Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What Are Slip's, Lapse's and Relapse's & What Do They All Have In Common?

They all include Acting Out in one's addiction, are a part of the Addiction Cycle (<--link), 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.


  1. You have hit the nail on the head. Thank you for putting in writing what others are afraid to say. So very helpful and confirming of how I feel.

  2. Hmmm, you HAD to have heard the typical after social event discussion this morning !!! Can you explain who , what and HOW does an addict absorb this information ???Because coming out of the spouses mouth is well , not pleasant . :))
    Bless you for articulating so well again , thank you , thank you .

    1. Ha I know what you mean! Send him a link to my blog :) Im an addict myself, and my husband STILL wouldnt believe me at first. But if someone else said it to him, it was like the "lightbulb" turned on haha.

      Maybe these will also help, this is straight from Andrew Pipanne's website ".....if he is in recovery he will spontaneously share with you new experiences and insights of sobriety as he progresses in recovery.

      If he is not sharing spontaneously it is because he has nothing to share. If he has nothing to share, he is not in recovery. There are only two possible camps in the sex addiction recovery world. Either the addict is actively working toward recovery through a defined program and will stay sober, or he is not working toward recovery and is basically blowing in the wind. This second guy is either acting out currently or merely treading water until the compulsions once again overwhelm him and he slips up as he always has.

      As you said, you can’t work your husband’s recovery for him. He has to do that. One thing you don’t have to do, however, is pretend along with him that he is getting better when he’s not. Everything you’ve described about your husband indicates that he’s not in recovery and never has been. Sure, he’s been penitent at times. Sure, he’s desired to change at times. But he’s never been in recovery. You can tell him that. Because you know he’s never been truly sober, you can tell him that all your decisions from now on will be based upon the fact that he is not in recovery.

      You can also tell him that other LDS husbands are achieving complete sexual sobriety now and that you deserve nothing less than that. Now means now, not three months from now, or six months from now, or a year from now. By the way, in case he wonders, complete sexual sobriety means no pornography and no masturbation—ever. It also means progressive victory over lust. Recovery does not mean trying really hard and only slipping up once every three to six months. We have another name for that: active addiction."

      Gray areas.

      No slips in recovery.

  3. I am unclear about point 8 . So you are saying they can act out to porn and because they tell with true remorse they are still in recovery? Exactly how far can a slip go and its not a relapse ? If they take a second look at that right " type", but because she is decently clothed it is denied, excused.... so this is NOT in recovery , right ?? This is still an oft spoken issue.

    1. Anonymous, oh no no no I am saying the exact opposite. Im saying that if a man acts out to porn, then he's automatically not honest with himself, God, and others, even IF he's honest about looking at porn afterward. Does that make sense?
      Any acting out is proof of dishonesty with oneself, God, and others. And if they are being dishonest, can they say they are in Recovery?

      I don't think so

      How far can a slip go before its a relapse? Slip, relapse, lapse....regardless of the name, if they act out in their addiction, they are NOT in recovery.

      If an addict stops looking at porn online, but is still ALLOWING himself to intentionally fantasize about and oogle every woman he sees......what's the difference? His brain is still getting a hit of his "drug".

      Also, would YOU consider a man who's allowing himself to oogle and fantasize to be honest?

  4. No , I wouldn't . But I'm starting to wonder if I'm the insane one.

  5. Wow! I cannot believe I found this page. This is exactly why I get devastated every time my husband "slips". He is so non-chalant about the slips as if they're not putting him back at square one and actually prove that he's not recovering. Except in his recovery group they told him that relapses happen so he's gotten this attitude like it's part of the process. In my mind and heart I know he's just lying to himself and everyone around him and it devastates me that he doesn't take it seriously BEFOREHAND and then slips. Except the most recent three slips he's actually hidden from me and I can see that it's getting worse and escalating. He can't see it. I'm so glad I found this page. I'm so tired of reading that slips/relapses are all normal and a part of recovery. They are absolutely not and this article confirms what I've been feeling all along. Thank you

  6. seriously?!
    The concept of lapse, is about giving someone who has engaged and desperatly wants to have way to get back on track without feeling like everything youve struggled for is gone. THATS what it is about, not just feeling like you can dip in sporadically and everything will be fine. I have tried the absolute method for years and have not had success, I always have a moment where I slip and all I fucking need is someone to till me I can get back on track that it is not too late.
    Your judgement of the two counselors is arrogant, judgemental, and mean. Only a small percentage of people strugglign with addiction can stay fully sober even five years, someone who has gone ten is a miraculous. Anyone who is committed to long term recovery should be commended not told that a slip (which is inveitible for many) is going to erase all there years of work. I actually commend the person who does slip every two years, you know why? because they havent given up, the are not one of the rare people who can go five or more years without slipping, yet they havent fallen back in. You just strike me as so cruel and arrogant and nasty.

    1. So I read this comment in passing and wasn't going to respond. Us addicts are insane after all. But after a few minutes I had to respond.

