Have you ever walked in or along a stripped up river bed? Perhaps you have stepped over smooth boulders or small pebbles and imagined a mighty river once flowing there?
On your walk, you would be able to see the evidence of how the water once carved a path right out of the landscape, and at any moment, how it could easily occupy that same space again. The new landscape which a mighty river had once created is still perfect for another powerful body of water to flow through its empty channel. All it takes is a little rain storm or water runoff and a new river will once again rise. The same description can be made about the landscape of addiction which leaves behind a riverbed on your psyche and poses great challenges to addiction recovery.
That's what battling addiction is like – just when you think you might be getting the upper hand on your addiction, you suddenly find yourself addicted to something else entirely – another body of water begins to flow through that riverbed.
How could this be? Well, let's take a step back and briefly talk about addiction in general.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is a chronic disease that leads to compulsive behavior, despite its harmful effect on the user. It can often change the chemistry – or landscape – of the brain. Remember, whenever we are talking about drug, alcohol, sex addiction – or anything else for that matter, no one specific factor determines our ability to be addicted. Rather, risk to addiction is affected by a number of factors including biological, social, and environmental factors, to name a few.
Even if you broke the addiction, these risk factors are still there – and now you have a ready-made landscape to go with it!
Was I Born This Way?
According to National Institute of Health, scientists estimate that genetics play about 60% of a role in addiction, which further supports that even though we may break the habit somewhere, another habit can just as easily formed.
When we finally break our specific addictions (for example drugs), we often find that our brains become "molded" or "hard wired" to become addicted to something else – to anything else. When we dry up that addiction and walk along the dry riverbank, we are very susceptible to a new addiction to rise – our brain's landscape nearly always determinates that.
This "switching addictions" in addiction recovery is very common and can lead to further health, social, and familial problems and needs to be watched for when you are trying to break the first addiction.
So, what are we to do?
Well, the first thing is we need to understand that our addiction will leave a discharged up riverbed or channel in its wake. If we understand this, we can prepare for it. Secondly, we need slowly fill up the "riverbed" with healthy lifestyle changes. Perhaps, you are trying to break the cigarette habit. Walking, exercising, or an energizing hobby that increase your serotonin levels may help you too.
Replacing that addiction or filling the void with healthier activities that will soon be healthy habits, such as exercise, art, and music are critical to your recovery. Whatever it is you choose, you want to indulge all five senses in a healthy manner so that you can slowly fill the river bed up with solid material and with something positive.
Also, we will need to focus on our stress levels. When we get stressed out or frustrated we will often regress back into what we know. Frustration or interaction with old friends that annoy us can cause us to go grab that beer or have that one cigarette. Avoid stressful situations and corrosive friendships.
With healthy lifestyle, new healthy friendships and support, switching addictions may not need to be in your future.