It is said in the recovery community that it’s not enough to just stop using. It’s important to fill the voids that are left in your life when you enter recovery–because if you don’t fill them, they may attract negative habits. These habits may develop into new addictions.
What Is a Cross Addiction?
Cross addiction, sometimes also called addiction transfer or Addiction Interaction Disorder, is when a person transitions from one addiction to another. It’s not the same as having multiple addictions simultaneously, but rather the result of one addiction replacing the first. It may not happen immediately after the first addiction ends; it may not happen until many years later.
For example, it is not uncommon for people who’ve had bariatric surgery to develop cross addictions after they are no longer physically able to indulge in overeating. The compulsive behavior patterns that drive overeating or indulging in alcohol or drugs do not disappear when someone enters recovery. Psychology Today describes cross addiction as a form of relapse–not to the original substance or behavior but to something new. Common cross addictions include:
Why Do Cross Addictions Occur?
A cross addiction can be triggered by environmental stresses: a lost job, the death of a family member, or a similar trauma.
In addition, cross addiction can occur when the underlying causes of the original addiction (anxiety, depression, trauma, mental illness, etc.) have not been addressed.
The person in recovery might be very mindful not to relapse into their prior addiction, but they may rationalize utilizing a new compulsive behavior to try to make themselves feel better. Not addressing the causes for the compulsive behaviors allows the addictions to morph and grow instead of being recognized and treated.
If someone you love is starting to develop a cross addiction, you may see some signs that things are going wrong. If you see troubling changes in behavior, such as engaging compulsively in one of the activities above, or showing other signs of relapse, it may be time to have a conversation with your loved one about what you are seeing and to encourage them to go back to therapy, recovery groups, or treatment.
Breaking Cross Addictions
In order to stop transferring addictive behaviors from one outlet to another, consider following the five steps outlined below:
1) Admit what you are doing. Until you admit you have a problem, you cannot get better. Once you’ve admitted the problem to yourself, find someone who can help you and admit the problem to them, too.
2) Find a better outlet. The actual problem isn’t substituting one behavior for another. The problem is swapping two unhealthy behaviors for each other. If you find a healthy behavior to do instead, and it feels good to you, you’ll be able to stop partaking in the unhealthy choice.
3) Don’t spend time in the place where you were making poor choices. If your cross addiction is overeating junk food, stay out of those aisles in the grocery store so you don’t have unhealthy options at home. If you are gambling on the computer, stay offline.
4) Learn coping skills. Use the same tools you used to recover from your substance use disorder to recover from your cross addiction: mindfulness, therapy, support groups, exercise, nutrition, volunteering, etc. Have more than one go-to choice for when temptation strikes.
5) Practice. You know from experience with your first addiction that recovery will not feel natural at first. That’s okay. Keep making the healthy choice and trust that it will gradually become a habit.
We Are Ready to Help
At Valley Recovery Center, we always take a whole-person, individualized approach to recovery planning. One benefit of this strategy is the ability to use a wide range of strategies to reduce the risk of a person forming a cross addiction.