May 16, 2016 | By Nadia Sheikh

7 Types of Addictions in Sobriety

Addiction Resources Recovery

Types of Addiction in Sobriety

The brain registers all pleasures in the same area—our rewards center. The neurotransmitter dopamine is released when we experience pleasure, whether it be from a drug, sex, a good meal, a cash prize, or an accomplishment. Drugs and alcohol, on the other hand, can release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine as other natural rewards.

These powerful, reliable dopamine surges train our brains to continue seeking our substance of choice to feel the same pleasure, even though we eventually need more and more of the substance to maintain the huge surges. Unfortunately, this addictive cycle can manifest with anything that floods our rewards center and that we continue to do in a habitual or ritualistic way.

We don’t need to stay away from pleasure altogether, but we do need to be aware of our addictive tendency towards escapism – trying to run away from life and reality. I still have addictions in sobriety, but it is possible to find healthy pleasure in these things without using them to excess. My addiction manifests in all sorts of obsessive behaviors when I want to escape reality. I’m not drinking or using, but am I still fiend-ing for something?



Believe it or not, caffeine is considered a psychoactive drug—a legal stimulant—that’s used daily across the world. It can be found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, and certain medicines. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, giving us a boost of energy, but are my 24-ounce energy drinks hurting me?

According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 400 mg of caffeine daily is safe for most healthy adults. That’s about four cups of brewed coffee, but a 24 ounce energy drink may contain 500 mg of caffeine or more! Intake of 300 mg or more at one time is know as caffeine intoxication, or “the jitters.”

Heavy caffeine use can cause insomnia, anxiety, stomach problems, heart palpitations, elevated blood pressure, and even increase risk-taking behavior. As an addict, I have to draw a line: am I’m looking to wake up in the morning with my coffee, or am I pounding Red Bulls looking for a buzz?



I know cigarettes are a bad habit, but why do we like it so much? When you smoke a cigarette, nicotine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and within 10 seconds it reaches the brain. The brain releases adrenaline and dopamine, which creates that buzz of pleasure and energy.

But, the buzz fades quickly and the body builds up a high tolerance to nicotine, so you’ll need to smoke more cigarettes in order to get nicotine’s pleasurable effects again. Then, when I try to quit, I get moody, irritable, and a terrible headache. This is called nicotine withdrawal. (All of this sound eerily familiar?)

We know that smoking isn’t doing our lungs any favors, but perhaps we should look at the other consequences of keeping this addiction in our lives. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism conducted a study which determined that alcoholics who quit smoking during their time in recovery were 25 percent more likely to maintain long-term sobriety. Things to consider in our recovery.



I am always chewing gum. Even something so seemingly harmless can manifest as an addiction in our lives. Gum addicts usually chew one or more packs of gum in the course of a day. We may like it because it freshens our breath, maybe you want to whiten your teeth, maybe it helps us concentrate, maybe it’s just nice to blow bubbles.

The truth is, chewing gum constantly can cause serious problems like TMJ, a condition that causes pain in the chewing muscles and joints that connect your jaw to your skull. You swallow excess air when you chew gum and gum often contains artificial sweeteners, which can cause bowel problems, abdominal pain, and cramping. Regular, sugary gum puts you at risk for cavities and tooth decay.

Ultimately, if you’re like me and you chew enough gum to worry about these problems: is your gum chewing pleasurable, is it helping you focus? Chewing gum can make us forget about drinking water, eating when we’re hungry, and listening to the person we’re talking to. Is your gum chewing a way to divert your attention throughout the day?

Snack Food


When I’m hungry and in a hurry, you can find me grabbing gas station snacks, in the chips and cookies aisle at the grocery store, in the drive-thru lane. All convenient choices for a busy lifestyle, I might know they’re not the healthiest choices, but are these choices threatening my sobriety?

Sugar and sweets are often recommended to help with cravings early in sobriety, because our bodies used to metabolize sugars from alcohol and drugs. Candy and junk food may be the lesser of the evils. But, large amounts of sugar, high-calorie foods, and high-fat foods light up the same area of our brains as drugs like heroin and cocaine. These surges of dopamine and sugar are eventually followed by a crash, leaving us craving more sugar and more dopamine.

