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"I tried to give up cigarettes. I bought a book on addiction. Apparently, if you're addicted to something, when you give it up you replace it with something else. Like a hobby. So I did a pottery course. First day, everyone made ashtrays."

This character used to be an alcoholic or other addict, but now he's on the wagon. So he takes up some other habit to distract him from his cravings. Standard replacement habits include coffee or cigarettes (to replace alcohol) and gum or binge-eating (to replace tobacco).

This is Truth in Television; a habit becomes routine, and kicking the habit becomes much easier when you form a new routine (instead of rolling a cigarette you open a pack of chewing gum). For more serious addictions this may be even more true: according to some neurological schools of thought, when the brain becomes truly hooked on pleasure-causing chemicals released either due to a physical (e.g., drugs) or emotional (e.g., gambling) stimulus, it becomes virtually impossible to abandon that stimulus without consciously or subconsciously replacing it with another that produces a similar or better result.

Conveniently, such alternative addictions are also often narratively useful, as they allow portraying a character with an addiction that is neither completely crippling nor entirely an Informed Flaw.

See also Oral Fixation Fixation, for one of the most common ways to kick one of the most common addictions (cigarettes).

Examples of Addiction Displacement include:


Anime & Manga

  • Saito Hajime was historically a heavy drinker, and the version of him who shows up in Rurouni Kenshin is a chain smoker instead, explaining that if he drinks, he becomes Ax Crazy.


Comic Books

  • Tony Stark was an alcoholic. After he quit, he had to be careful of displacement addiction. He became a workaholic.
    • In Iron Man Rapture, before the mini-series, Tony had quit drinking. After his heart attack, he built himself a new heart and had it implanted. He became addicted to cyber enhancements.
    • Lately it seems he's become addicted to coffee, in one issue he specifically asked for a gallon-drum with "some kind of intravenous drip."
  • In an eighties Archie story on the dangers of smoking, three teenagers unintentionally create a false fire alarm by chain-smoking in the boys' washroom at school. At the end, they apologize to the principal, Mr. Weatherbee, and inform him that from now on, whenever they have nicotine cravings, they'll chew gum instead.

  Weatherbee: Egad! Another habit I don't approve of. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

  • Parodied in this F-minus strip.


Film

  • Subverted in Clerks. Someone comes into the store to accuse the Clerks of being "Death-Merchants" for serving people with cigarettes. He tries to convince every smoker to quitting smoking and start buying Chewlie's gum instead. He is then revealed to be a Chewlie's representative, merely out to sell more gum. Everyone gets kicked out of the store, and one smoker buys a pack of cigarettes before leaving.
  • Constantine. Throughout the movie the title character has been chain smoking cigarettes despite being diagnosed with lung cancer. At the end of the movie his cancer is cured and he's shown popping a stick of gum into his mouth to show that he's quitting smoking. What's particularly ironic about this is that, in the comics, he intentionally tricks Hell into curing his cancer. This is done in such a way that they must make sure he doesn't die for a very long while at least. So he goes right back to chain smoking as soon as his lung cancer's gone, swearing at the devil(s) as he does so.
  • In Lethal Weapon 3, Riggs is trying to quit smoking. Whenever he wants a cigarette Murtagh gives him a dog biscuit to chew instead. At the end of the film Riggs starts smoking again, claiming to do it to displace his dog biscuit addiction.
  • It's not stated outright, but one of the gangsters from Oop North in the Layer Cake film seems to have a case of this. He's very jittery and has something of a Hair-Trigger Temper, and he's always sucking on a lollipop.
  • Virtually all the vampires in Daybreakers smoke like chimneys. Granted, they don't have to worry about getting lung cancer, but given that their blood supply is swiftly running out, it's likely to be this trope at work as well.


Literature

  • Discworld:
    • The Black Ribboner vampires (who've sworn to abstain from drinking human blood) all do this.
      • For Maladict from Monstrous Regiment, it's coffee.
      • For Otto from The Truth, it's photography (which, given vampiric photosensitivity, has caused many an embarrassing situation).
      • The first-seen and apparently founding member Lady Margolotta claims that what vampires really wanted by drinking blood was power. She turned her addictions to politics.
      • The current head of the organization apparently obsessively builds matchstick models.
    • Though it's slightly less explicit, it's also heavily implied that Vimes displaces his addiction from alcohol onto police work (hence his "My name is Sam and I'm a really suspicious bastard" speech in Feet of Clay). That and the expensive cigars his wife now keeps in constant supply.
  • In Holes, Mr. Sir is a former cigarette addict, replacing them with the much more benign sunflower seeds.
  • All of the characters in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest--particularly the residents of Ennett House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House (sic)--to some extent, but none so horrifying as Randy Lenz's evening constitutionals.
  • Brazilian writer Luis Fernando Verissimo once wrote a comedic text about addictions, specially smoking (and diets). It ranged from simple replacements ("Gimme candy. Gimme bubblegum. Gimme a pencil to chew. Gimme your nails to bite, mine are over!") to... unorthodox methods:

-I quit smoking, Chief.

