Are You Substituting One Addiction For Another?

friends talking about addictive behavior

People who live with substance use disorder are more prone to developing an addiction that’s not drugs. There are many reasons that this can happen, and they all still come down to the disease of addiction.

What Kinds Of Behaviors Can Become Addictive?

Addiction involves both obsession and compulsion. Your brain and body craved alcohol or drugs before you got sober. It will recognize when an activity boosts feel-good chemicals such as serotonin. People who live with substance use disorder may be involved in activities that, while not healthy, feel hard to stop thinking about or doing.

These feelings are compulsive, like an addiction; when you do an activity or use a substance repeatedly, the brain's reward center will still be activated. You may follow your innate drive to “get more” of that feeling, leading to very unhealthy results.

Activities that can be compulsive or addictive:

  • Exercise
  • Bodybuilding
  • Binging/Purging food
  • Caffeine Consumption
  • Vaping/smoking cigarettes
  • Extreme sports
  • Working
  • Speeding
  • Shoplifting
  • Gambling
  • Sexual activity
  • Watching pornography

As you can see from the list, not all the activities that are addictive would be considered “bad” in moderation. Productive activities like work are great in moderation. But if your life surrounds your job, you may be throwing yourself into a whole new addiction cycle. Risk-taking behavior like speeding or skydiving also releases a lot of feel-good endorphins, which is why so many people engage in them.

Exercising once a day or every few days is healthy, but spending hours running or lifting weights could cause muscle injury and exhaustion. Drinking a cup of coffee once a day may be fine for your health, but if you find yourself living off of coffee, your health could be affected.

The Dangers Of New Addictions

When you become addicted to something besides substances, you’re in relapse mode. New addictions can bring back old behavior patterns, such as lying or minimizing your behavior. You may start to think there are other parts of recovery that you can cut corners from.

Lying about your addiction or falling into other old behavior patterns, such as minimizing your behavior, can be a trigger for relapse. Staying honest with yourself means reaching out when you realize your new addiction is a problem. You are powerless over your addiction, but you have the power to ask for help.

With a sponsor or therapist, you can start looking at your triggers and begin to abstain from compulsive behaviors. There are many healthier coping mechanisms that you can begin to do. Mindfulness, talk therapy, and meditation are just a few tools available.

You’re a human being, and you’re allowed to make mistakes. Don’t get high or drunk no matter what. Your recovery matters!

Consider Sober Living

Learning to live a sober lifestyle is an important part of your first steps in recovery! A sober living situation is often an excellent launchpad for people new to recovery. You can be around peers with similar goals as you begin to plot your next chapter of life. Learn more about sober housing by calling us at 760-216-2077.

If you've been in recovery for months or even a few years, you may come to the point that you think you've got this recovery thing down, and there are no dangers left to avoid in terms of recovery. You've begun to work on repairing your relationships. Maybe you've got a great new job or mended ties with family and friends. You may even start to feel a bit of that serenity that people talk about in 12-step meetings. All of this can be a good thing, but it doesn't mean you're cured of your addiction.

Addiction is a disease. While you're taking care of life on life's terms, everything will change in an instant if you choose to pick up a drink or drug.

Dangers: Thinking and Behavior in Recovery

With more power over the decisions in your life comes more responsibility. There will come a time soon that your recovery is tested. Long-term recovery is an exciting accomplishment, but no one is immune to dangerous thinking or behavior. Backsliding can easily lead to a full-scale relapse if you're not paying attention to your sobriety program. Here are three dangers to watch out for:

