In early recovery there is a hidden risk which is unrecognized by many who are not taught how to be specifically keen towards them: replacement addictions. The impulsive mind which has been trained by addiction is programmed to find obsessions which can create any sort of pleasure. Speaking in terms of neurobiology, the brain looks for any substance or activity which might provide a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter which creates feelings of euphoria and pleasure. However, there is a flipside to obsessing over and chasing pleasure. When the brain is being inundated with pleasure, as well as spending its resources on obsessing over it, it doesn’t have the time or focus to pay attention to pain. Logically, pleasure versus pain makes sense. For the intricacy and complexity of addiction, however, pain versus pleasure can be a matter of life versus death.
Early recovery and the treatment process can involve a lot of pain. Having preoccupied the brain with pleasure for so long, most addicts and alcoholics, have successfully avoided feeling any pain. From the analgesic effects of opioids to the stimulating effects of amphetamines like cocaine, the need for pleasure becomes enmeshed with a need not to feel pain. Pain is not exclusive to physical pain. Most often, for addicts and alcoholics, that pain includes and is most defined by emotional, as well as spiritual pain. After getting through the uncomfortable, and often painful, detox period, the recovering addict or alcoholic is confronted with the years of memories, feelings, and thoughts from which they have been running for so many years. Commonly, they are without even the vocabulary they need to articulate their emotional experiences, leaving them even more frustrated with their emotional pain. Such a short amount of time of sobriety has not yet given the brain a chance to learn new ways of coping and expressing itself. Resting upon what is familiar, the brain seeks out pleasurable methods and distractions– finding new obsessions.
Eating disorders, food addiction, love addiction, sex addiction, gambling addiction, social media addiction- just about any compulsive behavior which provides the illusion of relief and the neurobiological production of dopamine can become a replacement addiction, or a replacement obsession. While some of these can be innocent and short lasting, others can become problematic and fatal.
The path to recovery can seem dark and uncertain. Aurora Recovery Centre is here to light the way and guide you toward lifelong sobriety. We provide residential treatment programs for addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, and other mental health disorders. Our doors are open to anyone who is willing to recover. For more information, call 844-515-STOP.