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Eminem – A Cautionary Tale of Addiction Replacement

Addiction affects the brain in profound ways – many of which we don’t fully understand. A mix of genetic and environmental influences create the perfect storm for the millions of Americans that succumb to addiction and relapse. It is no secret that even with appropriate healthcare and addiction treatment, addicts are likely to relapse – sometimes several times or more. Ultimately, the goal is to “raise the bottom,” getting ever closer to long-term and permanent sobriety.

Addiction often leaves what can only be described as a void, upon a successful course of treatment. Once an addicted individual has left the treatment program and no longer uses their drug of choice, they often look for a replacement to fill this void. With proper support and follow-up care, the replacement can develop into a healthy passion or hobby and can ultimately be a very positive development. However, not all cases of addiction replacement (even when the replacement is healthy), work out well.

No clearer is this phenomenon seen than in a recent revelation by world-famous rapper Eminem. After struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs, the rapper completed a successful course of treatment that put him back on track toward long-term sobriety. His daily escape was exercise, running in particular, offering him both the pick-up he needed and the ability to sleep – things that he couldn’t find without drugs. However, this seemingly harmless replacement became an obsession that ultimately led him to injury – he was running up to seventeen miles a day. Luckily, he was able to see the damage he was causing his body and has since mixed up his exercise routine to both feed the need for exercise and stay healthy.

The case isn’t true for all addicts. Many don’t come to this realization, and their replacement addiction can take over their lives. Many addicts will replace one substance with another – for example prescription pills with alcohol, or vice versa. Others may binge-eat or starve themselves after breaking an illicit substance addiction, causing obesity or anorexia respectively. Yet others may take up smoking (risking lung cancer), gamble, shop compulsively, hoard or exercise until they injure themselves as mentioned above. Many do not seek appropriate treatment or have the support foundation to help them through this trying time.

There is a place for addiction replacement – replacing something dangerous with a healthy alternative. In fact, finding a passion that replacement the void left by addictive substances is one of the most effective therapeutic techniques a counselor can instill. However, it is important that addiction counselors and families alike understand that too much of a good thing can be bad, too. Ultimately, beyond the coping skills and anti-relapse techniques learned in treatment, moderation is a foundational pillar of long-term sobriety. Stability and composure are traits to acquire and live by.