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Is there a Difference between Secondary and Substitute Addictions?

In reality, most people choosing recovery do not walk away from addiction completely; at least not initially. The likelihood is that the person has other, secondary addictions and, if life becomes hard in recovery, they may turn to substitute addictions. The reality is that breaking free of addiction has to be an ongoing process, so you always need to be on the lookout for new dangers on the horizon.

What is a Secondary Addiction?

A secondary addiction can go unnoticed because it does not usually cause as much noticeable harm as a primary addiction. A good example of this would be smoking cigarettes or comfort eating; it is common for alcoholics and drug abusers to also engage in one of these behaviours but it is usually overshadowed by the primary addiction.

When individuals break away from alcohol or drug abuse, they may feel that these secondary addictions are not such a big deal. It is important to get the main problem under control first of all, but these other addictions can also become a source of suffering.  This is why it is recommended that people begin chipping away at these other problems as soon as they feel secure in sobriety. As long as these other addictions remain, the person will be sacrificing some aspect of his or her happiness.

What is an Addiction Substitute?

An addiction substitute can refer to a substance or a behaviour. Each person will have a drug of choice; however, if this drug is not available then it can be tempting to turn to a substitute. It is common for those in recovery to fall into the addiction substitute trap. What usually happens is that they hit a bad patch in recovery, becoming stuck so, in order to deal with this uncomfortable feeling, the person takes solace in distractions. This could include things like work addiction, shopping addiction, comfort eating, or gambling.

Just like secondary addictions, the addiction substitutes can appear fairly harmless. The person may feel that he or she has earned the right to let off a little steam using these behaviours. The problem is that addiction substitutes all involve negative consequences, easily leading to relapse as they suck the enjoyment out of sober living.

The Danger of the Addictive Personality

The idea of an addictive personality is often used to explain why some individuals seem to fall from one addiction to another. The theory is a little crude but there are almost certainly character traits that make some individuals susceptible to developing addiction problems. This can include things like impulsiveness, a tendency toward deviant behaviour, and an inability to deal with stress and emotions. As long at these characteristics are allowed to remain unchallenged, these can continue to lead the person from one addiction to the next.

Emotional Sobriety to End All Addictions

Physical sobriety is a great start but, in order to be free of addictions, you need to develop emotional sobriety. This could be described as the ability to handle your emotions and live in the present moment. When you have strong enough emotional sobriety, you will no longer feel overwhelmed by anything in life and your need to turn to maladaptive behaviour disappears.

The best way to develop emotional sobriety is to begin facing your problems while ignoring the urge to run away. Every time you overcome one of these problems, you can pick up a new coping strategy. When you have enough of these coping strategies, you will be able to deal with whatever life throws at you - you are now really free of addiction.

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