Addictive substances and behaviors cause a release of pleasure chemicals that temporarily numb or distract from current feelings of depression, anger, anxiety or physical pain. It is one way people survive unbearable pain, until they learn what is causing it and develop better tools to deal with it. Nobody wakes up one morning and says “Hey, I want to be an addict.” Just like negative emotions can cause imbalances in your neurotransmitters, so can the use of addictive substances or behaviors.
Even in early recovery, many people try to rationalize that they are “fine” because they are not using their drug or activity of choice. My response is usually, “You are right you are F.I.N.E. (F***ed up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional) You are in early recovery. What I want to know is if you are dealing with all of that or just avoiding it by some other means.”
If you are addicted to one thing, and stop doing it without addressing whatever it is you were trying to escape from (anger, resentment, depression, grief, loss, low self-esteem, unhealthy relationships…), then you will likely simply choose another addiction–chaotic relationships, sex, food, smoking etc. You are starting to feel something and may think you need to distract yourself. As is often said, “One of the best things about recovery is that you start to feel things again. And, one of the worst things about recovery is that you start to feel things again.”