  1. Forgetting you are powerless. You gain confidence and begin to feel pride in your life. You may have a job or a relationship that makes you feel good about yourself, and choose to spend more time on that than your actual recovery. It's easy to get lost in things and people that make you feel good. But recovery isn't about "feeling good" - it's about doing good and continuing to work on yourself, your defects, and taking the time to make the twelve steps and integral part of your life.
  2. Spending most or all of your time in a romantic relationship. Codependency is a common issue in recovery, and it can be quite painful. People in recovery are taught that they shouldn't enter into any new relationships in their first year of recovery. That's because early recovery is a time to concentrate on yourself and your behaviors. It's easy to "lose yourself" in a relationship to the point that the other person, and the feelings you have for them, is an addiction. Love can be intoxicating, and your self-esteem may start to depend on the other person. And just because you're told that you should wait "one year" to look for romance doesn't mean that you'll be ready for a relationship at one year sober. Many people aren't prepared to handle the emotions a relationship can bring, even after a year clean. 
  3. Taking risks for the thrill of it. People with addictive personalities are often thrill-seekers at heart. They get a "little kick" out of breaking the rules and "getting away with it." You may start speeding when there are no police around. Or maybe you start stealing office supplies to take home. You might be married but love to flirt with the woman at the coffee shop every day. Or maybe you decide to skip 12-step meetings because you're tired of the commitment. All of these behaviors are dangerous because they're based on a feeling of entitlement. You don't think the rules apply to you, so you're going to bend them a bit. When you "get away" with the behavior for long enough, it can snowball. You may get in trouble with the police or your workplace. Relationships might suffer. Or maybe you'll feel too ashamed to show your face at a meeting because of the damage your behavior has caused. 

Humbling Yourself and Re-Engaging

Life is about choices. Mistakes happen when we make the wrong ones, but it's not the end of the world.  If you were perfect, you certainly wouldn't be in recovery in the first place. It can be humbling to admit you're struggling because of your own behavior, but sharing with others will help lessen the burden.

If you're feeling guilty, scared, or having trouble because of your behavior, the first thing to do is "own it." Tell your sponsor, share at a meeting, and listen to the feedback of others. When you're feeling overwhelmed, it's time to hold on to your recovery as hard as possible. "Keep coming back", even when you feel bad. Recovery can bring you progress, but there's no perfection. 

Asking for help when you've fallen into a trap in recovery will help you save yourself. There's nothing you can face in recovery that somebody else hasn't lived through. So if you find yourself engaging in destructive behavior, it's okay to feel bad about it. It's okay to say you don't know the way out. Just remember that you're worth saving, and this too shall pass. You don't have to face anything alone.

Sober Living Options

Are you looking for sober living in the San Diego, California, area? We have a place for you to call home! Living with others in recovery offers fellowship and a way to be accountable to others. Our programs are an excellent launchpad for people new to recovery who need time to transition to daily life. We offer options for housing and aftercare. Call to hear more about how we can help you by calling 760-216-2077.

When you were using substances, how often did you do something that was dangerous? Did you get a little thrill out of breaking the laws, such as speeding or committing petty theft? Danger can give you a little rush, but it's usually behavior that will also stunt your growth. For many people who get clean and sober, leaving these aspects of their old life is almost as difficult as quitting using drugs and alcohol. This activity, called thrill-seeking, often signals that a person may be addicted to dangers as well as substances. Does this sound like you?

Warning Signs of Thrill-Seeking Behavior

Are there certain behaviors you’re not ready to give up, even now that you’re sober? Living a life in recovery means that you’re going to have to give up negative behavior as well as alcohol or drug use.

Many people in recovery get clean and sober but keep “dirty” behaviors. They may flout the laws and drive aggressively. Or they may cheat on their taxes or even pocket your change if you ask them to get you a sandwich. Anything that gives you a little "rush" and could put you or somebody else in harm's way can be considered dangerous -- even surfing in dangerous conditions.

How Can Dangerous Behavior Be Addictive?

Thrill-seeking, dangerous behavior can be addictive for the same reasons that drugs and alcohol can. When you’re doing something dangerous, the reward center of your brain will go off as your body initiates fight-or-flight mode. This mode activates adrenaline, pumping your body with hormones and giving you a feeling of electricity, even if it’s just for a few moments.

