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To make progress in addiction recovery, we must replace unhealthy habits with healthier ones. Sometimes when we go to replace unhealthy habits, we may inadvertently allow unhealthy behaviors to take their place instead of beneficial ones. Many people that recover from addiction struggle to fill the empty feeling that is caused by substance use problems. Addiction once consumed your life, and now you are starting a new life free of substances. If you are concerned with how to fill this gap, you are not alone. Other harmful addictions, aside from substance use may include:

  • Gambling
  • Overworking
  • Sex
  • Nicotine
  • Shopping
  • Binge eating or not eating enough

It is common for individuals to find themself substituting one addiction for another. While this can be a dangerous game, it is important to identify underlying issues that cause someone to be susceptible to using or becoming addicted to a substance. It is crucial that you develop healthier coping strategies that can promote your overall well-being.

Why Does Addiction Happen?

Addiction affects everyone differently, although many reasons cause someone to be susceptible to developing an addiction. Environmental trauma, learned drug use, feelings of loneliness, and genetics all play a part in a person’s chances of becoming addicted. 

Addiction is a mental illness that functions primarily in the brain. It develops when the urge to use a substance overwhelms the brain, specifically the part of the brain that rewards behavior and produces feel-good feelings. The more a substance is used, the easier it is for the brain to recognize and connect the drug use to feelings of euphoria and anxiety relief. The brain then becomes attached to this new feeling, leading to a greater motivation to use in order to seek those sensations once again. 

How Do I Fix My Brain’s Reward Center in Recovery?

Certain substances can cause greater physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal. More importantly, drug use can affect each of us differently. It is important to acknowledge that the severity of the addiction is subjective to the individual experiencing it. Some people that become addicted to a substance started using it as a coping mechanism for post-traumatic stress and have found their substance to be a temporary way to relieve their symptoms. In order to alter your brain’s reward center, you have to break your addiction by choosing a path of recovery that will reroute your mental well-being back to a path of healthy growth. 

First, acknowledge the withdrawal symptoms you are experiencing. The more severe the physical symptoms, the more likely you will need medically assisted treatment in order to get a handle on your symptoms. Once you experience relief from physical withdrawal, the focus turns to your mental withdrawal symptoms. It is crucial to note that every time you choose sobriety over falling in the habit of using, you are rewiring your brain. By doing this, you are allowing yourself to be in complete control of your actions instead of your brain’s faulty reward center being in control. This is a process that gets easier with time. It will become easier after you establish healthier coping mechanisms to take the place of your addiction. 

How Do I Develop Healthier Coping Mechanisms?

With addiction comes unhealthy habits. You can try to break these habits by identifying them, finding healthier alternatives, setting goals, tracking your progress, and giving yourself a new reward system. While coming to terms with your addiction may be identifying an unhealthy habit, you may want to dig deeper into how you have gone about your addiction in the past. Ask yourself these questions:

  • When did I start using?
  • Why did I start using?
  • When do I tend to use, and what sensations do I feel when I feel motivated to use?
  • How often am I using?
  • Am I experiencing feelings of unworthiness, loneliness, or other unmanageable pain?

By starting with these questions, you will be better able to identify your motivations to use. Treatment for addiction recovery aims to answer these questions with you, and will be able to provide you with useful tools on how to replace your drug use with something healthier. 

When it comes to trading one addiction for another, understand that addiction can happen with anything. Unhealthy habits are not limited to harmful substances, and harmful substances are not the only kind of unhealthy habit. You must address the underlying causes of your substance use in order to have long-term recovery success. Address any and all unconscious emotions and work through them with a mental health professional. Identify your triggers that have led you to use in the past, and acknowledge your individual need for experiencing peace from any kind of harmful addiction. 

When it comes to addiction recovery, individuals may unconsciously trade out one unhealthy habit for another one. In order to reduce the chance of this occurring, you must identify the underlying causes that led you to use substances. It is important to understand that addiction functions through the reward center in the brain. Once your brain learns the euphoric feelings that drug use can produce, you must work to rewire the brain to be content with more natural rewards. You can do this by identifying unconscious harmful habits and work with a professional to develop habits that are beneficial for your well-being. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we work with clients to address underlying issues that lead an individual to use substances. Then, we will create a care plan to develop healthier coping mechanisms, holding the client accountable for their progress. For more information, call West Coast Today at (760) 492-6509.

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