Recovering from addiction is a long road and takes a tremendous amount of willpower and dedication. Finally regaining enough control to return to normal life is a great achievement and with a strong support structure you can look forward to bettering yourself and never returning to the addiction. Unfortunately, there tends to be a lot of stress and pressure on a recovering addict to stay the course, which may result in falling victim to new pitfalls they may not be aware of. Often, recovering addicts turn to new escapes or coping mechanisms as they fight to maintain discipline against their big addiction, shifting their addiction to a new substance or harmful habit. We call this behaviour ‘addiction replacement’.
What Is Addiction Replacement
Addiction replacement is the term given to the habitual transition from one addiction to a new one, often after rehabilitation treatment for the initial addiction. While many people perceive addiction to be fixed to a particular substance or habit, such as alcoholism or heroin addiction, it is actually a far more complex, interwoven problem.
Addiction in all forms has the same underlying causes and characteristics, meaning patterns can very easily be repeated in a different form. Some people are genetically or psychologically more addiction prone and are at far greater risk of slipping into one or more obsessive and destructive behaviours.
This means that if you’ve fallen victim to any addiction, you’re very likely to fall into any other possible addiction as well because you’re chasing the same ‘high’, the same reward system. Examples of transition addictions include alcohol, gambling, nicotine, sex, benzodiazapenes (tranquilizers), prescription pain killers, eating disorders, uncontrolled spending and shopping, pornography, as well as extreme fixation on work.
Striving For Higher Levels Of Dopamine
Addiction is heavily driven by the need for dopamine highs, and the typical recovering addict has an exceptionally low level of dopamine availability while their bodies go through the process of healing and returning to a balanced state. This makes for a dangerous chance of turning to any other activity or substance that boosts their dopamine levels so that they can feel better while recovering.
Be Aware Of Signs
While some of these activities can be quite harmless and seem reasonably helpful to keep the recovering addict going – shopping, working or exercise, for example – a recovering addict and those close to them need to be aware of the signs that it has transformed into an addiction. As always, it’s a slippery slope and being vigilant is vital. Here are a few signs to look out for:
- Trouble at work, neglecting studies or responsibilities. Behavioural signs of this can be that you’re starting to run late a bit more often over time and eventually stop showing up for work or school, or ignoring tasks you know you have to do in spite of being aware of the consequences, and no longer seeing value or reason to be involved in work or school.
- No longer having a normal sleep routine because of activity engagement.
- Constantly thinking about the activity to the point where everything else is disregarded.
- Relationships with those closest to you begin to degrade, there are more arguments and the peace and harmony has begun to give way to more arguments and disagreements. This tends to surface by loved ones telling you that your behaviour is worrying or that your reasoning doesn’t make sense or is unbalanced.
- You’ve begun to neglect yourself in terms of what you eat, how you dress, how often you shower and tend to neglect other hygiene and self-care routines.
- Feeling stressed or anxious if you can’t do the activity immediately or if you’re being prevented from doing it for any reason. An example of this is being unable to go on a spending spree because you have no money, or someone visiting you and interfering with your activity.
- Depression and self-destructive thought patterns, loss of interest in anything else.
How To Prevent Relapse Caused By Addiction Replacement
The way we perceive addiction is a large factor in how well we can identify warning signs and treat the disease as a whole. Consider addiction to be a blanket concept that stems in many directions, like a spider web. An addict could take any one of the other possible routes at any time, which is why being aware of them and monitoring behaviour is crucial. Addiction in all forms all have similar underlying causes and these need to be addressed and thoroughly worked out in order to prevent relapse or new addictions. Contact us today!
Therapy on a continuous or long-term basis is crucial, as the addict not only needs to face and process the emotional traumas that have brought them to addiction, but also build up their character and strengthen their self-worth to the point where they no longer feel unable to deal with life without the need to escape through substances or behaviours.
If you or a loved one recognise any of these behaviours in you, whether you’re a recovering addict or may have become addicted to something somewhere along the way, there is help available. Contact us for assistance and guidance, we are dedicated to turning lives around and bringing you to being your best self.