Is it a Relapse if I Use Just Once?

It is Hard to Change Habitual Behaviors

Addiction is a chronic condition that, like hypertension and diabetes,  requires changes to a person’s behaviors in order to manage the disease.  Changing habitual behaviors, even when they have the potential to cause harm to a person’s life, can be quite difficult.  The good news is that while it may be difficult, it is not impossible to avoid a relapse.

 The most important thing to remember is that your addiction will be a lifelong process that will require you to constantly be vigilant in your sobriety.  During your recovery, you may find yourself in a situation that overcomes your will power.  It is important that you do not let a single mistake jeopardize your total recovery.  Understanding the differences between a slip and a relapse can help you to maintain your sobriety.


A slip is considered a single unplanned use of drugs or alcohol.  A slip can occur when you find yourself in a highly stressful situation and are unable to resist the temptation.  While a one time use does not necessarily mean a relapse, if not handled correctly it can lead to a full relapse.  One way to look at it is by thinking about a person who has been diagnosed with hypertension.

 That person’s doctor will order them to make changes to their diet.  If at a wedding that person should give in and have a piece of cake, they probably will not immediately suffer a heart attack.  By putting the error behind them, they can continue on with their addiction treatment program.  If during your recovery you should have a slip, it is important that you talk to somebody in an attempt to address the issues that lead to your slip and make sure you do not suffer another.


A relapse occurs when an addict completely abandons their recovery plan.  While a slip occurs in a single moment of weakness, a relapse typically has a build-up period.  This could include a slip that causes an addict to return to their old behaviors or another emotional trigger that causes them to abandon their plan.  

When a person suffers a slip they may have feelings of guilt or feel like they have failed their sobriety.  It is important you talk to someone about these feelings as they could make a full relapse inevitable.


The Lakehouse Recovery Center offers 30, 60, and 90 day programs to men and women seeking to recover from drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to providing excellent clinical care, we offer both recovery and non-recovery activities. Our goal is to show clients how to have fun again, learning how to live in recovery without drugs and alcohol. For information, call us today: 877.762.3707


Messages sent through this form are confidential. Required fields are marked with (*).

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.