Are There Healthy Addictions?

There are many ways that a person can be addicted. They can be addicted to drugs, to alcohol, to sex, to gambling, to shopping, to food, to stealing, to relationships, to caffeine, to nicotine… the list is really endless. And addictions, by definition, are harmful, detrimental and dangerous. But let’s think about healthy addictions.

Once a person addresses and begins to deal with their chosen addiction, the addictive part of their personality doesn’t necessarily leave them. Upon getting sober, we are often directed to channel that addictive energy into healthier and more productive pursuits, such as eating healthy and working out.

But are “healthy” addictions ok? Can you take them too far? Can a “healthy” addiction become equally as dangerous as any other addiction?

In my opinion, yes.

Anything taken to the extreme has the potential to be dangerous, including behaviors that, in moderation, are considered healthy. Take eating, for example. Taking control of your eating habits is, in theory, a healthy decision. But, taken to the extreme, it can have adverse effects on your health. Eating disorders are prevalent in the sober community, including anorexia, bulimia and orthorexia (the need to eat only foods one considers healthy and clean). Even people who don’t develop a full-blown eating disorder can develop an unhealthy obsession with food.

Exercise falls in the same category. Again, when done in moderation, exercise is crucial for human health. But excessive exercise can lead to injury, dehydration and exhaustion. It can also be used as a way of purging after overeating (also known as exercise bulimia).

I speak from experience. After about a year of sobriety, I decided to take control of my health and begin a diet and exercise program. At first, I did it in a healthy way. But as the pounds started falling off, I found myself veering into familiar addict behaviors. I obsessed over every calorie that went into my mouth and would go into a panic if I couldn’t exercise. It began to consume my time, thoughts and energy in an extremely addictive way. Even though my behaviors (eating well and working out) were considered “healthy,” the addictive way in which I did them was not.

As people who have already dealt with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, we in the recovery community are increasingly susceptible to transferring that addiction to another person, substance or behavior. And while many might argue that an addiction to kale or CrossFit is better than an addiction to heroin or shoplifting, is it really? Addictions, no matter what they entail, are all consuming and take over the lives of the addicted. They hold you hostage. And in recovery, we are searching for freedom.

What do you think?

Last Updated on February 21, 2024


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