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How to Recognize a Substitute Addiction and What’s Wrong With It?
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If you are an addict in recovery, you need to understand when your behavior veers from healthy into addictive. It is the behavior that’s the problem, rather than just the substance. Addiction can transfer from one substance to another, like from alcohol to drugs, or to addictive forms of gambling, compulsive sex, compulsive overeating, compulsive overwork, and compulsive spending. When you find yourself obsessing over how long it will be until you can have your next cigarette, or take another pill, or go to the casino, and your every waking moment becomes a matter of figuring out how you can satisfy this craving, you have crossed over into substitute addiction. Through a wellness program, you can get rid of all types of addictions.
Another warning sign is when addicts in recovery develop a codependent relationship with another person, or they begin to recognize the codependency in a relationship they already have. If you haven’t changed your behavior, and the other person in the relationship hasn’t changed theirs, things are going to go right back to the unhealthy and addictive co-dependency that existed before you went through treatment. In fact, family therapy is highly recommended for the loved ones of those in active treatment. How can the family members encourage and support the loved one on his or her return home if they aren’t able to recognize their contribution to codependency – and what to do about it? 
Someone who’s an alcoholic and has remained clean and sober following treatment may feel that going to the casino might be an innocent way of escaping problems and alleviating stress. Or, using the example of smoking a joint or popping a powerful painkiller or tranquilizer to calm the nerves and ease tension and stress, the addict in recovery may feel that this is behavior that’s only occasional, something that can be handled and isn’t dangerous or threatening. 
This is a mistake. Again, it gets back to the behavior that’s the problem. Substituting another addiction for one you’ve given up only means you’ve switched substances or addictive activity. You are still engaging in compulsive behavior – and that’s bound to have negative repercussions down the road.
Do you think you can handle it by limiting your exposure? How’d that work out when you tried to cut down on drinking or drug use in the past? If you were a gambler and now take up drinking, do you think you can safely set limits and abide by them? The truth of the matter is, as you learned during treatment, there is no such thing as “just once.” You have to quit and stay away from addictive substances and behavior – and the people, places, and things that trigger urges and cravings to use.
What about throwing yourself into work as a way to avoid indulging in what others consider addictive behavior (drinking, doing drugs, gambling, etc.)? Work is the Puritan ethic, right? Hard work never hurts anybody. Wrong, again. While it is true that work can help occupy your mind and get you intellectually and physically involved in projects, too much work can cause problems for you as well. The key is how compulsively you approach your work. If you start to bring it home and devote nights and weekends to work instead of interacting with the family if you constantly have to return messages, emails, are accessible day and night via text and chat, refuse to take vacations with the family, ignore personal health, give up recreational and entertainment, or avoid all social situations unless they are connected with work, guess what? You have substituted your previous addiction with an addiction to work. This is just one example of a substitute addiction, and there are many more.

 

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