Substituting Addictions: What to Watch Out For

A man goes through other substitute addictions

Addiction essentially hijacks our brain’s natural reward system, and hardwires it to seek instant gratification. This can make early sobriety challenging at times. While we have successfully lost the physical addiction to drugs and alcohol, our brains take more time to heal.

This can sometimes lead to substituting addictions in early sobriety. This phenomenon is known as addiction transference, which means to replace one addiction with another seemingly unrelated addiction.

Here we go over some common examples of substitute addictions that we should watch out for in early sobriety.


Gambling is one of the most common examples seen of addiction transference. While obviously not a A woman looks at a series of game cardsdrug, gambling creates a rush that stimulant the brain similar to drugs.

Binge eating

Another common example of addiction transference is binge eating. Food addiction and binge eating is surprisingly related to drug addiction, and thus something we should watch out for in early sobriety.

Shopping Sprees

Compulsive shopping is another thing we should watch out for in early sobriety. Whether surfing online or in stores, shopping sprees give us that instant gratification our brains still seek.


While sobriety certainly does not mean taking a vow of celibacy, we should be sure to not use sex as a means of instant gratification or as a constant distraction while in early sobriety.


The unfortunate reality is that many of us enter recovery addicted to nicotine to some degree. We should try our best to not start increasing our nicotine intake (or switching to other nicotine delivery devices such as vapes). Nicotine, while not a relapse, is still a drug and thus we are highly susceptible to becoming even more addicted to it in early sobriety.

Video games

Video games can be surprisingly addictive, and it is not uncommon to hear people talking about playing through the evening. We should make sure we do not overdo it, and use it as a distraction from the changes we are trying to make in early sobriety.

Video streaming

Much like the prior example, we should be careful to not overdo binge-watching TV shows on Netflix and related platforms. It can be quite easy to turn this into an all-day affair.

Does this mean I need to avoid these examples?

Absolutely not! While we need to watch out for overdoing the above-mentioned examples, we do not necessarily need to avoid them entirely. For example, there is nothing wrong with a friendly card game amongst friends, binge eating a big meal with friends, etc. We just need to be cautious that we do not overdo these examples and turn them into addiction transference.

Final Note

The Lodges is the premier Orange County sober living and structured living community for men and women who are either in the early stages of recovery or transitioning from primary care. We understand the need for a structured and safe environment for individuals who need the added encouragement on their journey. If you or a loved one is seeking sober living in beautiful Orange County please call us at (866)-610-4480 or visit us online.

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