Studies have even shown that consuming these foods in large amounts leads to compulsive eating habits resembling drug addiction. We want to un-train our brains to expect these dopamine spikes, which might lead us back to using substances to find them. We know eating healthy foods is good for our bodies, but it’s also helpful to our sobriety.



Exercise seems like a fantastic addiction to have, a great way to stay healthy. And exercise is an awesome asset in recovery because it causes our body to release endorphins, which are neurochemicals that activate our opioid receptors like a natural painkiller and bring on feelings of euphoria. In the long-run, exercise can improve our mood and self-esteem because of the serotonin released.

So what’s the problem? I love to run, it’s a form of meditation for me where I don’t worry about what happened earlier or what I need to do later. I take great pride in getting faster and getting closer to a marathon. You can train hard and take pride in your work, but an exercise addiction is another form of escapism, focusing mainly on the body’s physical results rather than on the enjoyment of exercise.

Like any addiction, you can build up a tolerance, needing more exercise to achieve the desired results. You can go into withdrawal, becoming agitated and tense when you don’t exercise. It may become difficult or impossible to take days off, even when you’re injured. It may start to take over your schedule, with all of your time dedicated to exercise. It can interfere with work, relationships, and friends. We work hard in sobriety to maintain balance—our bodies do need exercise to be healthy, but in moderation.



Even if you don’t have Netflix, most of us make time to watch the shows we love. The phenomenon of binge-watching, generally defined as watching 2-6 episodes of a show in one sitting, has become more and more normal. With Netflix, Hulu, on-demand viewing, and DVR capabilities, almost anyone today can binge-watch. For addicts and alcoholics, binge anything can be problematic.

There’s a sense of satisfaction at the end of an episode, season, or series – our brains feel accomplished. This triggers a release of dopamine, again activating the reward center of our brains which motivates us to keep watching. We can feel happiness from the good entertainment we get, and some studies even show that the bright lights of the TV can improve our mood. But we can begin to neglect other aspects of our health and our life if all of our time is invested in watching shows. The pleasure in watching TV can be perfectly healthy, we just need to be wary of bingeing too hard and hooking our sensitive rewards centers on another addiction.



 Most people today can be seen pulling out their smartphone to check the time, check for text messages, take a selfie. We’re on our phones when we’re driving (please don’t), when we’re crossing the street (also don’t), when we’re having a conversation with another person (pretty rude).

I have been guilty of all of these things at some point, despite the complete disregard for safety and common courtesy, but this compulsive checking of your phone might also be a problem for your sobriety. Our smartphones keep us connected—we can text, tweet, post, poke, snap whenever we want. We stay updated with our friends and family, and sometimes with people we don’t even talk to anymore. This feeling of connection makes us happy, and scientists have found that our brain gets a hit of dopamine when we hear our phones beep, ring, or vibrate.

If we become consumed in our smartphones, we have the potential to become addicted to the validation we get when someone virtually contacts us or responds to us. Multi-tasking in this way, all day every day, actually hinders our ability to focus and our creative capabilities. We don’t want to get lost in the digital world, a constant form of escape that we can fall back on when we’re bored or don’t want to talk to the person next to us. We might lose touch with reality, our actual lives, and the actual people around us who are a lot cooler than a profile picture.

Recovery isn’t about being a monk and denying yourself all pleasures, and I’m not telling you to stay away from these things. These are simply foods and behaviors that are potentially addictive. If we, as addicts, are aware of the dangers of going overboard in any of these arenas, we are better able to monitor and alter our behaviors. Moderation doesn’t come naturally to me at all, but giving it a try in my daily life might protect my long-term sobriety.

70 responses to “7 Types of Addictions in Sobriety

  • Laura Spindal

    8 years ago

    And this was peer reviewed by whom, exactly? Is there help on the horizon for bubblegum addiction? Not every bad habit qualifies as a disease or is going to lead you back to the bottle or needle. This article is RIDICULOUS.

