Trading One Addiction for Another | How to Overcome Addiction

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Addiction is a disease, and as such, overcoming addiction and healing can be very difficult. Many people battle with addiction, whether it is alcohol, drugs, eating, or gambling. They might try to substitute one addiction for another in an attempt to compensate for the perceived deficiency. Addiction replacement often occurs when a person in recovery substitutes the original addiction for another, so a new addiction takes place of previously addictive behavior. 

The purpose of trading one addiction for another is to achieve the same feeling of high the original addiction provided.

Why Does Addiction Replacement Occur?

An addiction serves to fulfill an emotional need, not the need for a particular physical substance. In other words, an alcoholic may start drinking to lose inhibitions, relieve stress, and release pressure, anxiety, and depression, not because they enjoy alcohol itself. 

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Extended alcohol and drug abuse creates addiction which causes changes in the brain. This rewires the brain to crave an addiction, regardless of its negative consequences.

When a person is in recovery, withdrawal causes the level of dopamine in the brain to drop, which limits the ability to experience satisfaction and happiness. This sometimes prompts the person in recovery to replace their original addictive behavior with other addiction, to reduce the unpleasant side effects of withdrawal and achieve the feeling of excitement. 

The most common substitute addictions involve:

  • Eating
  • Shopping
  • Gambling
  • Exercising
  • Internet surfing
  • Gaming
  • Sex
  • Work

How to Recognize Trading One Addiction for Another

Overcoming addiction woman smoking

While some replacement addictions don’t seem as damaging as an original addiction (for example, if a person replaces abusing alcohol with food or exercise), they also have the same damaging effect. Some of the most common signs that a person is trading one addiction for another are:

  • Obsessing over a new activity (addiction)
  • Experiencing severe anxiety if unable to engage in a new activity
  • Sacrificing normal daily activities to complete a new activity
  • Neglecting sleep and personal care
  • Experiencing difficulties at school, work, and relationships

How to Manage Addiction Replacements

Overcoming addiction has little to do with a substance or addictive behavior. The most important step in managing addiction replacements is identifying and addressing the underlying cause of the addictive behavior, and treating that cause. 

Overcoming Addiction quote

Psychotherapy is a safe place to address and work through the subconscious emotions at the roots of the addiction.

For example, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often use drugs and/or alcohol to cope with traumatic experiences and difficult emotions connected to it. In these individuals, self-medicating is just a symptom of an emotional burden that needs to be addressed and worked through. 

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Also, working with a therapist to recognize the triggers and addictive patterns is key to preventing a substitute addiction from occurring. 

Overcoming addiction is a slow and continuous process of learning new thinking patterns and behaviors. The main aim of this process is to strengthen the former addict to get control over their substance use or behavior, and to learn that they are not dependent on any substance or behavior to enjoy their lives.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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