What is Addiction Replacement?
Addiction replacement is the process of ending one addiction and starting another, such as substituting food for alcohol. Addiction is a complicated disease, involving mental, social, physical, and even spiritual components. The brain disease model of addiction, calls addiction disease caused by dysfunction of the brain’s reward and pleasure-seeking systems (Leshner, 1997; Volkow and Li, 2005).
The ‘reward and pleasure-seeking’ aspects of addiction make those struggling with addiction susceptible to substituting addictions (especially substituting food for alcohol) after giving up their drug of choice.
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Addiction replacement, such as substituting food for alcohol, is a common occurrence, merely because it takes time to learn or relearn how to manage emotions. Most rehab centers focus on complete abstinence because compulsive behaviors of any kind can hamper forward progress when battling alcoholism.
At Resurgence Behavioral Health center, we believe that simply stopping the use of problematic substances is not full recovery. Coping with life on life’s terms using healthy mechanisms is the true goal of a successful recovery.
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Understanding Substituting Food for Alcohol
Food is the most common substitute for a newly sober person, specifically sugar or sugary foods and snacks. This is especially true for alcoholics and people struggling with opiate addiction. Certain forms of alcohol contain a great deal of sugar. When you are eliminating alcohol from your daily life, you may feel a craving for sugar.
Food substitution is the most common addiction replacement because eating is a part of daily life. Food is everywhere and necessary, making it easy to abuse. When a recovering alcoholic is eating and enjoying food again, it can be a relief.
The Temptation of Denial
Loved ones, often wanting to be supportive, generally see overeating or unhealthy eating habits as less offensive than substance abuse. Gaining a few pounds feels less dangerous than active addiction may have. Without recovering from alcoholism, the behaviors of compulsive food eating may have raised the alarm.
However, in light of recovering from a devastating situation, overeating can seem less threatening. This level of denial can exist in the person in recovery and within the minds of their family and friends. Substituting food for addiction is a real thing and must be addressed.
Effects and Abuse of Switching Addictions
People generally get addicted to chemicals, foods, or behaviors because they like the way it makes them feel. Chemicals or behaviors can alter your feelings, because of how they trigger the pleasure center in the brain. Stimulating this reward center can artificially create happiness, promote relaxation, and seemingly boost self-confidence.
When an initial addiction is replaced for another, this reward center remains stimulated – just as with the initial addiction. This can make the transition between addictions almost seamless and difficult to identify.
Danger of Cross-Addiction
Those struggling with addiction are easily cross-addicted to other chemicals, which is one reason many treatment centers focus on complete abstinence. Addictive behaviors can easily reoccur due to a familiarity with supplying the reward system in the brain.
Some substitutes are not as easy to overlook as food and can be as damaging as the initial drug. Some of these substitutions may include smoking cigarettes or vaping, gambling, gaming, shopping, and spending, or obsessive sexual activity.
Breaking the cycle of addiction and compulsive behaviors is a life-long process. Identifying addiction replacement when it starts and having a strong support system are keys to successfully managing this common pitfall.
Mental Illness and Substituting Addictions
When individuals are struggling with sobriety because of the intensity of withdrawal, it is easy to substitute drugs that seem safer. For example, a cocaine user may believe he can share a beer with friends, as long as he avoids cocaine. For most, this is a slippery slope because they may begin substituting alcohol.
The hard truth is, once addicted, you are at greater risk for addiction than when you tried your first substance. The combination of mental illness with addiction replacement can create a confusing picture.
If you have anxiety, depression, or another mental illness, it can be tempting to use compulsive behaviors, such as substituting food for addiction, to self-medicate. Our comprehensive treatment center can manage these competing priorities and help you regain balance and clarity.
Treatment of Addiction Replacement
Social support, therapeutic support, and education are the best defenses against substituting addictions. Information is power, and a person working on getting sober will develop better habits if given good information. Understanding what is happening as the brain and body adjust to sobriety is key.
It is also very important for family members to get information, so they understand the potential for addiction replacement. A common mistake by ill-informed support persons is expecting the person in recovery to be “fixed” upon returning home from treatment. Education will help everyone have a more realistic expectation of what lies ahead.
Support groups will normalize the range of emotions one feels and provide understanding and connection as those struggling with addiction adjust to sobriety. People who have weathered this type of storm can give hope and encouragement that others cannot always provide. Successfully developing coping mechanisms can help create resiliency against developing additional addictions and falling into the trap of addiction replacement.
At Resurgence Behavioral Health Center, we provide the tools to end the cycle of addiction and prevent addiction substitution, such as substituting food for addiction. We understand the risks of addiction replacement and provide you with healthy coping mechanisms to work through your recovery.
Do you want treatment but are worried about how you can pay for it? We have a team of financial professionals who provide free insurance verification. We work with you to deliver treatment in a way that works for you and your financial situation.
At Resurgence Behavioral Health Center, we provide the tools to end the cycle of addiction and prevent addiction substitution. We understand the risks of addiction replacement and provide you with healthy coping mechanisms to work through your recovery.
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How to Get Help
Resurgence Behavioral Health Center is available to answer questions or discuss options with you. We have a team of professionals who are dedicated to your understanding and healing from addiction. We give hope back to those who are searching for recovery and stability.