    • I believe you took it the wrong way. I understand completely. Since my 16year battle with meth and the needle, I am 2.5 years sober, and use exercise as my new addiction. Every time I get to overthinking I go for a run.

      • Maria watkins

        8 years ago

        I drink tons of coffee and energy drinks. I am in recovery from alcoholism via God my home group and AA. …wisdom to know the difference. Sober 1.5 years and ..wisdom to know the difference. Are too many meetings an addiction?My sufficient substitutes work. It works if u work it!

    • Nadia Sheikh

      8 years ago

      Hi there, not trying to claim that these habits are their own diseases, or that they will lead you to relapse! Simply that addiction is a disease that can manifest in all sorts of obsessive and ritualistic behaviors when we put down our substance(s) of choice. For myself, I just want to be aware of where I can indulge too much because that is an old behavior I know all too well. Thank you for reading.

      • Patrick Sherman

        8 years ago

        As an Addiction Recovery Therapist I wanted to say that I totally agree with this explanation. I try to teach people that recovery requires new healthy habits that one must become “addicted” to in order to maintain their recovery. Most of the long-terms successes in recovery that I know are very compulsive about whatever their sober routine is. John Mayer, the singer. has made just that observation about the recovered people that he works with in the music industry. The key for me is to determine if the substitute is a healthy one as opposed to one that might lead back to substance abuse.

        • As someone in recovery I agree with this completely! This was a short list in my opinion…

      • Thank you Nadia, I have seen my own ability and desire to obsess on many things throughout my life. All to the point of compulsion and the detriment of my spirituality. Even before my active addiction and certainly during and after.

    • This is kinda goofy. Some of the recovery community has become perfectionist. And the power greater than ourselves? Are we fearing an addiction to that too?

      • Mike Doherty

        8 years ago

        I agree Linda,
        Believe in yourself. Trust in the power that has given you recovery . Be honest. Be decent. Rely on common sense and beware.
        Of the behaviours referenced here I am obviously prone to use of the Smartphone and social media.

    • I had a friend who was addicted to chewing gum… thankfully she got free a few years ago – so i understand what the article is stating. Anything in excess that cannot easily be put down for a time is an addiction..

      • Not really I’m in recovery and work at a treatment facility and see people who stop using drugs and alcohol and become addicted to sex, gambling, adrenaline etc and those are things that can easily make your life unmanageable

    • Peer reviewed? What happened to sharing our experience , strength, and hope. She said;{ My } addiction manifests in all sorts of obsessive behaviors when I want to escape reality. I’m not drinking or using, but am I still fiend-ing for something? Take what you need and leave the rest I is Her story not yours. Higher Powered works for Me, in all of My affairs. Good info.

    • Exactly! In regard to the gum chewing you mention, I believe it’s only those who pop there gum for the physical and audio reward which are the actual culprits of the increased dopamine. Not every gum chewer.

  • Give up the gum it’s a nasty habit. People look unattractive while chewing gum and few people can chew it with their mouths closed.

    • Amy Matthews

      8 years ago

      I wonder if placing a judgment on this behavior, that it’s unattractive, may reflect something deeper. An intolerance that you have of someone or yourself.

  • Everyone has addictions in their lives. Most addictions do not cause disfunction in everyday life. I believe what she was try to make us aware of is how addictions can become compulsive, if we are not aware of the possibility. I know that I have to be aware of my new interest, so I don’t become obsessive about it.

    • My addiction now, as it always has been, is food. When I got off drugs….I went to food. Just like I always have. It all started when I was sent to an all girl boarding school. Food. Eat. Food. Eat. Then when I went home I found drugs, And food. And drugs. And food….all the way to 287 pounds. Now I’m off of drugs….20 years. But the battle of food is a constant. Food is a necessity. I have leveled to 170 pounds. But it is a meal to meal struggle. And yes, I did the obsessive exercise as well. But my health has put an end to that. Maybe all the contents of this article may not seem serious to some, but pay attention to your behaviors and you will understand.

      • Nadia Sheikh

        8 years ago

        More power to you! I totally understand what you go through, on a daily basis. I’m a drug addict but I also have an addictive personality, and I need to be aware of it!