Thrill-seeking behavior is considered a trigger for relapse. For one thing, “getting over” on somebody or committing minor crimes is still illegal. Eventually, you’ll get caught or do something that causes you to feel guilt or shame.

Here are some examples of thrill-seeking behaviors:

  • Lying because it’s easier than telling the truth and you want to see if you can get away with it.
  • Speeding or parking in spots that are illegal.
  • Having unprotected sex or cheating on a partner.
  • Stealing, cheating, or lying about money.

Changing Your Ways

It may seem difficult to give up your thrill-seeking ways, but it’s an important part of recovery. You don’t do drugs anymore, and you know right from wrong. A little thrill here and there can add up to a lot of bad feelings or even harm your relationships in recovery.

Just like giving up drugs or alcohol, you will need to work your recovery program to help you establish new patterns.

If you’re not sure how to go about changing your behavior, speak to somebody in your recovery network, your sponsor or your therapist. The first step to recovery is admitting you can’t do it by yourself.

You’ll feel better in the long run if you are able to quit doing things that harm yourself or others.

Sober Living Can Help

In sober living, you’re accountable to others in the same household, who hold the same value that you’re trying to live. Live in a safe, positive environment while you get your feet on the ground in recovery. Contact us at 760-216-2077 to learn more about how we can help.

The term “willpower” has often been used to describe how people make significant changes to their behavior. People often believe that willpower is an inner strength that makes it possible to do things such as exercise daily, change your diet, or change other unwanted behavior. So where, exactly, does willpower fit in when it comes to recovery? Is there such as thing as willpower?

If you love somebody with addiction, you may wonder why they can’t just “will themselves” to change. We’ll explore this mentality and why willpower is a myth, not supported by modern science at all.

 

Myth: Willpower Creates Changes

 

Willpower isn’t a personality trait, and it’s simply untrue that some people are born with it while others are not. Addiction is a disease that affects brain chemistry, and it is impossible for people with a substance use disorder to simply “will themselves” to stop using. Just as other life changes, there are many factors involved in quitting using and starting new, healthier behavioral patterns.

An athlete may describe their workout routine as a result of willpower when reaching their fitness goals requires a combination of traits – such as consistency, an ability to visualize their goals, and a solid plan for success.

Willpower is an archaic word used to describe behavior changes, but psychiatry and science don’t back the word up as one single behavior or thought process. Every behavioral change requires work that’s not simple a matter of “willing” yourself to “do better.”

In the case of the athlete, yes, it requires a commitment to get up every morning and go for a run. Commitments have been shown to work when a person dedicates themselves to a new action every day for up to 60 days. Willpower isn’t what drives the athlete, either; their thoughts and behaviors are the things that promote their life changes. Thinking about how they will win a race and visualizing it is standard practice for many athletes, while they also practice their runs and make sure they fuel their bodies with the proper nutrition, so they are in top shape when the race comes.

 

Fact: Changing Behavior is a Process

Recovery, and the act of quitting using itself relies on both physical changes (no longer using the drug), mental changes (replacing negative thought patterns) and behavioral changes (not picking up a drug when the person feels like using.)

These changes take place over time. Not using substances is always the first step to recovery, and this is why it’s so important to seek out treatment and a strong support network. The first weeks and months of recovery are a fragile time for the addicted; emotions feel raw, and there are many triggers in life that may cause a desire to use.

Detoxing from a substance and getting help are the primary steps toward recovery, but the process and behavior changes must be reinforced by a recovery plan. It is essential for a person quitting drugs and alcohol to seek treatment in a safe, therapeutic environment. While it would be nice to think that willpower can help with this, addiction research shows that treatment is the best way for a person to change their lives.

Getting Help

Are you interested in learning more about your sober living options? We can help you find a safe place to live with your recovering peers. You’re worthit. Learn more about sober living at 760-216-2077.

 

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