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“Addiction Swapping” Risks In Trauma Recovery

Quitting an addiction is hard to do. If quitting an addiction were easy, more people would find changing their lifestyle for the better easier to do. The challenge in quitting an addiction is not because there is an addiction present. The challenge in quitting an addiction is that there is a habit present because addiction is, among many other things, a habit. Breaking a habit of any kind is hard, even when there isn’t a chemical substance present. People develop all kinds of habits for all kinds of behaviors and become so deeply attached to those habits that the habits become hard to kick.

Kicking a habit is the term we most often use to describe the transformation which has to take place in order to stop a habitual behavior. However, we do ourselves a disservice to think that just stopping one habitual behavior is enough. A habit creates a space and fulfills some kind of void through its repetitive, nearly involuntary action. Stopping a habit is usually unsuccessful because there isn’t anything to replace the familiar, longed after, depended upon behavior.

Replacing a habit is not about replacing a bad habit with another bad habit. Replacing a bad habit has to be done with a good habit, a better, more rewarding, less damaging, constructive habit. We create a different lifestyle which doesn’t allow our bad habit to thrive any longer, building a lifestyle of positive habits which replace the space the bad habit once took up.

Living in recovery from addictions and other manifestations of trauma is about creating tons of new, healthy, positive habits which prevent us from feeling like we need to turn to damaging, destructive, negative, unhealthy habits ever again. “Ever again” is a tall order for those of us who have lived with a chemical and or/psychological dependency on a bad habit or behavior for what has likely been many years of our life. However, total abstinence from drugs and alcohol for a lifetime, for example, is entirely possible. Changing bad habits for good, forever, is still incredibly challenging.

How Addiction Swapping Happens

Addiction swapping is most common for those who have experienced chemical addictions and process addictions, either drugs and alcohol or problematic behaviors like sex addiction or gambling addiction. Giving up an addiction is often also giving up a lifestyle and even part of who we used to be. Making that kind of a drastic change is overwhelming and deeply jolting. Due to the addictive tendencies which have developed in our minds as well as our bodies, it is unsurprising when we start creating other addictive habits. Having to replace one addictive habit with another is why many people in recovery from chemical addictions turn to another addiction, whether chemical like a cigarette or vape, or a behavior like sex, gambling, or eating disorder. Swapping one addiction for another is called “addiction swapping”.

Is Addiction Swapping Problematic?

Swapping intravenous heroin use for smoking cigarettes may not seem harmful on the surface. Truthfully, on the surface, it is not that dangerous of course. One cannot overdose on cigarettes, for example. As science has repeatedly proven, though, cigarettes are addictive due to nicotine and influence mood. As science has also proven, cigarettes can lead to a number of life threatening, incredibly harmful health issues, like cancer.

Problematically, due to the severity of an original addiction, an addiction swap is usually passed off because at least it isn’t that bad. Unfortunately, a new addiction can become equally as problematic and even life threatening in a short amount of time, especially if the habits of an old addiction are  not far off. What the habit is and how the habit looks really has little influence. The fact is that the behavior of habit, or the habitual behavior, is being repeated over and over again, reinforcing the behavior.

Why Does Addiction Swapping Happen?

Chemical addictions and process addictions are common manifestations of trauma as efforts to numb, feel, escape, indulge in, run away from, or just try to cope in anyway possible with pain. Trauma causes us pain in every way possible which effects every part of our being. We’re affected chemically, psychologically, cellularly, viscerally, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and more. Dealing with the incomprehensible pain of trauma is not something our brain is equipped to do all at once, which is why we compartmentalize, shut down, and turn to behaviors which hurt us in order to try and deal. Taking away a bad habit which has served to provide us comfort,  keep us company, and manage our pain caused by trauma, can be traumatizing in itself. Addiction swapping is our natural survival response reaction to the upswell of difficult and painful feelings suddenly demanding our attention in every which way.

When you graduate trauma treatment, the rubber meets the road, as it is said. To live successfully in recovery from trauma, addictions, or related mental health issues, we need the care and professionalism of an experienced, specialized staff who provide us excellence in treatment. Our alumni learn how to thrive in their lives not in spite of trauma, but because of it. We’re always here to welcome those in need of help at The Guest House Ocala. Call us today for information and resources: 1-855-483-7800