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Navigating Away from Substituting One Addiction for Another

There is no denying that addiction recovery is hard work. Going to a drug rehab facility near Los Angeles is no vacation. While you may have the comfort of luxury amenities, you’re still following rules, adhering to a schedule, engaging in intensive therapies, and working on rebuilding your life.

Recovery is always possible and you can change. However, one risk that comes with overcoming drug addiction or alcoholism is unintentionally substituting one addiction for another. This further emphasizes the point that addiction recovery is about more than stopping substance use – it involves changing your thought patterns as well and creating healthier routines. Swapping addictions can keep you in a cycle of unhealthy behaviors, even if the newer addiction seems healthy.

What is a Substitute Addiction?

A substitute addiction is one that you use to replace drug or alcohol use. There are many contributing factors to addiction, including genetics and environment. Once you have developed an addiction, you can be at a higher risk of developing other addictions throughout your life. You end up transferring your addictive behavior to something else.

Some common substitute addictions include:

  • Exercise
  • Working
  • Healthy eating
  • Smoking
  • Gambling
  • Shopping

A person may use these replacement activities to try to achieve the same level of satisfaction they did from drinking or drug use. While some of these substitute activities may seem healthy – like exercising or healthy eating – they can become dangerous in excess. You can go overboard on exercising or trying to control what you eat. These activities may go from something enjoyable to a compulsion you have trouble breaking. A substitute addiction can be a red flag that you have not learned to effectively deal with underlying issues and may be at risk for relapse.

Avoiding Substitute Addictions

There are ways that you can reduce your risk of developing a replacement addiction. One of the most important things is to educate yourself and be aware of your routines and behaviors. Pay attention to how you are spending your time and what you are doing. Don’t let yourself get into a mind-numbing rut where you go through the motions but aren’t actively engaged.

Establish balance. Routines are a good thing in recovery because they help you to know what to expect and avoid excessive downtime. However, it’s a good idea to vary your routine as well so you don’t become too fixated on particular activities or habits. For instance, instead of always going for a run or engaging in exercise when you feel a craving coming on or are becoming stressed, have other go-to activities such as writing, deep breathing, or listening to music. Alternate between what you do to keep things interesting and not get stuck in a rut.

Try multiple things. Don’t limit yourself to one activity. If you find something you like to do, also explore related activities. Challenge yourself to try something new each month and limit the amount of time you spend doing any one activity. Maybe you allow yourself to exercise for 60 minutes a day but then you have to find something else to do. Or you allow yourself to have one portion of a dessert after dinner each night instead of turning to sweets as a comfort food throughout the day. You don’t have to necessarily stop the activity as long as you keep it in check.

Listen to others. Are your friends or family voicing concerns over your recent behaviors? Have they noticed signs that could be pointing toward risk of relapse? Do they see you heading down the same path with a new activity as you did with drug addiction? You may be engaging in similar behaviors without even realizing it. Hear them out because they have a different perspective than you do and have your best interests in mind. You may not have even noticed that every time you get stressed, you reach for a cigarette or that you’ve become overly focused on what you eat.

Not everyone who goes through addiction rehab develops a substitute addiction, but the risk is there, just as the risk of relapse exists as well. It’s important to be mindful and pay attention to how you’re spending your time. Don’t try to rush your recovery. Ensure that you’re consciously working on it and applying what you have learned to support your recovery in healthy ways. Comprehensive treatment at Chapters Capistrano can guide you along each step of the way in recovery and help you to be proactive in preventing relapse and substitute addictions. Contact Chapters Capistrano at 888-973-0230 if you’re ready for a change and to start a new chapter in your life.