Changing One Addiction for Another – Compulsive Behavior

January 26th, 2011

A common occurrence amongst addicts and alcoholics who are new to recovery is to simply swap one addiction for another. They then often become compulsive about their new addiction. This addiction may be an activity that is not usually classed as an addiction, however due to it being compulsive, it is no longer a productive activity. The addiction may be substituted by something like work, a hobby or exercise.

One of the main goals of recovery is to once again have control over your life and the choices that you make. Any compulsion takes away that control as the compulsion is in control. Freedom of choice has been eliminated and you are as trapped as you were in alcohol or drug addiction.

Common Compulsions

One of the common compulsions for addicts is get swallowed up in work. These people are regularly termed as “workaholics.” A good work ethic is wonderful as long as it is balanced. Overworking and spending most of your time talking about work may be compulsive behavior. Exercise is another area that often becomes compulsive. Although exercise is healthy for most people in recovery, if it is simply a substitute for drinking, then sobriety has not been accomplished. It is highly possible that if the exercise compulsion wears off, you may go back to drinking.

Unhealthy Compulsions

Some substituted compulsive behaviors are unhealthy and unproductive. Smoking marijuana is a popular substitute for many addicts in recovery. Of course, it is also common for alcoholics and addicts in recovery to substitute addictions that are not productive or healthy. For example, one of the more popular substitutions is for alcoholics to begin smoking marijuana. They say that is much less harmful than their previous addiction.

Other harmful compulsions would include sex addictions, gambling, shopping and computer games. The danger of these compulsive behaviors is that they easily lead to relapse and are not helpful to permanent recovery.

Find the Healthy Balance

It is wise to chat to your mentor or sponsor concerning any compulsive behaviors that you may develop and discuss healthy alternatives. It is important to set realistic personal goals to help meet your needs and you should include relaxation and leisure activities. The journey to recovery includes a balanced lifestyle with work, relaxation, healthy eating, exercise, and sufficient sleep. Overworking and attempting to fit too much into a day needs to be avoided.

The One Near-Compulsory Activity That is Encouraged

The one activity that is encouraged, and can be perceived by some as compulsive, is involvement in your support group or 12-step programme. It is not uncommon for people in recovery to become deeply engaged in attending their support groups, even attending more than one meeting a day. Although this can seem compulsive, even causing dependency on the group, it will be dealt with during the group sessions. It is still best to continue participating in the support groups.

It’s no mistake that these 12 Step meetings are scheduled during the pub’s ‘happy hours’ or other commonly difficult periods.
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