-That's a reason to strangle 17 people?
—Didn't know what to do with my hands.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin novels, Dr. Maturin develops a powerful addiction to the (opium-based) tincture of laudanum. After successfully kicking the habit, he finds a perfectly healthy substitute, one he knows to be non-addictive... the coca leaves chewed by the natives of Peru.
  • Sherman Alexie loves to have recovering alcoholics/smokers/drug addicts drink soda for some reason.


Live Action TV

  • In season 1 of Leverage, Nate is The Alcoholic. So far in season 2, he seems to be drinking a truly massive amount of coffee. What's more, the other characters fear he is pulling riskier and riskier cons in order to substitute for alcohol, and worry that if they fail one, he could fall off the wagon again. Ironically, he starts drinking again to help sell a Short Con, but once he's started he can't stop.
  • The title character of Kojak quits smoking and takes up lollipops. Who loves ya, baby?
  • On News Radio:
    • Bill tries to give up smoking by taking up chewing tobacco.
    • Beth claims to chew so much gum because it keeps her from smoking.
  • In an episode of Profit Jim fakes one of these in order to manipulate a wife of a rival into believing that, like her, he is a recovering alcoholic.
  • On House:
    • Tritter, the detective in season 3, is always seen chewing nicotine gum. When he first goes to the clinic because he thinks he has an STD, House says his problem was actually caused by dehydration from the nicotine gum.
    • House himself does this in Season 6 after checking himself into the loony bin. He gets high-dose ibuprofen (i.e. super-triple-extra-strength Advil) for the leg pain and replaces the psychological effects of the Vicodin with whiskey. For a little while he also tries cooking as an emotional outlet rather than being an asshole to his patients. Cooking works, but he prefers medicine.
  • The Count of Sesame Street- Discworld vampire?
    • Counting things obsessively is a typical trait for vampires in their mythology, thus why in "Carpe Jugulum" the count says he hasn't had any desire to find his missing socks...
  • DS Ronnie Brooks in Law and Order UK replaces an alcohol addiction with a sugar one and puts on two stone[1] of weight.
  • One My Hero (TV) episode had George become addicted to pork scratchings. Tyler recommends substituting bacon-flavoured crisps.
  • In one episode of Parenthood, two characters say that even though they quit smoking years ago, they can't quit the nicotine gum.
  • When Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear quits smoking around series 8, he briefly takes up the Koenigsegg CCX as an astronomically expensive substitute.

  Clarkson: [while testing it on track] WHO NEEDS NICOTINE?!!

  • Twin Peaks - Ben Horne gives up smoking and uses carrots in a place of cigars.
  • Fans of The X-Files have speculated that Mulder's habit of eating sunflower seeds came from quitting smoking.
    • Others speculate that, since he is addicted to porn, he is simply displacing that addiction while he's on the job.
  • On Heroes, Sylar meets his biological father who, like himself, was driven by a Horror Hunger to seek out other superpowered people and steal their powers, but who has since given it up. His father tells him that if he wants to quit, too, he should find "something to keep your hands busy," and this is why he became a taxidermist.


Video Games

  • In 'Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten, Valvatorez has replaced his need for human blood with sardines. While it doesn't provide any of the benefits of drinking human blood (he's gone through a rather massive De-Power since he's stopped), he's at least not dealing with the warm bloodbags issue.
  • Loosely implied in Resident Evil 4 in the scene where the protagonist Leon first meets his Handsome Lech ally, Luis Sera. Luis asks Leon if he's got a smoke, to which Leon replies "Got gum."
  • In Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey, when you meet Hariti, she rhapsodizes about how she no longer needs to eat human flesh. Talk to another demon nearby, however, and he tells you that she gets a little weird on full moons. Turns out that she's taken to eaten pomegranetes instead, and there's a sidequest where you have to fetch one for her.
  • Played with in Warcraft lore: High Elves have been addicted to magic for at least 10,000 years. Their addiction hasn't changed too much, but since the Sunwell was destroyed in Warcraft 3, the Blood Elves (who had a complete reliance on the Sunwell) had to find a new source to channel their magical power or suffer from a debilitating withdrawal, they did this by absorbing magic from creatures, getting them addicted to Fel energy instead of Arcane energy.
    • The few remaining High Elves have long since learned to replace their reliance on the Sunwell with meditation, or being within range of a Night Elf Moonwell, playing this trope a little straighter.


