Cross addiction is when an individual replaces one addiction with another. This is typical occurrence in drug and alcohol treatment. When an addict first gets sober, they need to find new ways to pass time. The goal is to accrue more time sober to restore one’s physical and mental health. The best way to amass sober time is to stimulate oneself without the use of drugs and alcohol. This can be through exercise, eating, social interaction, reading, watching movies, playing games, etc. Although the substance can be removed, the individuals addicted thinking pattern remains intact. Addicts tend to feel empty inside, like something is missing in their life. They chase anything to fill the empty void. Drugs used to fill the void, but now that one has made the choice to get sober, there is a high probability that they will find a new obsession to fill the void. That is the cross addiction. From a harm reduction standpoint, it is still an improvement, especially in the early stages of recovery, but balance is the long-term goal.
How to prevent cross addictions?
- Find multiple activities that stimulate you, not just one. You are less likely to overdo a single activity if you have multiple ways to keep yourself occupied. Anything in excess can be harmful, even exercise. Overexercise can lead to injury, fatigue, mood swings, and depression. If you are the type of person who hates working out, don’t worry, you are probably not overexercising.
- Make a schedule with different activities throughout your day and follow the schedule. If you scheduled 3 hours to watch Netflix at night, don’t binge watch for 8 hours, sleep in, cancel going to the gym in the morning, and then start binge watching more Netflix. This goes for work too. If you are employed and you find that you are overworking, set a cut off time in your day when you stop working and engage in a different activity. Yes, you can get addicted to your job. Once again, better to be addicted to your job than to drugs and alcohol, but that can take its toll over time as well.
- Avoid as many harmful cross addictions as possible. Examples include overeating, sex, and gambling. These cross additions are harmful to your recovery. Many individuals will binge on sugar during the early stages of their recovery. Although not terrible in the 1st 30 days of sobriety, it will catch up with you quickly.
- Force yourself to try new things, especially if you notice resistance. Remember, part of addicted thinking is its influence in poor decision making. It tells us that we want things that are bad for us. Sometimes we must push ourselves to try healthy activities that we don’t want to do. You may be surprised to learn that you enjoy it.