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replacement addictionsOur behaviors in active addiction center around a mental obsession. Our bodies experience a phenomenon of craving towards alcohol and other drugs due to this obsession. It is this exact infatuation that can convince us that our repetitive drinking and using was acceptable or necessary, even when we desperately wanted to stop. Our behaviors don’t always match our true values. Addiction is our physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual malady. We continue to use drugs and alcohol to fill a void deep within ourselves. So what happens when we enter sobriety and end our relationship with drinking and drugs? Does the void fill immediately once we stop using mind-altering substances? In some cases, yes. Recovery and a 12-step program can restore our sanity and repair our spiritual malady. However, we might sometimes find ourselves still participating in repetitive behaviors that mimic our drinking and drug use. These activities may seem harmless, even healthy, but they can be circumstances of replacing one addiction with another. 

Why Do We Replace Our Addictions?

When we begin a journey of sobriety, we often believe that drugs and alcohol were our core issues. Eliminating those from our lives will surely cure us, right? What we sometimes neglect to see is that our true problem was within ourselves and stems from a spiritual, psychological, physical, and/or mental malady. Drugs and alcohol were our solutions to this malady. Some of us, intentionally or subconsciously, will search for another behavior or activity that produces the same high or relief that we found in our addiction. Essentially, we are transferring our addiction from one thing to another. This can happen for several reasons. In early sobriety, we may experience intense feelings of anxiety and stress. Our minds and bodies are familiar with depending on something to comfort us. Responding to our nature, we look to find that satisfaction elsewhere, without alcohol or drugs. There are also those of us who have depleted the amount of dopamine our brain. We spent a significant amount of time using a heavy amount of drugs and drinking, and our brains are not full acclimated to our stopping. Happiness can be difficult to find since our brains are still working to return to normalcy. Whether the need is in our bodies or our brains, we seek to find something that will provide us the joy and thrill that alcohol and drugs gave us. We transfer our mental obsession and phenomenon of craving onto another activity, behavior, or substance to experience a familiar high. 

What Does a Replacement Addiction Look Like?

There are many addictions that we may use to replace drinking or drugs. Some of them might even appear as healthy and normal. Examples of replacement addictions are things such as smoking cigarettes or other nicotine products, excessive eating, exercise and muscle building, sex activity and watching pornography, gambling, shopping, and even overworking ourselves at our jobs. There are many different forms of transferring our addiction to something else, and these are just a few. Some of these are seen to be potentially harmful. Excessive cigarette smoking and nicotine addiction can lead to lung disease and other respiratory disorders. Constant eating can affect our blood pressure and overall health. Gambling and shopping can both potentially be a danger to our finances. Even partaking in sexual activity as addiction can leave us more susceptible to contracting STDs and damage our emotional health. 


Other types of transferred addictions can be perceived as healthy and positive. Working out at the gym and increasing our fitness activity is usually encouraged, as it is commonly associated with physical and mental well-being. When it becomes an addiction, we might find ourselves working out multiple times a day, or obsessing over our fitness and physique in an unhealthy way. In a similar sense, working hard at our jobs is seen as a positive character trait. If it gets to the point that our work is all we can focus on, and we are not tending to other aspects of our life, it can be more harmful than helpful. All of these are potential ways that we can transfer our addictions elsewhere and might continue to damage our mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual well being, even if it may present itself as normal behavior. 

Recognizing and Treating a Replacement Addiction

There are many signs and red flags that we can look for to identify a replacement addiction, both internally and externally. Many of these signs are similar or identical to ones we recognized in our alcohol or drug addictions. Examples to look out for are if we are constantly focusing on or thinking about the activity or behavior, and are anxious and stressed about it. If you can only focus on when you’ll have your next cigarette, poker game, workout, or meal, this may be related to a mental obsession. Finding yourself unable to sleep due to thoughts and urges to participate in a replacement addiction is also common. Urges such as these are found in a phenomenon of craving. We might find that our work is taking over our entire lives, and we can concentrate on little else. When friendships, familial or intimate relationships begin to suffer as a result of these behaviors, this is also a concern. 


Additionally, we may find ourselves causing damage to those around us, or at our work, school, or homes. On a more personal level, our self-care may begin to suffer. We are less inclined to pay attention to our personal hygiene and our well being. These are among many typical signs of a transferred addiction. Just like an addiction to alcohol or other drugs, we need to approach our new behavior by addressing where it’s coming from. There are many 12-step programs for these activities, such as gambling, binge eating, sex, and love addiction. In some circumstances, we may also want to seek outside help from a professional. A therapist or psychologist might help shed light on the root of this new mental obsession. We treat a replacement addiction by finding the root of the behavior, or the void we are trying to fill, and in this way, we can recover. Recovery is possible, and not just for drinking and drug use. Relief can be found within our own selves, and treatment is available. You deserve to be free from all addictions and to enjoy a healthy life. 


The Guest House Ocala staff is trained and excited to help you begin your journey into recovery. You are worthy of a healthy and fulfilling life. Our program is designed to help you find relief and freedom, and healthy ways to cope when life becomes stressful. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.