How To Avoid Substituting Addictions During Recovery

people discussing the dangers of substituting addiction

When recovering from addiction, individuals often substitute one addiction for another in a behavior commonly referred to as addiction swapping. Here’s how you can avoid replacing one addiction for another while in recovery.

What Is Addiction Swapping?

Addiction swapping occurs when someone trying to overcome addiction substitutes one addiction for another. Rather than addressing the underlying issues of addiction, the individual simply changes the focus of their addictive tendencies. When left untreated, this can result in a one-to-one replacement of one addiction for another or lead to compounding addiction issues, both of which work against healing and recovery.

It’s important to note that addiction swapping does not always involve drugs or alcohol. Addiction swapping can include behaviors that may be completely healthy on the surface, but point to deeper addictive tendencies when taken to extremes.

Common Addiction Substitutions

Some of the most common addiction substitutions include:

Signs of Addiction Swapping

Addiction swapping may be an issue when:

  • Someone struggling with addiction or in recovery develops a new obsession or tendency that takes away from their personal life, professional life, home life, or overall well-being.
  • The person experiences distress when they are unable to engage in that behavior or activity.
  • They are engaging in seemingly healthy behaviors so frequently that it becomes unhealthy.
  • They claim to no longer have issues with past addictions or that they have them “under control.”

When these criteria are met, it is possible the individual is struggling with addiction swapping rather than addressing the underlying mechanisms of addiction.

Why Do People Substitute Addictions?

When someone swaps one addiction for another, the issue becomes deeper than the substance or behavior in question. If, in the process of trying to break the cycle of one addiction, an individual becomes addicted to something else, the primary issue is not what they are addicted to—it becomes a question of why they are developing addictive tendencies in the first place. The most common reason is an unfulfilled emotional, psychological, or social need.

Addiction swapping can occur before an individual seeks treatment, during treatment, or following treatment. Treatment programs that do not address an individual’s deeper psychological or emotional needs as part of the recovery journey can result in addiction swapping, and addiction swapping does not lead to healing.

However, even when someone substitutes one addiction for another, it is vital to remember that just like addiction, addiction swapping is not anyone’s fault. Instead, it is a sign that more work needs to be done if recovery is to be achieved.

If you or someone you care about is struggling to break the cycle of addiction, read our guide to learn where to start.

5 Strategies To Prevent Substituting Addictions

When someone is at risk for substituting one addiction for another, these strategies can help minimize the risk:

1. Watch Out for the Warning Signs

When you or someone you care about is recovering from addiction, the best way to avoid swapping one addiction for another is by making yourself and those around you aware of the issue. Many people are unaware that it can be a problem, but once informed, loved ones can watch out for signs of addiction swapping and provide the emotional support needed to address the deeper issues driving addiction.

2. Research Treatment Options

Not all addiction treatment options are created equally. Selecting the first treatment center you find is not a substitute for in-depth research. If you or someone you care about may be prone to swapping addictions or has done so in the past, it is important to make this a part of the conversation as you’re researching addiction programs.

Make sure to ask how the program handles the issue and what support they provide to prevent it from happening in the first place. At the very least, a reputable program should offer some level of emotional and psychological support to ensure real healing takes place and recovery goals can be reached.

3. Understand That Discomfort Is Part of Healing

Addiction swapping can be a response to the emotional or psychological discomfort that happens as a natural part of addiction recovery. Because addiction fundamentally changes an individual’s thought patterns, it takes time and patience to learn healthier ones. To accomplish that, you will probably have to confront unpleasant thoughts, memories, and feelings.

However, doing so is a necessary part of healing the underlying issues at the root of addictive tendencies. The only way to heal those issues is by understanding them, and the only way to understand them is by experiencing the discomfort. While it is not always easy, these moments of discomfort are often the first step on the road to well-being and real healing.

4. Know When the Risk of Relapse Is High

It may not always seem like it, but addiction swapping can indicate a form of relapse. While someone may think they no longer struggle with addiction, that is not the case when they have simply substituted one addiction for another. When the risk of relapse is high, an individual may be more likely to substitute an addiction without putting in the hard work it takes to heal.

At the same time, substituting addiction can increase the risk of a relapse later on, particularly when someone is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. An individual may think they have the problem under control when in reality, a serious addiction is masquerading as something less serious. It often isn’t until relapse happens that anyone realizes the real issue is still present.

5. Establish a Healthy Goal During Recovery

If someone has addictive tendencies, those tendencies can be channeled toward healthy, productive behaviors in a way that promotes well-being. One of the best ways to avoid substituting addiction is by establishing a specific treatment plan at every stage of recovery. The more concrete and realistic the plan is, the greater the likelihood of sustainable success while establishing guardrails to stay on course during recovery.

ALYST’s At-Home Approach Promotes Realistic Healing

Whether you have tried treatment programs in the past or you are interested in minimizing the chances of swapping addictions, ALYST can help. With our at-home treatment program, our mission is to make recovery realistic for anyone—no matter your lifestyle, goals, or challenges. Learn more about our approach, and when you’re ready, give us a call to discuss your options.