The profile of an “addictive personality” usually has three key components: sensation-seeking, impulsivity, and compulsivity. These last two might sound the same, but in fact have subtle distinctions.
Impulsivity concerns taking actions without thinking of potential consequences; compulsivity is about taking actions without consideration of already proven consequences.
In recovery, many people find themselves swapping their addictions for new ones that are allowed within the parameters of their recovery programs (an addiction to ice cream would be allowed if one were recovering from amphetamine abuse, but probably not for an overeater).
The crucial question is, Is the new addiction a destructive one, or is it benign?
- Sweets . . . There is a clear correlation between alcoholism and the way bodies metabolize sugar. Many alcoholics find themselves craving sugar—and carbohydrates in general—once they stop drinking. While certainly better than a drinking problem, poor diet can lead to health issues and should eventually be looked at as part of a general recovery program.
- Exercise . . . Some people in recovery find that their path to their fitness goals can become obsessive. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say something like “I feel weird if I don’t run every morning.” Unless taken to an extreme, exercise rates as a beneficial “replacement addiction.”
- Sex . . . Here’s a dangerous one that often leads back to a primary (substance) addiction.
- Gambling . . . Again, a swamp that the addictive personality would do well to steer clear of.
- Caffeine . . . Safe in moderation, a poor choice at night (for some). It is interesting that people who strive to become free from the state of “restless, irritable, and discontent” would want to drink enough caffeine to get exactly to that condition.
These are just a few of the substitutions someone with an addictive personality might get caught up in.