      First, you are being defensive. This is a red flag and shows that you are unsure of your belief in yourself. There would be no other reason for you getting defensive. It is also addict behavior. Your response actually helps her cause because it shows that you are either an addict who doesn't want his wife to listen to what this article is saying, or the wife of an addict who doesn't want her husband to look bad.

      The addiction cycle is very simple. If you act out (slip, lapse, relapse) once a day, once a month, once a year, once every other year, and can't stop no matter what; you're still an addict and you're still living in the addiction cycle. Which also means you are still exhibiting the same addict behaviors which means you need to work on the defects of character that are the roots of the addiction. Because if you do not work on those you will never be in recovery.

      As for people feeling like they have to start over after a lapse. Who cares? How is it going to hurt anything except your pride? If I relapse/lapse/slip I should go back to step one and work forward to see where I went wrong. That way I can change the behavior which manifests itself in actions I've hidden from my sponsor, therapist, wife, And others in my step 4.

      Does that mean all the other experiences and knowledge I've gained should be tossed out? Of course not. It just means we have more to learn and there isn't anything wrong with that. That's what life's about.

      These only reason I can see of not wanting to "start over" is because I'm afraid to tell anyone and I want to make myself feel better by telling myself that it's okay, it happens, and that I'm still in recovery.

      The sad thing is, that you are right. There are very few addicts in genuine Recovery with over 5 years of sobriety. I have yet to meet one with that much sobriety in the flesh. I wish there were more of them.

      Sobriety is best measured with the change of behavior that takes place. When we are constantly changing our behavior for the better, this is true sobriety. If we slip/relapse/lapse it means we still have issues to work out, but it also means we haven't been being vulnerable to begin with. Which means we haven't been honest about our core beliefs, Which means it was only a matter of time before we relapse.

      But like you I applaud all of us addicts who try and try and relapse and get up and keep trying. Your courage is commendable. I know how low it feels to relapse after so much sobriety/forward progress. That feeling of doom and failure can kill, and has killed some of my friends.

      I understand how this post can feel so triggering to you. It threatens what you thought was a security blanket. The truth is, that it IS possible for you to never ever relapse again. If you'd like to have a healthy discussion without anger and name calling, feel free to contact me.

    2. Ronin_84,
      I am talking about Recovery. Actually being IN Recovery. Not working towards Recovery. Being in Recovery. An addict can't be IN Recovery until they sober and out of the Addiction Cycle (Addiction Cycle link in the beginning of article ^). Slips and Relapses can always be prevented.

      I am going to go ahead and assume that you haven't read my other two articles on Recovery where I talk about exactly what you mentioned. So here ya go, enjoy :)

      Recovery - What It is, and what it isn't (list of behaviors) :

          "Thats not to say that an addict can't progress and do really really well while working TOWARDS Recovery. My own husband has progressed significantly and his acting out and addict behaviors continue to become farther and farther apart. He's gone from acting out every few days, to every 6+ months, to hopefully never again. Things went from 95% tension in my home, to only 10%.

      That's GREAT!

      But it's not Recovery yet. And that's OK for now.

      Recovery is about complete honesty. Its about doing whatever it takes to stay sober and continually have that progressing change of heart for the rest of their life"


      No Relapse in Recovery :

            " If sobriety is required IN Recovery, what about all the people who have made huge strides in the process of working towards Recovery? What about all the people that continue to work their butts off and only occasionally slip, but get right back up, dust themselves off and continue bravely moving forward?

      Though not actual Recovery yet, some experts call this “Partial Recovery”. The term partial recovery can be described as“patterns of problem resolution marked by decreases in the frequency, duration, and intensity of addiction use and related problems, and an increase in the length and quality of periods of sobriety or decelerated use.”

      Can addicts make mistakes while working TOWARDS recovery? Yes. We all do. The goal of course is not to, but as long as they keep picking themselves up, move forward with complete honesty with themselves and others, and are sincerely trying harder each time, then I don’t believe a relapse or slip means "condemned to die". But even though God praises our efforts and progression, he still cannot condone sin. 

      Mistakes, relapses and slips have the ability to help us learn because it’s not always about the mistake, but what we do AFTER. But “sincerely” and “honestly” are the key words there. And although a slip and relapse restarts both an addict’s Recovery & Sobriety dates, that doesn’t mean it has to wipe out the gains someone has made for themselves in the process of recovery. It’s a choice. A relapse can be used as a beneficial tool to help us to analyze, identify and change the reasons that caused the relapse.

      Honestly working towards full Recovery is like rowing a boat across a lake with the other side being the goal/Recovery. If you fall out of the boat on the way, you aren’t sent back to the shore where you started. You just fall into the water. You can choose to get out of the water and back into the boat to continue your journey, or you can choose to swim back to shore. Sure, if you get back into the boat you will be all wet and uncomfortable. But it is better than losing your boat and swimming back to shore regressing to square one more exhausted than you were before."