For someone suffering from an addiction, refraining from their drug of choice may be one of the most difficult things they ever try to accomplish.
Maintaining their self-control and not engaging in indulgent behavior with a particular drug may be so stressful and straining that they begin to obsess over something else.
This can sometimes lead to a new addiction substituting their previous addiction and is commonly known as "addiction transfer."
While recovering from their destructive obsession, a person in rehab might begin to find certain substitutes that fill the void of leaving behind their addictive past.
When it comes to transferring obsessive tendencies, there can be healthy alternatives but in many cases addicts end up with new destructive habits. Instead of drinking heavily, a person going through recovery might start a nasty cigarette habit or develop a food addiction.
The reason that this kind of re-direction of obsession often occurs is because addicts have the desire to repeat a known mechanism of stress and pain alleviation. When their known mechanism is taken out of the equation, they will transfer substances and behaviors to cope with a perceived lack of dopamine in the brain.
Addicts will look for something else that can ease their stress and temporarily give them a feeling of pleasure. Since it takes time to get rid of addictive behavior, this type of transference usually occurs early on in their recovery but it could continue after leaving rehab if they are not able to find more healthy habits.
Positive Addiction Replacement
Because addiction transfer is so difficult to get rid of completely, at times the best solution for this problem is to look for healthy obsessions that have no real negative consequences. People in recovery are encouraged to find hobbies and a passion for something that can ease their stress and bring joy to their life.
Because addicts and recovering addicts are constantly pursuing reward and relief from substances, they need to find an activity or healthy habit that will give them the same feeling of reward. Sometimes exercise or particular sports can provide a more effective transfer that will keep them active and physically fit while building up their self-esteem.
Finding Healthy Habits
Recovering addicts might start running marathons to achieve that sense of motivation and reward from accomplishing something difficult. Physical activity can become a great coping mechanism because it creates positive energy and improves a person's mood.
Exercise or sports can be a great healthy alternative for addicts but it may not work for everyone. Each individual needs to find their own addiction replacement that works effectively for them.
For some people it could be music, art cooking or any kind of hobby that helps them to feel more fulfilled in their life. There are limitless amounts of activities that can ease stress and become a better kind of obsession than using a substance. A healthy replacement addiction works best if it is established early on but if addicts fall into the habit of a destructive addiction transfer like cigarettes, gambling or compulsive shopping they can still try to reduce these addictions too.
Even though an addict may never be completely free of their addictive personality and tendency to develop obsessions, they can look for ways to channel their energy into something more positive. Replacing addictions with healthy substitutes can be an effective form of treatment but it is only part of the greater picture of recovery.
There are other important skills that addicts need to learn in order to avoid triggers and fight cravings. Addiction replacement is just one of the many ways to make it through recovery and stay sober.