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Addiction Displacement
The lollipop was a cigarette not too long ago.

"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, and can also provide a justification for treating a G-Rated Drug like a real one.

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


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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.
  • Near the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Misato seems to quit drinking alcohol after the death of Kaji and instead switches to canned coffee and cigarettes.

    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.
  • Joey Pardella in Hackers attends a court-ordered AA-style addiction support group, supposedly for computer addiction. He claims not to be an addict while smoking Merits and chugging coffee.

    Literature 
  • Discworld:
    • The Black Ribboner vampires (who've sworn to abstain from drinking human blood) all do this. It's implied that they're biologically required to be addicted to something.
      • 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 Ankh-Morpork chapter of the organization apparently collects bananas and obsessively builds matchstick models.
    • Vimes has replaced alcohol with cigars — and, maybe, police work.
  • In Holes, Mr. Sir is a former cigarette addict, replacing them with the much more benign sunflower seeds. At the end of the book he lapses back into smoking again.
  • 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.note 
  • Sherman Alexie loves to have recovering alcoholics/smokers/drug addicts drink soda for some reason.
  • In The Savannah Reid Mysteries, Dirk starts sucking on cinnamon sticks when he gives up smoking.
  • Played with in the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Traitor General. While behind enemy lines on the Chaos held planet Gereon, flame-trooper Brostin is unable to indulge himself in smoking. To satisfy his oral cravings, he keeps the unlit lho-stick in his mouth, without lighting it.
  • A variant occurs in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Rather than kicking one habit and replacing it with another, Holmes alternates between workaholism and cocaine, depending on whether he has a case to deal with or not. He insists that he's only addicted to mental stimulation, and doesn't need the cocaine when he actually has something to do, but Watson is skeptical of the viability of this coping mechanism. In a later story (The Missing Three-Quarter) he mentions that at some unspecified time, he had to wean Holmes off his drug habit and make him cut it out completely, so it's likely Holmes did develop a more serious addiction to cocaine that required Watson's intervention at some point.
  • In Tropic of Orange, Buzzworm traded smoking for a portable radio which he must have in his ears at all times. He spends a few paragraphs wondering if the batteries are any less expensive than the cigs were.

    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 NewsRadio:
    • 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.
  • Some count The Count of Sesame Street as having replaced his blood lust with obsessive counting - although it is by itself a common vampire weakness in mythology.
  • DS Ronnie Brooks in Law & Order: UK replaces an alcohol addiction with a sugar one and puts on two stonenote  of weight.
  • One My Hero 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, 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 Depower 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 101 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 workaholic.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: In one episode, Stimpy overcomes his addiction to TV... by becoming a gambling addict.
  • 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 The Simpsons Movie, Springfield falls into chaos after the coffee pot at AA gets smashed.
    • In another episode, Krusty starts using nicotine patches to displace his cigarette smoking, but instead ends up addicted to the patches.
  • 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 
  • 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).
  • Nicotine:
    • 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.
    • Liam Neeson started playing with toothpicks as a replacement for smoking, which has almost grown into an obsession according to his fellow cast members.
    • Smokers sometimes switch to chew/snuff. Nicotine gum is intended to mentally disassociate nicotine from smoking, reassociate it with chewing gum, then weaning off onto normal chewing gum. Unsurprisingly, many people just stay addicted to the gum, switch to chew/snuff, or combine smoking with one or more of the above.
      • J. K. Rowling was experiencing stress in the middle of writing Harry Potter while on chewing gum, and ended up smoking again on top of her gum. Thankfully she managed to wean off those addictions later... onto Minesweeper.
      • John Green switched from cigarettes to nicotine gum in his twenties, and was ecstatic that he could get his nicotine fix without worrying about cancer. By the time he decided to quit nicotine altogether, he was chewing the equivalent of four packs of cigarettes a day.
    • 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.
      • Part of it is also that cigarettes are a diet suppressant, leading to a loss in weight. So regardless of any conscious change in eating habits, people quitting smoking can gain weight. The reduction in smoking across much of the developed world has even been speculated as one of many causes of rising obesity rates.
  • Alcohol/drugs:
    • Alice Cooper replaced alcohol with golf.
    • Robert Downey, Jr. became an avid Kung Fu practitioner after kicking drugs and alcohol.
    • George W. Bush successfully dropped drugs and alcohol. Instead, he picked up exercise and religion. Also at a certain point, his wife said, "It's the booze or me." He chose her.
    • 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. His appearance has changed dramatically as a result.
    • After giving up alcohol, cocaine and heroin, Trent Reznor went from rail-thin to ultra buff by replacing his drug habit with weightlifting.
  • One for another:
    • 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.
      • There's a new kind of Monster Energy drink called 'Rehab'. No prizes for guessing the target market for that.
    • 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.
    • The notion of the recovering alcoholic or drug addict who "found religion" - and subsequently became obsessed with their new faith - is incredibly common in both fiction and Real Life. Many cults will go after people who are recovering addicts (or in other difficult spots in life where their critical reasoning skills aren't up to their usual speed) for exactly this reason.
      • The flip side of this is that people who leave religions that shun alcohol and drugs will sometimes get hooked on them because of the bad combination of curiosity about the substances and lack of experience with them (and thus not knowing how to use them in moderation).
    • According to Pattie Boyd's book, Eric Clapton kicked his heroin habit by becoming an alcoholic. It took at least another 10 years for him to kick that addiction.
    • 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.
      • From Annie Hall: "I used to be a heroin addict, now I'm a methadone addict."
    • Craig Ferguson replaced alcohol with cigarettes, and later cigarettes with fancy coffee drinks. He often comments on his Starbucks habit.
    • If you go to enough [substance] Anonymous meetings, you'll find one or more people whose lives revolve around their [whatever] Anon groups, meaning they have actually gotten addicted to addiction support groups.
  • 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.
    • Humorist David Sedaris experienced this firsthand. As a boy, he had many obsessive-compulsive tics. During college, he became a smoker, and smoking eventually came to replace his tics.
  • A common tactic to treat heroin and other opiates addicts is to get them addicted to methadone. Going cold turkey on opiates is horrible and can lead to death. (Amy Winehouse died because she decided to go cold turkey on all of her addictions. The shock from that was enough to kill her since she already was unhealthy from the drugs.) The methadone is given in highly regulated doses that are slowly decreased.
  • Social media, how many people have given up facebook, then moved to tumblr.

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