Secondary and Substitute Addictions

There’s something different about nicotine addiction and the way people view it, as opposed to other drugs. I think it’s the lack of perception of immediate harm, the “this won’t be the one that kills me” factor — truly insidious denial. Along with that, I believe, goes the knowledge that giving up nicotine is truly throwing away one of our last crutches. When you put down the nicotine products, you’d better be ready to take recovery seriously, because that’s about all there is left — or so it must seem.

We see folks with remaining and/or substitute addictions as often as not. As George Carlin used to say, “Just because the monkey’s off your back, it doesn’t mean the circus has left town.” There are likely to be all sorts of addictive behaviors left, once we put down our drugs of choice.  Many of those we may not recognize as such, until we take a good, close look.

Substitute addictions and behaviors, along with others that may not have been addressed in our primary program of recovery (overeating, anorexia, sex, porn, overworking, etc.), crop up when we no longer have our primary addiction to take our mind off reality. They can persist for years, and when we can no longer mood alter with alcohol or other drugs we will address them — either in a positive way, by digging down and rooting them out, or negatively, by acting them out in place of the addictive behavior we’ve dropped.

The “dry drunks” we hear about are battling unresolved problems without the willingness to get to the bottom of their issues, and we find them both outside and inside the rooms. Real recovery is being honest with ourselves and looking at the possibility that we haven’t gotten rid of all the monkeys, then doing what we have to do to finish the job.

2 thoughts on “Secondary and Substitute Addictions

  1. Bill Post author

    Very true. Pot used to be a relatively benign drug. However, the modern strains, with up to 10 times the THC content of the stuff in the 60’s, is as they used to say about Marlboros , a “whole ‘nother smoke.”


  2. alexlamb442

    This is definitely a tough one as many secondary addictions may seem like a safe haven compared to our primary one. We probably wouldn’t see them as addictions at all, rather ways to distract ourselves from the real devil we see perched in waiting above us.

    I’ve heard about many people substituting one drug for another one that they view as ‘less serious,’ just because as you say the negative effects take a while to materialize. A crutch is a crutch after all and they all feel good.

    I think cannabis, is one of the most dangerous drugs as it kills you slowly and takes a long time to fundamentally alter your personality by stealth. It’s like tobacco mark 2 as not only does it wreck your lungs but robs you of your motivation, ambition and social skills. It’s hard to wake up to negative effects when they’re so gradual, so abstract. .


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