Addiction Coping and Recovery Methods and Support Avoid Substituting Addictions to Maintain Abstinence By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 28, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE Medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Williams+Hirakawa/Stone/Getty Images People who are in recovery from an alcohol or substance use disorder may sometimes substitute one addiction for another. This may sometimes involve becoming compulsively involved in other activities. Activities like work or exercise can be healthy and productive, but if they become a transfer of addictions they may hamper recovery. One goal of recovery and learning to live a sober lifestyle is to regain control over your life and your choices. Compulsive behavior, even with productive activities, does not allow you to exercise free choice and is not within your control. Substituting Compulsive Behaviors An example of a compulsive activity for people new to recovery is "workaholism"—which means becoming compulsive about your work, career, or job search. Working and improving your financial situation are noble goals, but if you're working more than full time or spending most of your time thinking or talking about work, the behavior may be compulsive. Are You Addicted to Work? The same is true with working out. Exercise can be beneficial to people in recovery, but research shows that long-term sobriety can be hampered if an exercise program becomes compulsive and a substitute for former addictive behaviors. Unhealthy Compulsive Behaviors Sometimes people who are in recovery substitute addictions that are not productive or healthy. For example, a popular substitute is for alcoholics to begin smoking marijuana, which is known as marijuana maintenance. For example, people who previously used heroin or methamphetamine might substitute marijuana. They may do this because they believe that marijuana is not nearly as harmful. There are many other behaviors that can become compulsive such as gambling, sex, video games, shopping. In the past, it was often suggested that people who had recovered from a substance use disorder were at a greater risk of developing another addiction. However, research suggests that people who have recovered from substance use actually have a lower risk of new substance use disorders. A 2017 study found that both increases and decreases in other substance use during recovery from cannabis use were very common. The study also found that factors such as treatment involvement and social influences played important roles in discouraging the use of other substances after recovery from cannabis use disorder. If you are in follow-up care in a professional rehab program, your counselor will point out the dangers of substituting these unhealthy behaviors, which may contribute to relapse and are counter-productive to your long-term recovery. Try to Find a Balance in Your Life Your continuing care treatment counselor will ask you about your activities in recovery and try to determine if you are becoming compulsive with any of your behaviors. This is a topic discussed by most counselors because substituting addictions is such a common occurrence. You will be encouraged to make recovery-related activities a top priority of the structure of your daily schedule. Your counselor will remind you of the importance of meeting your personal needs and the benefit of relaxation and leisure activities. The key to longterm recovery is finding a balance in your life by working, relaxing, eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and avoiding overscheduling and overworking. One Exception to the Substitution Rule One area of compulsive behavior that your counselor likely won't discourage is getting involved in a 12-step or support group program. People new to recovery sometimes become compulsive about participating in support groups—at times even attending several meetings a day. In the early months of your rehab, your counselor will probably encourage your active participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and/or other mutual support groups. How to Choose an Addiction Recovery Program 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Blanco C, Okuda M, Wang S, Liu SM, Olfson M. Testing the drug substitution switching-addictions hypothesis. A prospective study in a nationally representative sample. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(11):1246-53. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1206 Hodgins DC, Kim HS, Stea JN. Increase and decrease of other substance use during recovery from cannabis use disorders. Psychol Addict Behav. 2017 Sep;31(6):727-734. doi:10.1037/adb0000307 By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.