by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
It’s extremely common for people who first get sober to find a different addiction to switch to. This seems to be particularly true among those who are recovering from alcoholism and people who are quitting smoking.
A common thing that people latch onto right away is overeating. When their overeating becomes unmanageable they then tend to go into an addictive cycle of exercising too much.
If you’re a recovering addict and you can’t identify with those examples, you might be someone who goes into compulsive worry and fear after quitting an addiction. Or you might become addicted to compulsive masturbation, out of control shopping or spending, or compulsive cleaning.
It’s important that you become aware of this behavior, because if you give up one addiction and trade it for another then you’re not solving the underlying problem. So then it’s likely just a matter of time before you slip back into unconsciousness and your old, more dangerous addiction reappears.
Getting into a new lifestyle pattern requires concentration and focus. We have very little of that when we are in an anxious state of mind, which is almost always the case when one quits an addiction. I recommend that a newly-recovering alcoholic or drug addict swap out their addictive behavior for becoming addicted to mental health work and spiritual research.
Some of the most dangerous substitute addictions that I’ve seen people get into have to do with obsessive dating, obsessive sex, and multiple partners. This behavior can be very dangerous physically, mentally, and emotionally. There’s no way that one in that state of mind will attract a healthy mate. Instead, the original deep woundedness will prevent them from being in and nurturing deep love relationships.
Alcoholism, inappropriate sex, drug abuse, improper financial behavior and all compulsions all have their root origins in one thing—our inability to create the attachments and the patterns that we needed as early as infancy. But such attachments and patterns are formed and desperately needed in our toddler years, childhood years, and teenage years as well.
In order for us to feel a sense of comfort, we have to make some mental and physical attachments to loving caregivers. If we fail to do that then our brain does not develop properly. Instead, we go into a state of hypervigilance, and anxiety is a natural reaction when that’s the case.
One of the primary reasons why we desperately seek contact and love from other people is because that was what we did beginning at birth. The physical process of coming into this world is a scary, frightening journey. The first thing that we do when we arrive is attach ourselves to the mother. Her skin, her smell, her milk, her eye contact, her facial expressions, and her soft voice are all things that bring us comfort.
We need a tremendous amount of comfort during the first several years of our lives. If we fail to get it, there will be a rupturing in the fabric of our minds. When that happens, our minds will then seek to heal us, guided by the dictate of survival.
Our minds don’t function properly and guide us toward proper behavior when they are damaged, though. This results in our reaching for any substance that’s out there to try to satisfy our craving for love, care, attention, and gentle, gentle contact.
The fact is that replacement addictions work for a period of time. They keep us grounded and even can give us temporary euphoria. But they will eventually blow up in our faces. This is the case because they are mentally and/or physically toxic.
There is only one realistic way to overcome addiction and expect to remain free of it for the long run. It is to do the hard mental, emotional, and psychological work necessary to get to the root of our problems that drive our addictions. We can then take steps to solve those problems and arrive at health, wellness, and enlightenment. If you commit to the necessary work and put your heart and mind into it, you will reap exponential benefits from doing so.