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The 8 Most Common Addiction Substitutions


addiction substitutionBreaking free of addiction involves a lot of hard work, so it would be a real shame if you just gave up one addiction to end up struggling with a new maladaptive behaviour. The sad reality is that this could easily happen unless you are on your guard and take steps to maintain a solid sobriety.

People will usually walk blindly into addiction substitutions just as they did with alcohol or drugs. In the beginning, the behaviour can appear harmless (it may even feel a good thing), but things can deteriorate significantly before the person realises what has happened to him or her – even then, the person may continue to try to justify the behaviour (for example, they might use the excuse ‘at least I’m not drinking’)

What is an Addiction Substitute?

An addiction substitute refers to any negative behaviour that the person turns to as a way to replace alcohol or drugs. This behaviour might not necessarily by bad in moderation, but it is the attitude the person has to it that makes it an addiction substitute. The most common reason why people will feel the need to swap one bad behaviour for another is that they are still not ready to face life on life’s terms. It can happen if things become too stressful in recovery, or if you start to feel stuck.

Here are eight of the most common types of addiction substitutes that people are likely to turn to in recovery:

1. Co-dependency

Co-dependency is a type of relationship addiction in which you become too dependent on the other person for your sense of well-being. In the 12-step group, this is often described as not having a partner but instead taking a hostage. If you are co-dependent, it can mean that you replace your drug of choice with your partner and expect this person to fix you. The fact that this person is never going to be able to live up to your expectations means that this dependence will generate a great deal of suffering.

2. New Drug of Choice

Just because you have never abused other mind-altering substances in the past does not mean you are safe to use them now. Every person who falls into addiction will have a drug of choice, and this means he or she is not going to be too obsessed with other substances. It is only when the drug of choice becomes unavailable (for example, the person quits it) that a new drug moves in to take its place. Therefore, if you have been addicted to heroin and previously used alcohol sensibly, you are likely to be able to continue to do this after you give up heroin.

3. Comfort Eating

Comfort eating is probably the easiest addiction substitution trap to fall into because food is so easily available. This type of behaviour is often referred to as ‘trying to eat away your emotions’, and it can lead to obesity and ill-health. It means you continue to feel sick and tired even though you have given up alcohol or drugs. Comfort eating is a behaviour that is picked up in childhood when kids learn to associate certain types of food with reward.

4. Internet Addiction

The internet is a fantastic resource for information, support, entertainment, and advice, but it can also have a negative impact on your life if you are on it all of the time. Internet addiction is encouraged by modern society because of the popularity of mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones – it means you are able to access the internet at any time, and some people take advantage of this ability by being on it most of the time. Unplugging from the internet for at least a few hours every day is a necessary requirement of sobriety. If you live most of your life online, you do not really have a life.

5. Gambling

Gambling can be a terrible addiction that can rob you of all of your possessions and leave you dealing with huge debt. It will not only negatively affect your own life but also the lives of your loved ones. Once you become hooked on gambling, it usually means that your self-respect is up for grabs, and you may become willing to do almost anything to continue your habit, including lying and stealing.

6. Exercise Addiction

Getting some exercise is necessary if you want to build a strong sobriety. You need this or you will feel ill and lacking in energy. The problem is that too much exercise leads to problems such as burnout, and it can actually cause permanent damage to your health. Excessive exercise can also be a way to avoid dealing with life, meaning you will not be getting the most out of your sobriety.

7. Workaholism

Rebuilding your career following addiction is a wonderful achievement, but if you become too obsessed with work then it means you are going to be missing out in other areas of your life. If your life is unbalanced like this, it will eventually lead to dissatisfaction, which then become an excuse to relapse.

8. Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse can be a trap people can fall into even years after they have been sober. If you need strong medication such as opiates, there is always going to be a risk of you becoming hooked. There will be situations in which taking these medications is needed, but you need to make sure your doctor understands about your addictive past so you can use these drugs safely.

How to Avoid Addiction Substitution

  • It is important to be always on the lookout for any evidence that you may be swapping one addiction for another – be aware of the symptoms of addiction.
  • Understand that getting the most out of sobriety requires that you have a good combination of interests and activities, which should include options that are physical, mental, and spiritual.
  • Make staying sober your number one priority in life and never allow anything to get in the way of it.
  • Avoid using any drugs recreationally even if you have never abused this drug in the past
  • Inform your doctor about your previous addiction problems and be cautious around prescription medication – if your physician seems uneducated in regards to addiction, you may want to get a second opinion.
  • If you have become stuck in recovery you need to look for support in order to become unstuck so that you do not feel drawn to a new maladaptive behaviour.
  • If you feel guilty about something that you are doing, it is usually a sign that you should not be doing it.

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