All addictions, if discontinued, will find a replacement.
This is one of those inevitably truthful statements that point to a way out of addiction. I have been finishing editing a book on addiction and remission and some Dharma friends have encouraged me to write more on the subject.
To attain abstinence once needs to recognize that we are going to be replacing components of behavior and thought structure. Now the important part of this replacing will hinge entirely on whether the replacing is done purposefully because the addicted person made the choice or the vacuum left by the absence of addictive behavior gets filled by Conditioned ego. Conditioned ego will fill the vacuum with another destructive addiction.
Put another way, we move from one addiction to another. I moved from drug and alcohol addiction to exercise and time management addictions. Now the exercise and time addictions were much more useful and healthy than the drug and alcohol addictions. Yet, in order to sustain remission I needed to realize that too much exercise and too much structure were diminishing the quality of my life.
Sometimes people will bitch and moan about a recovering person being “Addicted” to God, Church, 12 Step meetings, Buddhism, Zen, Rational recovery, exercise, reading, or one of the other healthier addictions that can rise up. WTF are you moaning about? Of course a recovering person is going to recreate some sort of addiction. But if it keeps them from destroying themselves and you in the process what more do you want? I encourage healthy addictions. They give you time for the mind and soul to grow.
In long term remission a person will find a balance. It may be totally necessary to switch to a healthier addiction and then modify that as soon as they are able. When I first entered remission it wasn’t like I was stable or able to see clearly. To even begin to understand what had happened took a decade.
So, if you or someone you know is currently working on remission from an addiction that is violating their lives, understand that they will find other replacements for that addiction. It’s imperative they do so. Remission is a thing that happens by degrees. It’s not a “set in stone process” but an investigation of possibilities and options. We do not recover overnight, for most of us it was decades of trying. So support yourself and others when they become engaged heavily with something that helps them move from the destructive addiction.
Questions or comments on addiction and remission are always welcome, we are here to support each others.