Nov 26, 2014

What Are Slip, Lapses and Relapses & What Do They All Have In Common?

They all include Acting Out in one's addiction, and require a restart in sobriety AND Recovery dates. Let’s look at some definitions.

Acting Out - Intentionally seeking out any erotic and sensual stimulus, even if "accidental" at first. DEFINITE lines of acting out: Masturbation, Pornography, Infidelity, Emotional infidelity, Inappropriate relationships with opposite sex, Chatting, Flirting, Sex ad browsing, Forcing anyone to have sex (yes, even if it’s your own wife), & Massage brothels.

PornographyAny material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings. This includes scantily dressed women in bikinis, lingerie or revealing clothes, scantily dressed woman in comics, cartoons, or art, erotic books, risky material in movies, TV shows, phone apps, or games.

LDS .org Church Definition of Pornography - 
  "Pornography is any visual or written medium created with the intent to sexually stimulate. If the work was not intended to stimulate but nevertheless causes sexual arousal in an individual, it constitutes pornography for that person."
  "Pornography is any entertainment that uses immodest or indecent images to stimulate sexual feelings. So even a mainstream television program or advertisement can be pornographic. If images trigger sexual feelings in you, you should avoid them."

Are there differences between slip, lapse, & relapse? Yes. Technically. 

S.L.I.P -- "Sexual Sobriety Lost its Priority" - A slip is a one-time unexpected unplanned break in abstinence. Slips are significant events that call for immediate attention. But how can one know it will truly be the LAST time they will ever act out? For all an addict knows, they could act out again in a few days, few months, or next year etc. And if one-time-slips continue to occur, would each one still be considered a "ONE time unexpected unplanned break in abstinence"?

Relapse - A relapse is the recurrence of symptoms of a disease or to resume addictive behavior after a period of abstinence.

Lapse - A lapse is somewhere confusingly in between.

Overall, I'm not sure I see the importance on defining slip, lapse, or relapses. Acting out in your addiction is acting out in your addiction. A duck is a duck. Whether once or a hundred times, it is all part of the Addiction Cycle and requires a restart in one's sobriety and recovery date.

I do however believe restarting one's sobriety/Recovery date after any acting out IS extremely important. Us addicts are all great at deceiving ourselves and honesty is at the very heart of getting sober and then hopefully into Recovery. The last thing any addict needs is to believe they are doing greater than they actually are. Self-deception is a killer.

Are Slips and Relapses Inevitable?
No! While many people seeking sobriety & recovery do slip and relapse in the beginning, there are also some addicts in recovery who never slip or relapse. Even though they do happen  there should be zero expectancy for slips or relapses. If individuals believe they are likely to slip, they may set up a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sobriety - Sobriety is completely abstaining from acting out in one's addiction. "not intoxicated or subdued in personality or color; Not drunk

Recovery - A return to a healthy functioning state of mind, strength, or health:
"A voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health and citizenship.” - The Betty Ford Institute
“Recovery from addiction is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.” - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
“A process of overcoming both physical and psychological dependence on an addiction with a commitment to abstinence-based sobriety” - American Society of Addiction Medicine

Recovery from the damage caused by the addiction requires abstinence. Recovery is NOT, however, a one stop process. I see it more as a continual straight line forever towards progress...while sober. I wrote more about this here: No Relapse In Recovery

WHY is Defining Recovery So Important?

There's a huge important difference between being IN Recovery and working TOWARDS Recovery. Especially when looking at the actual definition and meaning of Recovery as a verb. 

Being "In" Recovery means the disease is no longer present or currently invading the body, but of course one must maintain health and continually work towards progressing. Being in recovery never means "stop working" since it's somthing that must be worked on and maintained in order to stay sober. 

Working TOWARDS recovery is the process of working towards getting into recovery. (Much like the difference between "He walked outside" vs "He walked towards the door to go outside" 

Can an addict honestly "Return to a healthy functioning state of mind, strength, or health" while they are acting out and feeding into the same thing that made them sick in the first place?

In terms of cancer or other illnesses  Recovery (and remission) means no more cancer is present in the body. It doesn't mean it can't come back, but that it’s not currently present. (and if it DOES come back they have to do everything possible and take the time to heal in order to get back into recovery) 

If a cancer patient in recovery were to get any sort of cancer again, even a tiiiny bit (slip), they would not go around telling people "I have cancer but I am in recovery" because it would convey to others the false misconception that cancer is no longer present. Having cancer present signifies they are no longer in recovery. The cancer may take a quick short time to get back into Recovery, it may take a long time to get back into Recovery, or it may be terminal, but it is still cancer presently endangering the body.