      • Food IS a necessity for survival. That’s why it’s the most difficult addiction I’ve had to deal with. More than anorexia. More than bulimia. More than alcohol. More than cocaine. More than heroin. More than tobacco. More than caffeine. More than sex. More than rage. More than exercise.

        While I appreciate the general sentiments of the article, I also want to caution about referring to everything compulsive or obsessive behavior as “addiction”. In my early recovery, I went 5 years without refined sugar and caffeine. When I started drinking coffee again and eating sweets, I actually called my sponsor and had a discussion about whether I needed to change my date of sobriety. She wisely informed me that of course I didn’t need to change my DOS over coffee or sugar, and that I needed to take a step back from this idea that unless all “addictive behaviors” were in remission I wasn’t ‘100% sober’ or my “disease committee” might use that self-perceived failure to talk me back into alcohol or drugs.

        So if I binge on ice cream or Brussels sprouts to ‘stuff my feelings’ short-term and that in the long term keeps me from wanting to drink or drug, then I’m good with that. My desire to die sober, free of alcohol and drugs, is the foundation upon which the rest of my life rests. As long as I stay sober, everything else is manageable. I’ve found this to be true one day at a time since October 24, 1984.

      • Did you use a 12 step program to help you lose all that weight?

    • That’s actually what addictions are, things that negatively impact our lives.

  • Ldybkr143

    8 years ago

    You forgot about gambling, sex, and online (or off) shopping. I’ve been addicted to 2 of the 3 on the last 6 yrs of my sobriety, currently still am to one of them…

    • Nadia Sheikh

      8 years ago

      Very true, there are so many more addictions! I could only include a few that have affected my life. If you’d like to write out your personal recovery story, including your struggle with other addictions during your sobriety, I’d love to share it with Sober Nation. Email it to me at

  • Gum is really relationships, sex or porn. Bubble gum my sweet….tooth.

  • I agree with the writer that there are other addictions. My question is this: which of those cause people to wake up in jail – or get fired, lose a family, or become homeless?
    It’s ultimately about consequences. I feel the writer aptly listed those, too.
    There are good consequences as well as bad ones. If I run too much, but I’m a productive member of society and don’t have a needle in my arm – so what?
    Nice article overall.

    • Nadia Sheikh

      8 years ago

      Substances were absolutely my worst and most damaging addictions! Such terrible consequences. Ultimately if I don’t use, it’s a good day.

      For me, my sobriety is also about addressing the other aspects of my addictive personality, too. I want to be more balanced!

  • None of the above listed substitute addictions have ever landed me in JAIL or INSTITUTIONS or DIVORCE COURT! Drinking & drugging did of course!

    • Nadia Sheikh

      8 years ago

      Substances were the worst addiction, I agree! Just looking to build a balanced lifestyle in sobriety, too.

  • For me it’s a real balancing act. With my addictive personality I look at any possible addiction as a hierarchy. I’m glad my food addiction hasn’t killed me yet or landed me in jail, but it has negatively affected my relationships.. And when I substitute playing games or too much NetFlix for eating, although it may be physically healthier for me, I don’t find it healthier emotionally, mentally or spiritually.

    • Nadia Sheikh

      8 years ago

      Balance is HUGE. I love the idea of possible addictions in a hierarchy. Drugs and alcohol may have brought me the most consequences, but there are ways to keep getting healthier in sobriety once I leave substances behind. So well said, thank you!

  • Ahhh……I can’t deny the truth tat i graze like anything when i feel tat i’m a gonerrrrr…….tat Actually i’m not…….I love to graze food so is tat a type of addiction

  • Tony Furdock

    8 years ago

    I often refer to this phenomenon as the “Whack-A-Mole” principle. Every time I squeeze my addiction down in one area, it pops up in another.

    • Eileen Moyer

      7 years ago

      I heard it put this way, i have 12 Character defects `12 jars and 11 lids lol

  • We are creatures of habit .
    A habit can also be termed as an addiction..
    It’s a human condition.
    Self care. can lead to recovery .

