Guide on How to Stop Replacing One Addiction With Another

Developing healthy habits and productive routines is an important part of recovery. But if you become overly dependent on your new hobbies or pursuits, you risk replacing one addiction with another.

Compulsive behaviors, which are also often referred to as process addictions, can undermine your ability to enjoy a healthy and satisfying life in recovery.

Why Can’t People Stop Replacing One Addiction With Another?

There are many reasons why a person might be unable to stop replacing one addiction with another. One of the most common causes of this problem involves time.

When a person is living with active, untreated addiction, they often find themselves spending substantial amounts of time thinking about, acquiring, and using alcohol or another drug. It’s not an exaggeration to note that untreated addiction can consume a person’s every waking moment. 

Once a person gets addiction treatment and embarks on their recovery journey, one of the challenges they may face is finding productive ways to fill the many hours that were previously devoted to finding and using drugs.

In their enthusiasm for adopting new behavior patterns, some people quickly become trapped by overwhelming urges or compulsions. Even if they remain abstinent from alcohol and other substances, these people may discover too late that they have been replacing one addiction with another.

What Are Common Types of Replacement Addictions?

During your time in treatment, you may have the opportunity to learn about nutrition and exercise. Eating well and getting appropriate amounts of exercise can help you repair the damage that your body incurred when you were in the throes of active addiction. Adopting a healthy diet and exercise plan can also elevate your mood and boost your overall mental health.

But even healthy eating and exercise can be taken to dangerous extremes. 

In the 1990s, Dr. Steven Bratman introduced the term “orthorexia” to describe an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Orthorexia does not appear in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is the resource that most clinicians consult to determine official diagnoses. But this doesn’t mean that orthorexia isn’t a legitimate concern. Reputable organizations such as the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) recognize the danger posed by orthorexia.

Another food-related concern to be aware of is emotional eating. People who struggle with emotional eating use food in the same way that some people use alcohol and other drugs – as a way to cope with stress or numb themselves to emotional pain. Like orthorexia, emotional eating isn’t in the DSM-5, but this dysfunctional use of food can clearly have a harmful effect on a person’s physical health and mental well-being. 

Eating isn’t the only health-related behavior that can become problematic. Exercise is another area that, when taken to an extreme, can have a decidedly detrimental impact on a person’s health. Compulsive exercise, which is characterized by overwhelming urges to work out more frequently or with greater intensity than is healthy, can be a source of profound distress. The negative effects of compulsive exercise can include dehydration, musculoskeletal damage, dangerous weight loss, disrupted menstruation, and social isolation.

Of course, diet and exercise aren’t the only parts of life that are prone to compulsive behaviors. Other common process addictions include compulsive shopping, compulsive gambling, and sex/love addiction. Anyone who develops any type of process addiction is at risk for considerable harm, and they should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare provider.

How to Stop Replacing One Addiction With Another

If you’ve been having difficulty with the challenge of how to stop replacing one addiction with another, here are a few control strategies that can help:

Educate yourself: Educating yourself about the many types of compulsive behaviors and process addictions, and understanding the dangers that these concerns pose, can be an essential part of learning how to stop replacing one addiction with another.

Make a schedule: Writing down your plans for the day, week, or month can be a good way to make sure you’re not spending an inordinate amount of time on one activity. Comparing current and past schedules can also help you assess your behavior patterns and identify areas of concern before they become significant problems.

Use your support network: Having a small group of close friends or trusted family members that you can rely on for support can be an essential part of your recovery toolbox. In addition to helping you resist any urges to use alcohol or other drugs, your support group can also identify problematic behavior patterns that you may not have noticed yet. 

Talk to a professional: Attending regularly scheduled sessions with a therapist or counselor can be an excellent way to maintain good mental health and protect your recovery. Having open and honest conversations with a trained professional can also be a good way to analyze your behaviors, identify any concerning patterns, and develop appropriate solutions.

Enter a treatment program: One of the most important lessons you can learn in treatment is that there’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. If you’ve had a relapse, or if you’ve replaced one type of addiction with another, returning to treatment can be a gift that you give to yourself. Getting additional help isn’t a sign of failure; it is evidence of your commitment to your continued well-being.

Two important words to keep in mind throughout your recovery journey are moderation and balance. To minimize your risk of replacing one addiction with another, you want to be sure that you’re following a balanced schedule that includes a variety of activities, all enjoyed in moderation.

Treatment for Addiction in Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham Recovery Center is a trusted source of superior care for people whose lives have been disrupted by addiction. Our dynamic programming includes an array of customizable options, so we can be sure we are providing you with the focused care that best meets your specific needs. If you or someone that you care about has been replacing one addiction with another, our team of dedicated experts can help. Contact us today to learn more.


  • Ian Henyon, LPC

    Having worked in a variety of clinical settings since 2008, Ian brings well over a decade of treatment center experience to the leadership role at Birmingham Recovery Center. As Executive Director, he is responsible for all aspects of BRC’s operations and provision of services. Being firmly grounded in the notion of servant leadership, Ian is focused on establishing a supportive work environment as a foundation for providing superior clinical services to BRC’s clients. Ian combines his extensive knowledge of treating addiction and psychiatric illness with the recognition that addiction is a disorder of the brain, to ensure that all clients are treated with the highest levels of respect and compassion. Ian is a licensed professional counselor. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and he received a Master of Science degree from Prescott College.


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