The Difference Between "Lapse" and "Relapse"

The Difference Between "Lapse" and "Relapse"

  • February 25, 2019

One of the saddest things one can face, if you are struggling with sobriety in any form, is the temptation day after day, with wanting just one more {insert addiction of choice}.  Thinking these thoughts does not make you weak.  It makes you human - and by definition, fallible.

So, it’s okay to have thoughts of occasionally wishing you could engage in your addiction again.  Additionally, no recovery, for any person, is ever going to be perfect.  One cannot define how any one recovery is going to go for any one person, but it is pretty clear to just get it out there that NO RECOVERY WILL EVER BE PERFECT.  Does this mean you may slip, and engage in your addiction just once, or a few times?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  Because, like previously stated, it’s different for everyone.  Some people have recoveries where they never engage in their addiction again, even if they think about it.  Others will still achieve recovery, but the road may be a bit bumpier.  And that’s okay.

But please, if you are in recovery, or wanting to be in recovery, do not ever, ever think that if you “mess up” just once, or even a few times, that you’ve lost it all, you’ve screwed up too much, and that you might as well just give up.

This isn’t true. 

Yes, there is always a chance of relapse, for anybody who ever embarks on the recovery journey, but relapse is a choice, and not everyone need make it.  But, as also stated above, recovery is never perfect.  So wherein lies the difference between recovering, but still maybe having messed up, and completely relapsing, and needing treatment again?

The difference is this: there is a vast difference between a “lapse” and a “relapse.” 

lapse
laps/
noun
1.
a temporary failure of concentration, memory, or judgment.

"a lapse of concentration in the second set cost her the match"

synonyms: failure, failing, slip, error, mistake, blunder, fault, omission, hiccup; slip-up

In the definition of “lapse,” I want you to pay attention to a couple of things.  First, the word TEMPORARY.  Also, down below, read the synonyms.  Sure, “failure” sounds pretty scary, but what about “mistake,” “hiccup,” or “slip-up”?

That sounds pretty fixable to me.  A lapse is simply what even the definition says - a temporary breach in recovery.  But completely changeable.

Inversely, look that this:

re·lapse
verb
rəˈlaps/
1.
(of someone suffering from a disease) suffer deterioration after a period of improvement.

synonyms: get ill/worse again, have/suffer a relapse, deteriorate, degenerate, take a turn for the worse

The definition of relapse sounds much more ominous, doesn’t it?  You read words like “deteriorate,” or “take a turn for the worse.”

Reader, take heart: no one is perfect, and neither will be your recovery, or anyone else’s.  So please don’t think that because of one mistake, or one slip-up, that you have to run head-first into your addiction again.  It’s just a lapse.  Chin up.  Take heart.  Be brave.  Keep going.

But also, if you are a different reader, know that if you have relapsed, that it is okay.  It does not have to be the story of the rest of your life.  But it does mean that you need to reach out, and to get help.

There is always help, and always hope.

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