You’ve been through detox. You’ve completed rehab. You’ve headed back into the world determined to stay sober.
And then you find yourself at loose ends.
It’s an understandable situation. Drinking or drug use probably used to take up a great deal of your time and attention. It might have felt like your addiction provided some structure to your life. You might find yourself wondering what to do with the time on your hands—especially if you find that boredom has you thinking about how nice it might be to indulge in your old habits.
Obviously, you want to keep that feeling at bay. So, you throw yourself into something. Maybe you start working out—a lot. Maybe you start putting in an insane number of hours at work. Maybe you find yourself gambling online or at a nearby casino without thinking too hard about the amount of money you may be losing.
Compulsive exercise, workaholic tendencies, and problem gambling can all be examples of a substitute addiction. And while it may seem that any of these addictions is better than a relapse into substance abuse, the fact is that substitute addictions come with problems of their own. Let’s consider these three examples one by one.
Too Much of a Good Thing – Compulsive Exercise
We know that exercise can be an essential part of recovery, improving your physical and mental health. A daily walk, a dance class, some weightlifting—whatever exercise you choose is sure to provide measurable benefits over time.
But if you find yourself exercising past the point of exhaustion day after day or if you feel extremely anxious if you miss an exercise session, it is possible that working out has become a substitute addiction—something you are doing in place of taking drugs or alcohol but over which you have limited control. Serious injury is one possible result of an addiction to exercise, which could necessitate pain medication that may be a danger to your sobriety. But even if you never hurt yourself, the compulsion is problematic in and of itself.
Too Much of a Necessary Thing – Becoming a Workaholic
We all have to make a living one way or another, and a passion for our job can help keep our mind off of drugs or alcohol. If you really become a go-getter in the workplace, there can be a number of benefits, including pay raises and promotions.
But if you find yourself alone in the office night after night or eating all your meals at your desk or answering your emails at 3 in the morning, it is probably time to take a step back and consider whether you have become a workaholic. While our society (and often our bosses) seem to value extreme effort on the job, the fact is that workaholics can suffer serious health effects and broken relationships. Those problems could upend your recovery and cause a relapse.
Too Much of a Bad Thing – Suffering Heavy Losses
Many people can gamble periodically with no problem. Sitting at the slot machines can be a decent way to spend an afternoon, and betting on the occasional sporting event can increase your excitement about a game.
But if you are susceptible to addictive behavior, casual gambling can go wrong in a hurry. As your losses mount (which they almost certainly will), you will find yourself in serious financial straits, which can put pressure on your relationships and increase your feelings of stress and anxiety. The dangers of relapse go up as your situation worsens.
Balance is the Best Option
One of the keys to long-term sobriety is establishing and maintaining a sense of balance in your life. When you are intentional about setting a schedule—one with plenty of time for sleep, relaxation, and healthful eating in addition to work, exercise, and other responsibilities—you create the conditions necessary for a balanced life. And that balance can keep compulsive behavior at bay while also making relapse less likely.
When you find yourself feeling out of balance, take stock of your day-to-day behaviors and find your way back to regular routines and healthy choices.
We Are Always Here to Help You Find Balance
At The Aviary Recovery Center, we are committed to your sobriety for the long haul—even after you leave residential treatment. We will make sure you have access to the resources you need to find balance in your life and to avoid substitute addictions that can undermine your health, relationships, finances, and recovery. Every person with a substance use disorder faces ongoing challenges that are unique to their personality and circumstances. Our commitment to personalized treatment plans will provide the foundation you need to face those challenges with confidence.