What’s the difference between a relapse and a slip?



My boyfriend was in rehab for 10 months and moved in with me after he got out for about 7 months now. I caught him using a couple months ago and he admitted right away and said he would take some steps to work on it but hasn’t been quite keeping up with it. He was willing to have a conversation when we first talked but any time after I tried to bring it up, he would get really upset. The last time we talked about it, I was proud of myself for being patient and doing my best to listen to his side. He basically told me the only thing that would help is knowing that I can drug test him at any time as he said he would be willing to take one no questions asked.

Well, I had a bad feeling the other day and tested him. Turned up positive for opiates. At first, he denied it and said he didn’t know why. But I told him drug tests don’t lie. Then he finally admitted he took a Vicodin a few days ago because his back was hurting. His excuse was that it’s not heroin, Vicodin is so mild compared to heroin or Percocet, and he didn’t smoke it he just swallowed the pill.

I understand where he’s coming from but I still didn’t buy it. I was patient throughout the entire conversation and told him he needs to be doing something to get back on track. He said okay to seeing a doctor about his back, going to one meeting a week, and doing his best to keep in touch with his friends from rehab.

I keep thinking that maybe he has fully relapsed and I just can’t sleep because I worry so much of what this could mean. We have come so far and are at a point where we’re thinking about marriage and buying a home. I’m so scared it’s all going to go away because he keeps “slipping up”. I plan on testing every few days at this point to see if it really was a one time thing. He seems to be doing fine otherwise as he still has a healthy appetite and isn’t nodding off or any of his usual habits I notice when he’s in active addiction. It just feels like he is heading down a bad road again and it is giving me so much anxiety and I don’t know what to do.

For those who have loved ones in long term recovery, how do you know when it’s a full on relapse vs a slip up in their recovery?


So many gray areas and hard to stay patient and calm I know how that feels!

I was patient throughout the entire conversation and told him he needs to be doing something to get back on track. He said okay to seeing a doctor about his back, going to one meeting a week, and doing his best to keep in touch with his friends from rehab.

Love to invite @momentsandlight @Dean_Acton @Julie_Smith @stayhopeful244 to weigh in if they are willing to.


My husband’s drug of choice is cocaine so a bit different but I really do find that the more time under the belt in recovery the less a slip has potential to grab a hold.

In our case, looking back I can see a major difference between year 1 post-rehab vs year 2 vs year 3 and now into year 4. He had a crazy slip last year but with so much time and new patterning in place it was just a blip on the radar.

Keep the positives in mind, and keep the dialogue open about what is working and what is not working and how he can be supported in his recovery.

Are there any other friends and family that are supportive that you can ask to step up their connection and support too? I found that really helped to lighten the worry I carried and made it feel that there were more than just one safety net.

Similarly, are there any hobbies he loves that he hasn’t been keeping up? Music? If possible, helping to bring in one of his past-time faves can help bring a little extra joy back into the tough recovery road.

Sending love, deep breaths and ease <3


Hi @Selfcare31. I’m sorry you’re in a tough place right now. When my husband was in active addiction, he insisted he had stopped and was going to get help - even going to a therapist (he went to one appointment), making a list of nearby meetings (he didn’t go to any), and showing me he was taking his Suboxone (later I learned he was somehow spitting it out afterward). It was so hard because I wanted more than anything to believe he was getting help. In the meantime, my gut was telling me something different, and I still felt I was living in an unhealthy home. This, to me, wasn’t a relapse or slip. He was in active addiction and still feared getting help.

When he finally went to rehab, he relapsed about four months later. We had been doing well, we had started seeing a couples therapist, but there were still some major red flags: He refused to sign a release of information from his recovery facility that would allow me to see drug test results, the location app on his phone we were using to help build back trust was never “working” right, he would disappear at family gatherings for long periods of time, and other suspicious behavior. It took me literally pulling the needles out of his pocket for him to finally admit to using again. I’d call that a relapse.

He detoxed and got back into recovery, and was clean for about 10 months before he slipped. I had had a gut feeling again, found out from his recovery counselor that he had missed some appointments, and talked to him about my fears and the missed appointments. He had an excuse, and a week or so later, before he had to go in for another drug test, he admitted he had used again. This time, I felt at peace. He had told me upfront, and even though a part of me was like, “well yeah he lied the first time and probably just told you because he knew you’d find out from the drug test,” I ignored that and focused on the positive. If he really wanted to keep using, he would’ve found ways to continue to hide it. He got right back into recovery. He slipped again a couple of months later, admitted it the next day after I asked him, and was right back into recovery.

The differences between my husband’s relapses and slips - clear communication up front, immediate actions behind the words, and a sense of peace with the situation.

A few things that have helped me through this whole process:

  • We don’t focus on a sobriety date. I can’t tell you how many days my husband has been clean. For some people it might help, but for us, it just gives opportunity for disappointment should he slip and “erase” all that recovery. So instead, we celebrate every day that he fights the demons of addiction and wins.
  • I trust my gut, because more often than not, it’s telling the truth. However, I’m also learning to take the time to identify whether if it’s truly a gut feeling that something is actually wrong, or if it’s simply fear. Still working on this one. :sweat_smile:
  • Communication. I tell him when I have a bad feeling. I ask him how recovery is going. We talk openly about our triggers.

I hope this helps. It sounds like your boyfriend is communicating with you and you are showing compassion and empathy - that is awesome. As @polly mentioned - focus on the positives. And keep talking! Talk to him about how he’s feeling, why he took the Vicodin, what might be triggering for him, how you can provide support. :pray::sparkles:


My boyfriend slipped the day before he got out of rehab in Nov 2018. Fast forward to now, and he is back in a rehab. I had a hard time believing he had relapsed initially because I didn’t want it to be true. But, finally communicating about it and addressing the problem for what it is made it easier to see more treatment is needed.

I think we also have to realize that in the initial stages of recovery it is so EASY to relapse. That is why going to meetings and having a good routine is important. When you see the warning signs though, speak up. I also think you should try to focus on each day rather than the big picture. Take it one day at a time for yourself and your partner. It puts like stress on the big picture and allows you to focus on the accomplishments and worries of that day.


It takes time to change any habits - particularly ones that are SO strongly reinforced by strong substances.
Thought this might be interesting for you:

How are you doing now @stayhopeful244 and @Selfcare31 ? Sending all the <3