I look at it the same way with an addict. If an addict in recovery were to act out (slip, relapse etc) in his addiction in any way, even a tiny bit, they would no longer be IN recovery because they actively chose to bring back the addiction presently in their lives. (And by chose, I mean by not actively choosing to do all that one can do to PREVENT it. Slips or any acting out can ALWAYS be prevented) Does that make sense?

Some people might think "What's the big deal, who cares?". A part of me thinks that too. But miscommunication can cause disastrous effects and can be very dangerous. Being clear with our words and their meanings is very important. If a Dr. told cancer patient A. who has zero cancer present, and cancer patient B. who has a little bit of cancer present, that they were both IN recovery, it would become extremely confusing and could cause immense heartache.

Now imagine the patient B who gets told he's in recovery, only to later find out a "little bit" of cancer is still presently killing him, or imagine the family who gets told their loved one is in recovery, thinking they are going to live, only to later find out that their loved one is still dying. It would eventually cause confusion, heartache and chaos.  (i have seen this same type of miscommunication hurt wives and addicts)

Point #3
Some addicts believe a slip is OK in Recovery, but not a relapse. A slip and relapse both are acting out in one's addiction. How is one form of acting out supposedly OK in Recovery, and not another?

Point #4
Imagine two men standing side by side. Both say they have been in recovery for 10 years. Both say they are honest, transparent, loving, etc and allll the other required things that make up being in Recovery .....
But one man slips/relapses once every 2 years and the other man has NEVER slipped/relapsed while in Recovery......
How do we differentiate between the two? Why should the man who has never relapsed or slipped be put in the same category as the one who does?

If you were trying to get sober and into recovery, who would you want as a sponsor, mentor, or therapist....the person with 10 years of sobriety and recovery, or the person who slips up every year or two? Can a person who "slips up" really counsel others how to get in-to sobriety/Recovery if they can't even do it themselves?  (My quest to better understand the word Recovery actually stemmed from a sex addiction therapist who stated on his website that he's been in recovery for 10 years. Yet when when I messaged him and asked how long he's been sober he stated he was only 1 year sober..)

Point #6
They’ve done a study between two addiction treatment facilities. One facility had the belief that there was NO slip/relapse while in Recovery, and the other had the belief that it’s O.K. to slip up every once in a while as long as the actions were that of a "man in recovery". Guess which facility produced more addicts with long term sobriety and recovery?

Point #7
Have you ever tried getting off sugar etc. and done really really really well...but ate just piece of sugary food and the urge to eat becomes SO MUCH more extreme, and when you tried to go back to no sugar, it was 100 x harder?

Why is that? Because after we take that first bite, we not only get an intense chemical surge from the sugar, but our brain also instantly recalls the exciting memories and emotions of allll the times in the past when we ate sugar. Subconscious cellular cake, ice cream, candy, SUGAR memories all at once! Our mouths and bodies have an uncontrollable reaction whether we like it or not!
Sex addicts also go through this same process, but with sex addiction it’s an INSANELY greater intense surge of chemical, memory, & emotion all at once. Even if an addict is honest afterward, slipping/acting out sets back the brain to an earlier state of mind and makes it extremely harder for the brain to go back to functioning the way it did while sober. So an addict with 10 years of so called "recovery" who slips up every X amount of months/years does not have the same level of brain function as someone with 10 years of Recovery & sobriety with zero slips/relapses. Ours brains NEED to be completely free of our drug in order to start healing. Wounds can’t heal while throwing dirt into them.

Recovery is about honesty. Can someone slip/relapse and claim they are being 100% honest with themselves, others & God? The two statements seem contradictory don't they??

Sure, an addict can act out once every few months and be honest to the point that they disclose the relapse to God, others etc. They can be loving and open about it without minimizing, without blame, without defensiveness, and can even be "cash register honest", where they disclose everything in detail. These are all GOOD things. So yes, they may be honest after the relapse, but what about the necessary crucial honesty before?

First, I believe relapses are all preventable. How? By being brutally honest with oneself, others & God. Despite the cause or trigger of the slip/relapse --- i.e. accidentally seeing something, stress, work, self-loathing, hurt feelings etc.--- an addict still has a choice to enter the Addiction Cycle and entertain debilitating negative emotions or thoughts of acting out. So even if an addict is completely honest AFTER the slip/relapse, the action itself is evidence they are not being entirely honest to themselves or God. Being completely honest & transparent means doing whatever it takes to PREVENT the slip/relapse from happening by reaching out and being honest with himself, sponsor, wife, God etc.

If being IN Recovery has such deep meaning to an addict and everyone involved, shouldn't the definition have just as much importance? How can anyone know what Recovery is if no one knows what it means? Blurred lines = Blurred Recoveries.

A duck is a duck.

A slip is a slip.

A relapse is a relapse.

Acting out is acting out.

Whatever it takes means whatever it takes.