What Are Healthy Replacements for Addiction?

What Are Healthy Replacements for Addiction?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Addiction can create blinders. If you’re struggling with an active addiction, you may not see another way to cope with life’s difficulties. However, learning new coping skills and creating new healthy habits are essential to staying on the path of recovery.

Healthy Replacements for Addiction

Once someone with substance use disorder (SUD) enters a detox program, they’ll need to give up their use of substances. However, recovery is a life-long journey, and those in recovery need to create new goals to enjoy a substance-free life. Often, these new goals rely on finding healthy replacements for addiction.

Drugs and alcohol are addicting because they change a person’s brain chemistry. Replacing substances with activities that release dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins is crucial for long-term success.

Here are a few healthy replacements for addiction.

Holistic Therapies

Holistic therapies have many physical and mental health benefits. For example, studies have demonstrated the positive effects gardening has on the brain and body. Gardening, and the connection with nature it provides, can help reduce anxiety and depression. In addition, regular gardening can increase an individual’s sense of community, especially if they exchange tips with fellow gardeners.

Holistic therapies can also improve your self-esteem as you connect with your creative side. Art therapy, music therapy, and daily journaling can help you process difficult emotions. By processing emotions through art, it’s easier to cope with them.

Some people may turn to drugs or alcohol when overwhelmed by painful emotions. Journaling, art, and music give you an outlet to reflect on your feelings and help move you to action without getting stuck in the emotion.

Other holistic therapies that may be helpful include:

  • Yoga
  • Equine therapy
  • Reading
  • Woodworking

Exercising and Sleeping Well

Exercising daily may be one of the best substitutes for substances. Exercising releases endorphins, dopamine, and other hormones that help elevate your mood. Additionally, exercise also activates similar parts of the brain as drugs and alcohol. Over time, working out can rewire the circuits hijacked by addictive substances.

Making sure you get enough sleep goes hand-in-hand with exercising. A tired brain can make challenging emotions more difficult to handle. Sleeping well gives you enough energy to get through the day and improves mental function and emotional well-being.

Learning Something New

One of the key ways to overcome substance abuse is by focusing your attention elsewhere. Learning something new, like a hobby or language, gives you something to focus on that’s not drugs or alcohol. Not only does learning engage and rewire your brain, but it can also improve your self-esteem by helping you feel accomplished.

You could learn a new hobby like knitting, crocheting, or woodworking. You could learn a new language using a language app or take an online or in-person continuing education class. There are many subjects and hobbies to learn and interests to explore.

Being Part of a Community

You may feel alone when you are struggling with SUD. Your relationships with friends and family may have become strained. However, humans are not meant to do life alone; therefore, being part of a community is essential when on the life-long path of recovery.

If you don’t feel ready to reconnect with friends and family, don’t worry. There are other alternatives. For example:

  • Joining a competitive or non-competitive sports league, such as bowling, soccer, or football
  • Joining a gym or taking a yoga class
  • Joining a hobbyist network, such as woodworking, quilting groups, or gardening clubs
  • Being a part of a book club
  • Going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or other 12-Step programs

When finding healthier alternatives, those in recovery may find some activities more helpful than others. Not every option mentioned above will help every individual. Additionally, you may find other activities that work well to help you cope. Patience and a willingness to try new things are essential to finding a combination of healthy replacements that work for you.

How Treatment Can Help Strengthen New Habits

One of the goals of treatment is to teach coping skills to help strengthen new, healthier habits. Your treatment program may do this in a few ways.


Therapy is an essential part of treatment and recovery. The key to recovery is understanding why you started to abuse substances in the first place. In addition, therapy is crucial to uncovering and processing the emotional pain leading to substance dependence.

Most treatment centers offer group and individual therapy focused on learning coping skills, emotional regulation, psychotherapy, and community creation.

Support Networks

Hand in hand with creating a community through group therapy, many treatment centers also offer support groups and alumni networks. These support groups are similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs you may encounter outside treatment. Recovery is a life-long process; these support networks connect you with people who have been where you are and are continuing the cycle.

Creating a network full of people who can support and encourage you is crucial to help you use your new coping skills to navigate a world without using substances.

Recovery is a life-long process, but there is hope. First Steps Recovery in Clovis, California, can help you start treatment, navigate difficult emotions, and find healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol. Whether you’re looking for holistic options, group therapy, or individual psychotherapy, our trained professionals will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan. We want to meet you where you are and give you the tools you need to succeed on your recovery journey by offering online, inpatient, and outpatient treatment programs. Our counselors and mental health professionals will help equip you with alternative coping skills while giving you the confidence you need to live a substance-free life. In addition, our alumni network will provide you with the community and support you need to find hope in the middle of life’s difficulties. Call First Steps Recovery at (844) 489-0836 to learn more.

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