The Perils of Replacement Addictions

a man thinking about his friend finding replacement addictions

If nicotine is among your old chemical indulgences, you’ve probably heard the line “quit smoking, get fat.” While many former smokers do gain a few pounds, that’s not always a bad thing. Nicotine is an appetite suppressant and also speeds up metabolism, which can lead to chain smokers becoming underweight. Unhealthy weight loss is even more common with certain other substances, particularly opiates and cocaine addiction, which can grow cravings to the point where addicts neglect eating in the constant search for a new “fix.” In turn, these addicts end up with replacement addictions.

Replacing the Addiction with Another

Many former addicts with no need to gain weight do turn to overeating as an alternate means of satisfying the old comfortable oral-stimulation feeling, or the yearning for a pleasure rush. In the latter case, foods that give the strongest rush (lattes, doughnuts, French fries) tend to be high in sugar, fat, and empty calories—which means they’re not recommended as a primary diet even for those who do need to gain weight.

One thing every recovering addict should know is that the habit of living for instant gratification in replacement addictions is harder to purge than physical cravings for a specific substance. Besides comfort food, many turn to unhealthy relationships, gambling, or new-to-them chemical substances; others let shopping, popular fiction, social media, or television become master of their time. Even healthy things—exercise, sports, volunteer work, church activities, hobbies, learning—can turn into new replacement addictions.

It’s not always easy to tell a healthy passion from an unhealthy addiction. And as with most addictions, others frequently see trouble developing before you do. (Reread our earlier post on denial for a refresher course on outside input and other warning signals.)

Besides your new favorite activity, what other regulars are in your life?

Whom do you spend time with at least weekly, doing other things? Do you spend daily time outdoors (or indoors if your favorite activity is an outdoor one)? Can you do a full day’s work without sneaking in moments of favorite-activity indulgence? Is that activity influencing you to skip meals or stay up late? Do you feel intensely resentful at even necessary interruptions? Even if something is your primary passion in life, it shouldn’t be your whole life.

Are you paying full attention to immediate needs with no connection to your favorite activity?

Driving while planning next week’s bridge party can be almost as dangerous as drunk driving. Even if you don’t wreck, your mind may be spending too much time elsewhere if you aren’t paying attention. Ditto if people regularly accuse you of not listening or of dominating the conversation with your interests, if you can’t remember eating despite the evidence of used dishes, or if you frequently run late due to taking time for “just one more” chapter/social-media comment/crossword puzzle.

Can you not stop your favorite activity for more than 24 hours?

That’s a sure sign you’re sliding over the “can’t live without it” line. Of course, the best cure for replacement addictions is avoiding it in the first place. Besides knowing the above warning signs to nip potential problems in the bud, make the following principles your new daily habits:

Have a set schedule for life’s regulars.

Know when you’ll eat, sleep, exercise, and when family and work time will be. Of course, you won’t always manage to stick to the schedule. But, it’ll give you an incentive to periodically leave your “top” activity. If any activity is showing signs of an issue, set a firm maximum amount of time you’ll spend on it. You should also have someone hold you accountable.

Keep your basic needs as top priority.

Such regular affirmations as “People are more important than things” and “Health is more important than instant gratification” will help you remember to quit an activity on time to make your appointments, or to put down the book and eat lunch when you feel hunger pangs.

Keep a healthy balance in your life.

What you eat, what you do on weekends, whom you spend time with—all need a combination of routine and of regularly trying something new. Keeping any one thing from becoming inviolable will protect you from addictive tendencies.

Conquering Replacement Addictions with Kemah Palms

If you have an addictive personality, replacement addictions can almost become natural after drug or alcohol recovery. However, Kemah Palms has comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs that teach you healthy coping mechanisms to set you up for success after completing rehabilitation. Some of the programs that we offer at Kemah Palms includes:

To learn more about how Kemah’s addiction therapy services and addiction treatment options, call [Direct] today.