What Are the Substitute Addictions and How Can They Be Avoided?

Treatment for addiction can be challenging enough but trying to cope with all the stressors and stuff life throws your way can make things more difficult. Having good coping skills is necessary, but it is not a shield of protection against life. In recovery, every substance or trigger could be a potential relapse risk. When you are used to relying on substitutes for dealing with real life feelings and emotions, it is possible to substitute the substance you’re in recovery from for something else and not even realize what has happened. Learn more about how substitute addictions happen and how to avoid them.

Unhealthy Eating Habits

Stress, anxiety, and just life in general can cause people to eat more, eat less, or eat the wrong things. Sugar is one of the substitutes people crave the most, sometimes because of withdrawal or cravings, and sometimes because it feels good to eat something that makes you feel good. In recovery, there can be plenty of negative thoughts and feelings so finding something good to enjoy may feel far and few between for a time. Eating carbs, sugar, or drinking a lot of caffeine can lead to a substitute addiction. Overeating or undereating can be just as harmful to recovery as other behaviors and actually trigger a relapse (not to mention high blood pressure or high blood sugar).


Everyone craves companionship, but it is best left to the second year of recovery. During the first full year after rehab, so many changes are happening and shifts are taking place which beg for space to figure things out for a time. When you have problems with sex or relationships, it can be a trigger to use a substance (or go back to one) to cope. If you are unable to stop the behavior when negative consequences emerge, it may be time to hit pause on relationships for awhile.


It feels necessary in recovery to replace what was lost, fill in the gaps, and find other things to do with your time. The biggest challenge is finding positive ways to spend time rather than adding another challenge to the dynamic. Work addiction can become a substitute for people who feel their career took a back seat to drugs or alcohol for too long. Perhaps you have elements of workaholism and a tendency towards perfectionism. These elements can pave the way to compulsive behaviors like overworking to compensate and neglecting other areas of life, including self-care. When you stop caring for yourself, you run the risk of relapse.

Finding Hope

The hardest thing to do in recovery is find the hopeful feelings and bounce back from struggle. Even if you are edging towards substituting one addiction for another, it helps to look at everything you have right now in front of you and decide if there are some risky things happening. It helps to:

  • Assess your recovery goals
  • Seek assistance in meeting those goals
  • Keep a journal that trails your journey
  • Build awareness of how you are behaving to see if anything has shifted

If you or a loved one notice changes in your behavior or things you are doing that seem to be moving towards addiction, it is time to seek help. Meeting with therapists, friends, and loved ones can help you sort out what is happening and get you moving in the right direction with a little support.

The Palmetto Center provides support no matter where you are in the journey. Even if you slip, we are here to catch you. Our resources and trained therapists are available when you are ready to admit the need for help with addiction. Our program provides special focus for professionals including chiropractors, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and more who need help with addiction recovery. Call us to find out more: 866-848-3001.