  • I have to agree with this article. After putting down the bottle 12 years ago I have become addicted to many other things. It amazes me how easily I can become addicted to and obsessed with anything the least bit pleasurable. Things like Hayday (a video game), coloring mandalas, Oreos, spiritual decks of cards, crystals and essential oils.
    Music and books have always been on the list but I now notice real “junkie” behavior when I’m near to finishing a book if I don’t have another one to read straight away, you know, in my possession. Thank God for public libraries! And friends who share music!????????????

  • Aaron Morphet

    7 years ago

    When I quit drinking I picked up a nice little food addiction. Been sober 3 years now and I’m just now addressing the issue. I pretty much refused to use the same technique that I used to quit drinking because I knew it would work, and I wasn’t ready to give up this last thing….until now

  • Scratch off lottery tickets (gambling). I know a guy w 14 years sobriety, He’s addicted to scratch offs. He works hard. He rides a bike and lives in temporary situations because he can’t save up enough to afford a car and permanent residency.

  • Randall Guyer

    7 years ago

    how about sex, relationships, work? Anything done to an extreme or obsession. Things that take us where e dont want to go but cant give up.

  • I would have added sexual obsession and masturbation to that list…

  • I think I’ve replaced drinking with an almost obsessive quality to recovery. Reading everything I can get my hands on, researching all different types of treatments, buying workbook after workbook…..

  • Brian McQ

    7 years ago

    You missed a number of others … like sex, sex, gambling, sex, sex, sex, food, sex and sex.

  • I’m a compulsive additive personality. Food and meaningful relationships are my choices of comfort. I enjoyed reading the responses to the article and could relate to most. I go to meetings, the gym, share by teaching and try to find balance in my life by being honest with myself and others. It all takes effort but I’m worth it. Lol

  • Sam Miller

    5 years ago

    I was once addicted to sex while being married, I have to have the wife 3 days a week ans girlfriends on the side for 2 days a week. Only thing that stopped me as I grew older I couldnt keep up with them all. I now have the wife one day a week and a lady friend one day a week. And my wife and her are best friends. I couldnt ask for more. They just want me to be happy……God bless them !

  • Sam Miller

    5 years ago

    I was once addicted to sex while being married, I had to have the wife 3 days a week and girlfriends on the side for 2 days a week. Only thing that stopped me as I grew older I couldnt keep up with them all. I now have the wife one day a week and a lady friend one day a week. And my wife and her are best friends. I couldnt ask for more. They just want me to be happy……God bless them !

    • Jackie Wu

      5 years ago

      Hopefully your wife is blessed with someone faithful to satisfy her on the days you are with the BFF lol… Praying NO Children …The World is messed up ENOUGH!!!

    • Gordon Jones

      5 years ago

      That is dysfunctional and if you think l am wrong that is another dysfunctional.
      If you do right you get right

    • janeasinner

      5 years ago

      Selfish, self-serving and dysfunctional, to say the least.

  • A lot of BS! Everybody has this and that. Sibruety is not about perfection. It’s about a decease that kills and destroys families. It’s not about growing wings it’s about staying sober!!!

    • janeasinner

      5 years ago

      I disagree. JUST staying sober won’t cut it. You must change your destructive behaviours that go along with using. If you don’t change, you are just a ‘dry drunk’, full of the same character flaws as when you were deep in your drinking.

      • Bingo. I’ve seen the denial of addictive behavior lead right back to a drink.

  • janeasinner

    5 years ago

    Only two of the seven would be problematic for me.Coffee and Food. We need food to live, but when it becomes an obsessive addiction, whether used as comfort or otherwise, it is a problem, i would suspect for anyone, not just the addict.

  • Jon Davis

    4 years ago

    The world is a safer place as I watch Netflix while updating my status on my smart phone, sharing this article with my sober friends over a bowl of chips and guacamole after my trip to the gym.

  • Sam Miller

    4 years ago

    why should be waste attention and sorrow on these drug addicts , their fault , no one shoves coke up their nose, or a needle in their arm they know what they are getting into, No sympathy from me. Go die alone in an alley

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