Did you know that many people in recovery trade one addiction for another? They go in with a drug or alcohol issue and come out addicted to cigarettes or some other toxic behaviors. It’s all part of the brain’s chemistry to find something to hit those pleasure receptors and make you feel good. Please make no mistake; it’s a very dangerous path to walk down.
The Prison of Addictive Behaviors
Assume you’ve been in recovery for two years, and things seem to be going well. However, you notice that you’ve become a compulsive shopper to handle your anxiety. Anytime you start feeling that angst inside you mount, you turn to spend money to settle that craving. Soon, you’ve maxed out all your credit cards and head for bankruptcy court. If you think this can’t happen to you, then guess again. It’s not uncommon for people to substitute one addiction for another.
In the medical community, it’s often called cross-addiction, where you replace one bad habit and gain another. Now, if you pick up life-affirming or healthy changes, then it’s not so bad. Some people find healthy outlets like spirituality, meditation, or even acupuncture. These are considered healthy coping skills to help you through those downtimes. You absolutely should develop these habits, such as calling a sponsor, attending a meeting, or logging into a support group. The people that learn healthy ways to deal with their negative feelings are the ones who will maintain their sobriety.
The Overactive Stress Response
At the core of many addictions is a mental health disorder, trauma, or chronic stress. Do you have poor coping skills? Some people fall to pieces under duress, but others can hold it together and never let anyone see them sweat. The key is the person who has their emotions under control doesn’t have an over-reactive stress response. The way you act and react to situations can be caused by genetics, so alcohol and drug abuse often run in families.
Since it’s a disease, you can easily pass it to your children the same as you would Schizophrenia or Parkinson’s. When you have an over-reactive stress response, you don’t know how to handle what life throws at you each day. So, you often turn to things like illegal street drugs to self-medicate away the pain. One hit and you feel like a new person, but then the high wears off, and you realize the problem didn’t go away. It helps when you have more of the drug to numb the pain, and then once again, reality hits you like a ton of bricks.
These chronic addictive behaviors and motivations engrain themselves deep within your brain, and they can change your chemistry. To fix this, you must rewire your brain by undergoing neurological changes to correct this, but the process is long and grueling, and it doesn’t happen overnight. During these times, you will find yourself highly vulnerable, and it’s easy to pick up another addiction. You might even think it’s better than drugs, but any addictive behaviors are rooted in negativity and can be problematic.
Common Addictions People Swap
After you gain some sobriety under your belt, you may find that you can’t settle those old feelings of addiction. Here are some of the most common things that people turn to.
- Safer Drugs – If you realize heroin is terrible for you, you might replace it with what you consider a safer drug like marijuana. Additionally, if you were hooked on drugs, you might see alcohol as an excellent numbing agent you feel is easier to control.
- Gambling can give you a euphoric feeling, especially when you’re winning. People become addicted to the adrenaline rush it gives you, making it very habit-forming.
- Food – Have you ever heard someone say that when they quit smoking, they gained fifty pounds? It’s because they used food as a coping mechanism instead of cigarettes. The same things are observed in drug and alcohol abuse.
- Love -Some people will become intoxicated from love and physical acts. Since intimacy makes you feel good, it’s often compared to a drug. It feels natural, but it can get you into trouble, especially if you’re cheating on your spouse or engaging in dangerous acts.
- Exercise -Since exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, many folks like the feeling they get from it. It can produce a high quiet like drugs, so it can be dangerous when taken to extremes.
Addressing Underlying Causes
These compulsive addiction behaviors are beyond your conscious control, so you must learn healthy coping skills. We can help you start your journey and educate you on tips and tricks to make it for the long haul. Call one of our counselors today, standing by, at 833-846-5669. We are available 24×7 to assist.