Tricks of the Trade: How Trading Addictions Impacts Sobriety

Some years ago I owned a restaurant. My produce supplier and I became fast friends, hitting it off right away.

Sometimes on weekends, his wife would sometimes accompany him on deliveries.  They both knew I loved coffee, so one morning they came into the restaurant and brought me a thermos of fresh coffee. They warned me that it was particularly strong. “The stronger the better,” I said.

Well, of course, being the addict I was, I downed the first thermos cup full in just a few gulps. The look on their faces told me my rapid consumption might have offended them.

To be kind, I decided to take my time on my second cup.

It wasn’t so long after that morning that we discovered through the course of a conversation that my supplier and I were both recovering alcoholics. He said he’d suspected it when he saw me down the coffee he brought me so quickly. He and his wife had even spoken about it after they had left my restaurant.

“Did you see the way he put away that coffee?  He must be in the program!” They were right on!

For the Pure Effect

You know, the way I drank that first cup of coffee was the exact way I used to drink alcohol. There was no savoring of anything—taste wasn’t much of a factor in my consumption. It was always for the pure effect. That feeling was the only thing I was ever shooting for.

Since then, I’ve found that this “more is better” approach to things runs so deep in me that it comes up in other areas of my life besides drinking.

More Is Always Better

I’ve learned that If I begin to like something a little too much, it might be wise to step back and consider my rate of consumption.  Drinking coffee the way I do is not likely to land me in jail, nor is it likely to negatively impact my life in any significant way, but I still have to be vigilant whenever I find my brain telling me “more is always better.”

Even though I’ve stopped using, I still can’t get away from my addictive nature. Why?

My Addictive Nature

Well, for one thing, I have a defective brain.  There is no “off” switch when it comes to stimulating my pleasure receptors. No matter what I approach, it’s all or nothing. It’s like my brain never learned what “too much” means.

That’s why I have to remind myself that Too much of a good thing is still too much. Whether it’s sex, mugs (as in coffee) and rock and roll, gambling, food, cigarettes, exercise or even work; all of these can be harmful in excess.

Is It Okay to Trade Addictions?

Sometimes we trade our addiction to alcohol and drugs for one or more of these less harmful things.  We think, “at least I’m not drinking or drugging!”

Experience has shown me, though, that this type of stinkin’ thinkin’ only enables me to do that other, worse thing in excess too. Is it okay? Well, maybe. Is it dangerous? You bet!

That’s why it’s so important to be able to recognize those defective tendencies that may emerge elsewhere and lead us again to places of overindulgence.

Does Trading Addictions Impact Your Sobriety?

If you’re relatively new to recovery you might wonder “Am I really sober if I’m just trading my addiction to alcohol for an addiction to something else?” A great way to help you figure that out would be to ask yourself,

“Is my consumption of or habits around this particular thing impacting my life in a negative way?” 

The rule of thumb for many is that if you’re not doing anything to enable your defective brain to injure others or yourself, you’re probably in the clear.

Dealing with Addictive Tendencies

For me, it is a matter of priorities. Each day I need to focus on doing right by those things that affect my sobriety. One day at a time, one addiction at a time, one healthy decision at a time.

When I recognize those familiar addictive behaviors popping up in my life, I need to employ the very same tools that I am learning to use in sobriety.  If I’m feeling out of balance, or concerned about excessiveness somewhere in my life, I can always read, write or talk to someone else about it.

Ultimately I want to live in a place of equilibrium, balance, steadiness, moderation and stability. I don’t want to trade my addictions, I only want to surrender them one day at a time and live a life of decency and peace.

Author: Tom W. is a recovering alcoholic.