Avoiding Replacing One Addictive Behavior with Another

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Through scientific advances, we know more about how drugs work in the brain than ever, and we also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop abusing drugs and lead productive lives.” However, it is important for those in addiction recovery to remember how easy it is to replace one addiction with another and how to avoid this issue.

Understand Obsession is Not Addiction

When you are working on your recovery, it may be common for you to throw yourself into a new activity such as working out, doing yoga, journaling, etc. If you become obsessed with this habit, though, thinking about it often and feeling like it is a substitute for your previous abusive behavior, you may not always need to immediately become concerned that you are addicted to it.

As stated by the HealthDirect of Australia, “Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could become harmful to you. Therefore, until the new behavior you’ve become engaged in becomes uncontrollable and/or harmful to you or your home life, work life, or relationships, you are not in danger of having a second addiction. This is why individuals in methadone maintenance are not addicted to their methadone medication and why those who become obsessive with exercise are not in danger of developing a behavioral addiction; as long as you are not experiencing negative consequences from the behavior that still cannot deter you from it, what you’re doing is perfectly healthy and likely helpful to your overall recovery.

Recognize the Signs of Addiction

Unfortunately, it can be common for individuals who have stopped abusing drugs to become addicted to other substances and/or behaviors. Those who quit smoking sometimes turn to food as a coping mechanism and may not only put on weight but, in dangerous circumstances, practice compulsive eating. Some individuals also abuse novel psychoactive substances or unregulated and legal drugs that do not show up on drug tests, leading them toward another dangerous habit.

There are several signs that point to an addiction that you should be aware of. If you stay focused and on the look out for any of these, you can better avoid replacing one compulsive behavior with another:

  • Spending money you don’t have on an activity/substance
  • Thinking about that activity/substance more than anything
  • Noticing strong similarities in the way your previous substance abuse made you feel and the way your new activity/substance makes you feel
  • Getting into trouble as a result of this new activity/substance
  • Becoming extremely angry, sad, or upset when you cannot use this substance or engage in this new activity
  • Noticing old habits creeping back such as lying, stealing, and other dangerous acts that you used to perform because of your previous substance abuse

Break the Cycle

Many people believe addiction is a chronic disease, which may be why it is so common for substance abusers to slide into a new addiction. But as long as you focus on your recovery and stay vigilant about any new activities, you can prevent yourself from becoming addicted to something else and to recover safely and effectively.