When recovering from substance use disorder (SUD), you are likely making many conscious changes in your life. Unfortunately, some people in recovery begin unconsciously forming new addictive habits. This phenomenon is known as swapping addictions. Even though these habits do not involve substances, they can have negative impacts on your life.

Learning new ways of coping and de-stressing is important in recovery. However, it is important to be careful with the habits you use to replace substance abuse. You want to ensure you do not swap substance abuse for another addictive behavior.

What Is Swapping Addictions?

Swapping addictions happens when you get rid of one addictive behavior but implement another form of addiction in its place.

This is usually not done deliberately. Many people swap addictions without realizing it. After all, swapping addictions often helps them avoid returning to the original addictive behavior. At first, this can look like progress. You may not take the time to assess whether your new habits are safe and have positive influences on your life. 

Examples of Swapping Addictions

It can be hard to recognize addiction swapping. Reviewing some of the most common behaviors used in swapped addictions can help you understand if this may be an issue for you in sober living.

Of course, these behaviors are not the only behaviors that can become new addictions. However, they can give you a baseline of things to watch for.


One of the commonly used coping mechanisms is exercise. In general, exercise is a great way to get your mind off the stress of recovery and potential withdrawal symptoms. However, it can be overdone. Choosing to exercise once a day or maintaining a healthy level of exercise is great. If this becomes a consistent replacement for positive emotions, though, exercise can turn into an addiction.

If you find that you are spending hours at the gym each day to avoid dealing with other adulthood responsibilities and to distract yourself, your use of exercise may be problematic. Our body needs time to rest in recovery and adjust to the changes we are implementing. If exercise and working out is your main form of distraction, you may be overworking your body.

Binge Eating

Eating is another habit that may not be the most effective coping mechanism. When you have had a tough day, you may desire to come home and enjoy your favorite treat. While there is nothing wrong with doing this on occasion, making it a regular form of coping can lead to an unbalanced diet.

Consistently fueling your body with sugar and unhealthy treats can actively increase the effects of stress and addiction. Sugar has addictive properties of its own. When you become stressed, if you immediately feel a craving to eat unhealthy foods, you may be falling into addiction swapping.

Sexual Activity

Another common form of addiction swapping is relying on sex to cope with stress. No longer using substances often leads to individuals seeking another form of pleasure. This can often be accomplished through sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual pleasure. While there is nothing wrong with sex, using it as a form of coping can come with consequences.

Reckless sexual activity can have many consequences. One is the potential of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Sex acts are often done with various partners and can lead to your sexual health declining. You also put yourself at higher risk of unplanned pregnancy or impulsive infidelity.

Overusing sex also may put a strain on your relationships with your sexual partners. Using sexual intercourse as a distraction can lead to sex becoming an addiction as well.

Concerns With Addiction Swapping

This list of potential behaviors that are considered addiction swaps is brief. Any action you are engaging in that becomes a problematic alternative can be categorized as an addiction swap.

Addiction swapping is concerning because it only temporarily helps you avoid relapsing. It does not solve the problems at the root of your SUD. Developing another addiction only pushes your problems into a new area.

At our facility, we want to help you overcome your need for substance use and develop healthy alternatives to deal with stress factors. Addiction swapping can throw you off balance.

Developing a healthy state of balance is a strong foundation to build off of in recovery so you can avoid encountering a relapse in the future. Swapping your addiction with something else does not allow you to move forward from a balanced state. It can increase the potential of the substance making a reappearance in your life.

How to Avoid Swapping Addictions

As you can see, addiction swapping is a concerning behavior. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to avoid. By using the following skills, you can avoid addiction swapping and ensure your new habits are safe and healthy for you.

Address Unconscious Emotions

Often, there is a feeling or situation buried within you that is a leading cause for your initial addiction. Working with our treatment team to understand what this is may help you in avoiding future addictions. Face your unconscious thoughts and process them. Stop allowing them to take control of your decision-making process.

Maintain Moderation

Recovery is about seeking a balanced lifestyle. With each coping mechanism you choose to engage with, ensure you are using it in moderation.

Using multiple coping skills can help you to avoid relying on one specific activity to help you overcome the stress factors that arise in recovery. By moderating each of your engagements, you can create a healthy state of balance from which you can build success.

As you are working to overcome SUD, there are various other activities and actions you may choose to engage in to lower your stress levels. While engaging in new habits is great, it is important to ensure each one is done within moderation and is set in place to help you maintain a sense of balance. Addiction swapping is a concern when one habit becomes the main source of stress relief and begins to develop into an addiction in itself. Understanding certain habits that can lead to addiction swapping and developing skills to avoid this is essential. To learn more, reach out to Dream Recovery today at (657) 216-7218. We are here for all your recovery needs.

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