Replacing Addictions In Recovery
After we start treatment for a specific addiction, we often discover on the path to recovery that we begin to replace our previous addiction with a new one. We begin to substitute addictions in a common “all or nothing” compulsive style. Addiction replacement, or transferring of addictions is a very common behavior response in recovery. We often substitute addictions to fill the void or to chase the same feeling or high that the previous addiction produced. It could be switching from drinking to eating chocolate or from drugs to sex.
What Do We Do?
How should we navigate our recovery to avoid unconsciously transferring one dangerous addiction to another? The truth is, we need to recognize that addiction is a disease and we need to treat the underlying symptoms, which includes the physical, emotional, and spiritual reaction to everything that causes addiction.
In the case of drugs and alcohol there are many benefits to replacing dangerous behaviors with positive and healthy patterns. However, we must be careful to identify if we have simply replaced addictions instead of treating our disease and its underlying causes.
Positive Habits to Create a Healthy Recovery
In early recovery it is important to create consistent and healthy behavioral changes. We can’t simply remove the negative behaviors in our life and feel content. In order to have a fulfilling recovery we should learn positive skills and behavioral patterns to produce a long lasting and balanced life in recovery.
One of the first things to recognize is that we often treat our bodies very poorly while in active addiction. An easy replacement is sustainable exercise. This does not mean going to the gym 6 days a week or running for hours on end. We need to discover long lasting aspects of recovery that work for us. Start off with exercise two times a week at set times. Choose an exercise that suits you, such as a brisk walk, tennis, yoga, swimming, etc.
Exercise is proven to produce natural endorphins, “positive feelings”, and elevate levels of dopamine, “the reward transmitter”, which reduces stress and anxiety while creating a better body image. As well, exercise will promote healthy sleep, lower stress levels and improve your overall dexterity and strength.
Cake, Ice Cream, and Chocolate
Food!!!? Yes, food, and specifically sugar, needs to be balanced in recovery. We crave sugar in early recovery because we are seeking an increase in serotonin, “the feel-good transmitter”, and dopamine, “the reward transmitter”, which sugar provides, temporarily! Temporary relief is the key word when creating a healthy eating habit. Carbohydrates (pastas, cookies, bread) combined with sugar (candy, chocolate, cookies) will temporarily increase our pleasure feelings. Because the relief is only temporary it leaves us craving more and more and more.
In order to create a healthy balanced diet, we need to focus on eating regularly, with long lasting proteins. This will prevent a spike and crash in blood sugar levels which will leave you craving sugar. Do not skip breakfast and do not replace a meal with coffee or sugar! It is also recommended to take a multivitamin supplement, this will help balance your vitamin deficiencies caused by alcohol and drug abuse.
Working With Others
Work with others! Did you know that volunteering to help other people releases endorphins, “positive feelings”? The foundation of many 12 step programs includes work with others. One of the reasons why this technique is successful is because we feel good and are helping others to feel good too! Amazing results happen when we are humble and selfless when working with others.
Again, balance is the key ingredient here. Start small, meet with another friend in recovery for coffee once a week. Volunteer once a month at a local shelter, or addiction treatment center. Remember that being social is important too, so make sure to participate in recovery meetings or another group that will help support your recovery.
Art, writing and other types of creative processes will help release negative emotions and can be therapeutic. Embrace your creative side and express yourself and your emotions through art. Daily journaling is a fantastic way to release any pent-up resentments and create a channel for emotional release.
It is important to note that many individuals in treatment for one substance will often switch to a new substance as a coping mechanism or to try and chase the feelings the initial addiction provided. These substances can range from cigarettes, prescription medication, caffeine and alcohol through to other drugs.
Is smoking cigarettes, vaping, and drinking coffee better then drugs and alcohol? In most cases, yes! BUT, you must monitor your behavior closely and make sure you are not over doing it. While smoking is dangerous in any amount, smoking over one pack a day would be described as heavy smoking. As well, drinking 3-5 cups off coffee a day is ok, however, if you are going over that amount you are probably overdoing it.
Often while detoxing, doctors will prescribe a very regimented prescription medication detox. However, many prescription medications are abused by individuals in treatment for illicit substances or alcohol. If you are not following a prescription or misleading a doctor, then you are at risk here.
Sex and Relationships
If you are trying to fulfill your feelings with a relationship or sex then you are setting yourself up for failure. This type of replacement addiction is dangerous because it relies on another individual and, lets face it, when in early recovery we are not usually in healthy relationships. Therefore, it is STRONGLY recommended to avoid new sexual relationships in early recovery.
Shopping, Working, Gambling, Video Games, Other Replacement Addictions
The list goes on. The key is to recognize addiction replacement. While these types of addictions might seem healthier than substance abuse, the truth is they can be very destructive to your recovery.
How do you recognize if you are replacing addictions?
– Are you obsessing over a new activity, can you stop it temporarily on demand?
– Are you experiencing anxiety or stress around a new incomplete project?
– Depression when not participating in the new behavior
– Not following limits set on the behavior
– Ignoring self-care: sleep, hygiene, eating
– Having relationship struggles with partner, friends, or loved ones
If you recognize that you have replaced your initial addiction with a dangerous substitution then it is important to begin addressing the underlying causes. You need to focus on all three aspects: take care of your body, meet with a therapist for your mind, and find a creative release method for your soul.
The Lighthouse Recovery Plan is Well Balanced for a Reason
One of the focal points of our recovery program at The Lighthouse Bali is a well-balanced approach to living. We incorporate these techniques into a sustainable design for living so that when treatment is finished there can be continued recovery.
A few examples of our holistic approach to treatment centers on our focus of the body, mind and spirit.
For the body, our nutritionist creates a sustainable meal plan that can be replicated long term. Our personal trainer will create a weekly exercise regimen that can be followed easily once at home. We also add yoga and massages into the schedule to balance the physical needs of our bodies.
For the mind, our team of psychologists and therapists will engage in varying methods to help heal the traumas and underlying emotional pains. We then create a plan for the individual to continue skype sessions after graduating from our program or assist them in finding alternate therapists to take over.
For the spirit we create a customized plan for each individual that will strengthen their specific connection to the spirituality of life. This includes everything from yoga to art therapy, acupuncture to meditation, animal assisted therapy to reiki, and so on.
A long-term recovery goal should be to replace harmful and destructive addictions with healthy behavioral patterns and habits. In the early parts of recovery, it is still much healthier to transfer from an illicit drug addiction to say cigarettes and coffee. If you feel yourself dangerously on the edge of replacement addictions then you need to remember that this process includes treating all of the underlying issues too.
If you have replaced addictions and are feeling lost and hopeless then reach out for help from others in recovery. You will find that a lot of people in recovery have had experience with addiction replacement.