Replacement–replacing something with something else–is a common practice throughout the addiction recovery process. However, the replacement of an addictive substance in one’s life can be either a great tool for maintaining one’s sobriety or a dangerous sidestep when dealing with the stresses of recovery.
While replacement can be a powerful tool, it needs to be deliberately harnessed and managed in order to reap the benefits of the practice. Effectively using replacement strategies can result in a fundamental change in how an individual forms their new, sober lifestyle. This can promote healthy personal development, instead of causing new struggles in the form of replacement addiction.
What Is Replacement?
Replacement is the idea that one’s use of an addictive substance is deliberately substituted with a new behavior or practice. Often, this means that an individual will have a replacement strategy–such as listening to music, buying something for themselves, a newfound hobby, or going on a jog–when they experience urges or cravings. This strategy is meant to direct one’s energy and focus away from the craving and towards healthier alternatives. Others may use healthier substances, such as replacing their use of alcohol by instead treating themselves to a chocolate bar.
For example, going for a jog when a craving surfaces can help get the body moving and focused on something other than the use of an addictive. Others may utilize going out to buy something for themselves as a replacement and reward for not engaging with an addictive substance. Used effectively, this can use the mind’s ability to reprogram itself to slowly supplant the craving for an addictive substance like drugs or alcohol with new, healthier practices, instead. This can prompt a person to want and expect to engage in other activities.
Replacement vs. Replacement Addiction
The use of a replacement strategy does come with the need to manage and moderate how one uses the strategy. There can be a plethora of stressors and difficult emotions surrounding addiction recovery. A person’s mind may be programmed to cope with stress by engaging with an addictive substance. While one may have successfully maintained their sobriety, coping with the daily stresses, anxieties, depression, self-criticism, and self-doubt may all still be a very real, ongoing battle.
Replacement is a way for an individual to address these needs without engaging with an addictive substance. However, while an effective replacement strategy can help distract and refocus an individual away from their cravings or urges, it is possible to develop replacement addictions if they are not managed.
Replacement addictions take the idea of replacement and engage with it almost exclusively, meaning that the use of the strategy is not moderated. Instead, an individual may develop an overreliance on a single coping strategy or replacement behavior. Common replacements such as shopping, food, cigarettes, are all replacements that do not address the underlying struggles that one faces in addiction. They can become new addictions in their rights.
This can even continue to promote emotional turmoil and create similar financial issues and social hurdles as one’s addiction in the first place. Moderating one’s use of replacement to ensure that their strategies do not develop into their own addictions–complete with their own stresses, anxieties, and mentality–is the cornerstone of an effective replacement coping strategy.
Finding a Healthy Replacement
Healthy replacement strategies can be some of the most effective ways to cope with the persistent urges, cravings, and anxieties that may still affect an individual even long after they have graduated from a recovery program. While unmoderated, centralized strategies like shopping or eating can create new addictions, but replacement using healthy practices can instead create an entirely new, healthy lifestyle.
Going for a jog, taking up gardening, hiking, art, and music can all be strategies that can be engaged with readily throughout the day. They can also be ways to fundamentally reprogram the brain to engage in these new hobbies, all while starting to establish a new identity in one’s sobriety.
Finding the right replacement strategy can take time. Being open to new practices is essential to find the strategy that is right for each individual. However, the right replacement practice can extend far beyond the confines of simply processing a craving or urge. Rather, they can become fundamental parts of one’s new identity in their sobriety.
Passionately engaging in healthy activities can involve the entirety of one’s body and mind. This helps to address the underlying feelings of anxiety, depression, or self-loathing that may have become prevalent due to addiction. Addressing these underlying feelings is essential in developing a healthy mindset for oneself. It is fundamental in avoiding the development of replacement addictions. The goal of replacement is to create a sober mind. Using replacement strategies with informed supports can help balance one’s use of these techniques for an effective, prolonged recovery.
Replacement strategies are powerful in their ability to be used at any stage in the recovery process. While cravings and urges may still occur deep into one’s recovery journey, learning to balance and manage effective replacement techniques can help to quell urges while developing new healthy lifestyle choices. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we are prepared to help you learn to balance your life and replacement strategies to ensure a healthy practice. We also offer an array of other life skills, coping strategies, and more to help you continue to balance your sober identity. Regardless if you are just beginning your path to sobriety or are celebrating your sober anniversary while looking to strengthen your recovery toolkit, we are here to help. To learn more about how we can personalize a program for you or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique place on your recovery journey, call to speak to us today at (866) 338-6925.