A lapse is a brief return to old thoughts or behaviours that are unhelpful. A relapse is a more prolonged return to these old ways of thinking and behaving.
If you're trying to stop using a particular substance, there will be times when you find your recovery more challenging than others. It can often feel like all your friends are using at the time when you're trying to stop!
This is why it's important to build support networks and discuss your concerns with people you trust. It can be helpful to let your friends and family know that you have stopped using alcohol or other drugs, and ask them to support your decision.
Professional support can help you develop strategies that may assist when you are worried about relapsing. Over time, you may also develop strategies of your own to use when you feel at risk of relapse.
What kind of strategies can be used to help me avoid relapse?
Strategies that might help when you're concerned about relapsing can include attending self-help groups regularly, seeing a drug and alcohol counsellor or your GP, contacting a 24/7 support service like ADIS, and effectively managing your withdrawal symptoms (you can ask a health professional about medications to help you manage withdrawal more effectively than willpower alone).
What should I do if I relapse?
It's important to remember that relapse is common for people trying to stop using alcohol or other drugs. Change can be a gradual process and you shouldn't give up just because you've had a relapse.
If a relapse occurs, it can be helpful to think of it as a learning experience on your path to recovery, rather than a failure. It is a good time to think about what circumstances led to the relapse and plan how you can avoid it happening in future.
To find out how to access support, go to the Getting Help page.