Webcomics


Western Animation

  • One Anvilicious episode of the One Hundred and One Dalmatians animated series has Cruella De Vil attempt to quit smoking, and move in with Anita until she can. When she finally kicks the habit, she takes up gum chewing, and the episode ends with Cruella moving back in with Anita until she can quit chewing gum.
  • In one episode of Family Guy, Peter swears to quit drinking. The next scene opens with him lighting a crack pipe.
  • Hey Arnold has a few G-rated examples.
    • The Chocolate Boy does this to his chocolate addiction, turning it into a radish addiction.
    • Implied with Miriam when she becomes the Beeper Queen. She dumps her "smoothies" and picks up her life, only to become a workoholic.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Barney switches from drinking beer to drinking coffee. Then Moe opens an espresso stand...
    • When Marge goes into drug rehab for her alcoholism, she notes that everyone there just switches addictions.

 "The smokers are drinking, the drinkers are smoking, and the gamblers are having sex with Anything That Moves."

    • To get Homer to stop drinking and overeating, Marge tries to get him addicted on bell peppers.
  • In one episode of King of the Hill, Dale tries to quit smoking and replaces that habit with chewing tobacco. He later quits chewing tobacco and decides to simply inhale the tobacco leaves' aroma instead. Finally, he gives up and goes back to smoking.
    • More specifically (and hilariously), he loads his chewing tobacco into a paper tube and inhales the aroma, then someone lights it and he declares it a "marvelous new invention."
  • On South Park Kenny eventually stops getting high on cat urine... and gets high by sniffing flowers.
    • South Park goes farther to say that Alcoholics Anonymous is this in one episode. And you're powerless against the addiction.


Real Life

  • According to Kevin Smith, once Jason Mewes finally kicked heroin for good, he started drinking tons of Red Bull. As do most of his support group, which led Smith to muse that they should actually market the stuff to recovering addicts. Smith himself wound up switching from smoking cigarettes to smoking pot.
  • People who use nicotine gum to quit smoking have been known to become addicted to the gum instead.
    • Well, the nicotine is the addictive part. The gum's supposed to be an intermediate step, so people in the process of quitting can stop consuming all the nasty crap in cigarettes immediately without having to deal with withdrawal symptoms. (Mind you, I'm talking about physical addiction, not psychological.)
    • The next step is replacing the nicotine gum with chewing gum of a specific flavor.
  • If you go to a NA or AA meeting or something like that, expect a lot of the people to be smokers, which can be hell if you decide to kick *that* habit. (Though many of them were smokers before they tried to quit their other addiction, at which point it doesn't really fit the trope.) Also expect to see lots and lots of coffee, or diet sodas.
    • The fun part is that there's probably a Caffeine Addicts Anonymous down the hall.
    • In the eyes of critics, (mainly atheists/agnostics/skeptics who oppose AA's explicitly religious orientation) the meetings themselves become the new addiction.
  • There's a fairly common phrase that states, "Nature abhors a vacuum." It's recommended for people trying to kick an addiction to replace it with a "healthy" addiction, such as exercise, learning some type of art form (art, music) or developing a craft (knitting).
  • People who use chewing tobacco may use mint snuff to help them quit.
  • Alice Cooper replaced alcohol with golf.
  • According to Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling's site, while writing books around the middle of the series, she quit smoking and started chewing nicotine gum instead. Because it was such a stressful period of her life, she actually then started smoking again in addition to chewing the nicotine gum! Eventually she managed to kick the habit with a new displacement activity which proved highly effective: playing Minesweeper.
  • Heroin was originally marketed as a means to treat morphine addictions. The body simply metabolises heroin into morphine. Since heroin gets into the brain faster than morphine and is converted right there, the high is more intense. This has recurred throughout the history of opiate development for some time. Every time someone creates a new opiate it turns out that it's just as or more addictive and powerful than the last one.
  • After giving up alcohol, cocaine and heroin, Trent Reznor went from rail-thin to ultra buff by replacing his drug habit with weightlifting.
  • Ronald Reagan smoked when he was younger. Later in life, he decided to give it up and ate jelly beans every time he wanted a smoke. He managed to successfully kick his tobacco habit, and the jelly beans became his Trademark Favorite Food.
  • Craig Ferguson replaced alcohol with cigarettes, and later cigarettes with fancy coffee drinks. He often comments on his Starbucks habit.
  • George W. Bush successfully dropped drugs and alcohol. Instead, he picked up exercise and religion.
  • Robert Downey, Jr. became an avid Kung Fu practitioner after kicking drugs and alcohol.
  • In a 2012 interview with Runner's World, Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard said that his first day without alcohol was his first day running.
  • An unintended side effect of smoking cessation campaigns is that people are eating when they would otherwise be smoking, leading to a rise in obesity, making one particular cigarette ad from the 1920s telling women to reach for a cigarette instead of candy a Funny Aneurysm Moment. Many of the snack food companies also sell cigarettes.
  • Not necessarily an addiction, per se, but Liam Neeson started playing with toothpicks as a replacement for smoking, which has almost grown into an obsession according to his fellow cast members.
  • Obsessive people will always have some sort of obsession. Once they're over, say, washing their hands every five minutes, they'll almost immediately move on to rearranging their desk whenever someone touches it.

Notes

  1. (i.e., 28 pounds)
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