Trading Addictions: The Risks Inherent To a Selective Sobriety Approach

Trading Addictions: The Risks Inherent To a Selective Sobriety Approach

Trading Addictions is unfortunately not a fun, modern twist on the popular Discovery Home produced series Trading Spaces where neighbors decorate each other’s homes. However, the outcomes of both are arguably similar with the end product’s overall success leaning from intolerable to more often than not disastrous. Trading addictions is in actuality a very real outcome from a selective sobriety approach to addiction recovery that can happen to patients with addictive disorders either through more purposeful intent or by accident altogether. The concept involves individuals in addiction recovery having a limited scope of foresight and believing that achieving sobriety only means abstaining from the substances they previously misused. For example, individuals suffering from alcohol dependence need only to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages to maintain their sobriety. As a result, these individuals may initially stop drinking, and then possibly pick up pain pills as a substitute.


To an extent, this theory is not completely wrong; as the popular recovery phrase states, “It’s not a problem until it becomes a problem.” Where this approach is misleading and tends to go off the rails is in its avoidance of the true nature of addiction, and in its willful ignorance of the underlying, co-occurring mental health issues generally fueling that substance misuse. Trading one addiction for another is similar to swapping a set of crutches for a wheelchair — you may feel an initial reprieve, but ultimately, you will find yourself in the same rut of addictive behaviors that brought you to rehab in the first place. 


Selective Sobriety vs. Accidental Addiction Swapping

Once addiction recovery patients initially gain sobriety, two paths can lead those patients toward trading addictions. The first path is a selective sobriety approach which involves only abstaining from the substance the patient misused in the past. An individual with an alcohol dependence decides to abstain from any alcoholic beverages but will permit themselves other addictive substances like pills or illicit drugs — or worse, an individual had a problem with vodka, so they will only drink beer. These outcomes rarely end well with most individuals feeling an initial reprieve until they begin to develop the same addictive habits toward a new substance of choice. Addictive behavioral patterns are just that, behaviors, and they are not limited to a single addictive substance. Habits are difficult to break, and when given the chance with another addictive substance, most patients will find themselves reliving the same disastrous and isolating results that landed them in treatment.


The second path involves accidentally trading one addiction for another. This occurs in a somewhat similar manner as the first except the risks for potentially trading addictions are significantly lower for individuals in addiction recovery who choose to abstain from all potentially addictive substances. This can occur even in these instances, though, when individuals do not continue to address underlying mental health issues and let their guard down. The addictive behavior can begin to resurface and the familiar, unhealthy coping mechanisms begin to develop again. Times of increased stress or overworking can spark addiction recovery patients to accidentally trade one addiction for another. Trading addictions does not always have to involve illicit substances either; the addictive behavioral patterns can develop for even healthy components of your life like exercise or food.


Psychological Tendency to Trade Addictions

The psychological tendency to trade one addiction for another is natural especially if you are still working on healing trauma or understanding any co-occurring mental health issues. Most substance misuse is a result of self-medicating to cope with emotional trauma or mental illness. Newfound sobriety immediately takes away your medication or crutch while you are still developing the necessary skills to handle the psychological aspects fueling an addictive disorder. In essence with sobriety, you are leaving yourself outside naked without your comfort blanket, a blanket you have come to rely on for safety these many years. That is a lot to handle for any individual in addiction recovery.


So how do you recognize and prevent yourself from trading one addiction for another?

Self-awareness of your addictive behavioral patterns is key as well as continually working towards mental wellness. If you notice yourself being overly hardcore about exercise, you may want to ease back and take a few days off. It may help to mentally check-in with yourself if you notice these patterns to ensure that there are not any unaddressed issues at the root of your hardcore exercise binge. Also remember that the saying, “It’s not a problem, till it’s a problem,” still runs true if you find yourself trading addictions. Addiction recovery is a learning process, and if you find yourself with a new addiction, then you also know now how to address that new addiction from your previous experience. 


If you are seeking treatment for an addictive disorder with co-occurring mental health issues, then Choice House has a dual-diagnosis program of treatment that can help. We offer men the chance to achieve and maintain sobriety through a variety of therapeutic modalities giving them the chance to build a new foundation of love and empathy. Our programs of service are offered through a 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, and the opportunity to take up residency at our sober living campus. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado, our facilities are ideally situated between the Rocky Mountain National Park and the bustling city of Louisville. We take full advantage of the Rocky Mountain nature preserve being in our backyard by offering patients a unique outdoor wilderness therapy modality. In this outdoor modality, men get to reconnect with nature, fellow recovery patients, and themselves through physical activity like rock climbing, kayaking, and hiking. We firmly believe that the friendships you make in our addiction recovery program will last a lifetime and prove vital to long-term sobriety long after you have left our facilities. The proximity to Louisville is also beneficial to both those participating in our outpatient services as well as residents at our sober living campus. Recovery patients can maintain gainful employment and keep active social lives while still under the guidance and supervision so necessary in early recovery. For more information about Choice House facilities and programs of treatment, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.


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