23, 2013 at 6:02 am


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