Cross addiction is a term we hear often. But what does it mean? When we move away from self-destructive habits, we learn about our behaviors. In addition, we start to uncover the conditions that led to our alcohol and substance use. This is often called peeling away the “layers of the onion” in sobriety. Furthermore, it is about learning what makes us tick. In addition, we learn about the habits that cause self-destructive behaviors. What’s more, we learn the various ways we act out. When we get sober, we may quit using alcohol but start using nicotine. This is an example of cross addiction.
What is Cross Addiction?
Cross addiction is also called addiction transfer or Addiction Interaction Disorder. This occurs when we have two or more addictive behaviors. The addictions can include alcohol, drugs, gaming, sex, food, or other compulsive behaviors. Getting sober from alcohol and drugs can be challenging and arduous.
“After my first year of sobriety, not doing drugs or drinking started to come naturally. As it turns out, that was actually one of the easiest parts of my journey. But, if you want to know why I got sober, see my article, Four Lies I Told Myself About My Alcohol Abuse.”—Rachael Messaros, Director of Admissions & Marketing at Redpoint Center
Navigating sobriety comes with learning about ourselves. Once the substances are out of the system and we have a fair amount of recovery time, something profound begins to happen. The underlying issues become readily apparent. You know, the things that led you to alcohol and drug abuse in the first place? When they are no longer suppressed by alcohol or numbed by drugs, they start begging you to pay attention to them. These things, such as childhood trauma, depression, or anxiety, are important and need to be addressed.
Cross addiction, a pattern of replacing one addictive behavior with another, complicates your journey to sobriety and wellness. For some recovering addicts, sugar is the next addiction to take them for a ride after they have ‘solved’ their problem with drugs and alcohol. For others, perhaps an eating disorder develops. Still, others may turn to sex to fill the void. The phenomenon of cross-addiction is all too common.
“Cross addiction played a part in my journey. There is some good news here, though: getting sober from drugs and alcohol forces me to learn new techniques for living a better life. I discovered the importance of asking for help, serving others, cultivating a supportive and healthy social circle, attending 12-step meetings, and most importantly, maintaining a spiritual connection with a power greater than myself. These are the exact same strategies you can use to recover from new addictions that may develop over time.”—Rachael Messaros
At times, we get complacent. We may notice that addictive behaviors creep back into our lives when we are not maintaining healthy habits. In addition, we can become overly comfortable and confident. The truth is, sobriety requires constant attention to spiritual fitness. When we no longer think about drugs and alcohol every day, we may slip into thinking we don’t need to do much to maintain sobriety. But this assumption is incorrect and dangerous. We need to always keep in mind that anything worth having takes work. It isn’t easy, but just like staying in physical shape can lower a person’s risk of illness, staying in good spiritual condition reduces our susceptibility to cross addiction. Putting in this work also helps all of us appreciate the blessings and beauty of life. And it’s an incredible gift to be sober. Gratitude keeps us humble.