Addiction Replacement: Using Other Habits To Break Your Addictive Ones
Addiction is a difficult subject to tackle.
What is addiction, in the first place? In a loved one, especially in a child, it can cause feelings of intense guilt and responsibility. Then there are even stickier concepts, like relapse and triggers, and how much of that can be controlled by the addict, versus what is a natural consequence of their addiction.
Additionally, what role do alternate habits play in addiction recovery? How can we start to adapt new habits and get over cravings for a specific drug-of-choice…for good? We explore here. Then, we invite your questions or comments about habits at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt reply.
The Ever Growing Addiction Problem
When you begin to look at statistics dealing with addiction, it becomes even harder to stomach. According to a startling update to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of Americans with addictions to drugs and alcohol could be as high as 23 million, but we know it doesn’t end there. With the specification of “drugs and alcohol”, it doesn’t cover other addictions which can be just as harmful to one’s life, such as gambling, or even sex.
There is also a phenomenon known as addiction replacement. Addicts who go down this road will take one problem and switch it with another. For example, someone who is addicted to alcohol may begin to smoke large amounts of marijuana. A former opiate addict could begin habitually overeating to deal with the stress of losing their former coping mechanism. A gambling addict could begin engaging in dangerous impulse buying that bankrupts them.
Usually, the argument for this replacement is that the new addiction is less harmful than the old one. In some cases this might be true, but that doesn’t make it a good course of action. The point of battling addiction is not to reduce its impact by giving it a new focus. It is to recover from that addiction entirely.
Healthy Habits, Not New Addictions
Instead, one alternative is to begin developing lifelong, healthy habits. It is harder work, but far more effective in both the long term.
In 2011, an interesting book was released on Kindle by a man named Mishka Shubaly. He had been battling alcoholism, and it had badly impacted his overall life and health. His solution? It wasn’t a rehab center, or a special medication. He began to run, starting at five miles, then gradually increasing it all the way to 50 miles.
You can find a similar story from the creator of the comic The Oatmeal, who talks about his constant fight against what he calls the “Blerch”. The Blerch is a character he created to represent his inherent tendency towards unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as drinking and eating.
Of course, it isn’t always that simple, and sometimes professional help is the only thing that is going to allow an addict to get past their problem. But it illustrates how one healthy habit can be a coping mechanism, and help lead away from addictive behaviors.
This is not a theory without its foundation in scientific study. Dr. Kelly McGonigal Ph.D found when working with addicts that something as simple as mindfulness could be the key to breaking beyond temptation. It could, in some cases, be a matter of willpower when it comes to beginning the recovery process. That is quite reassuring to anyone who has been impacted by this horrific disease.
5 Steps to Starting a New Habit to Beat Addiction
If you’re ready to begin a new habit and replace your addiction with something positive, there are five things you’ll need to do.
1. Simplify Your Goals. If you try to change your entire life in a day, you’re going to fail. Pick one goal and be willing to let others fall by the wayside for a bit. Focus first on what is most important and build on your goals as you gather more strength and resilience.
2. Make A Daily Change. Your goal for a healthy new habit has to be a change you make on a daily basis. This way it’s constantly occurring. If your goal is a weekly or monthly activity, then you’re likely to forget about it.
3. Set Reminders. Create reminders of your goal everywhere necessary. Write is on your fridge, your bathroom mirror, create an alert in your phone, tell a friend. Even the best goal setters forget from time to time to what goals they’re trying to focus on and WHY they were so motivated to do so in the first place.
4. Create A Trigger. This is some sort of ritual you perform right before you act out the new habit you’re trying to perform. If you’re trying to quit smoking, this could be something as simple as doing push ups or drinking a glass of water every time you fight the urge to smoke a cigarette.
5. Get Rid Of Temptation. Rid your life of anything that will tempt you to break your goal. Remove drugs or alcohol from the home if you’re trying to quit these substances. Do not go to places where you know they will be used. Avoid friends who use substances you’re trying to get away from if they’re unwilling to support your goals.
Breaking addictions, healing, forming healthy habits for a healthy and happy life is within your reach, no matter how far into addiction you or your loved one may have gone.
If you have questions that you’re struggling to find answers to, reach out to us! We’re happy to answer questions and point you in the right direction if you’re looking for resources, community, support, and healing.