Recovery Matters

Cross Addiction: Oh, the life of an addict

So, your recovery is going great. You are attending regular meetings, doing step work and seeing your sponsor. Life is good. Slowly, life may become somewhat unmanageable again – and seemingly out of nowhere. You have put in the work – why has it gotten to this chaotic point? Ask yourself this: Have you traded one addiction for another? Many alcoholics begin to self-medicate while others become obsessed with gaming, sex or food. Yup, we have the mind of an addict and the addict mind is incredibly devious. It is about watching your behaviour, calling yourself out on your obsessions and moving forward.

In my recovery I found myself becoming addicted to work. My job began at 8, I would get into the office at 7. My job ended at 5, I would leave the office at 6. I had to prove to myself and to my boss that I am a hard worker, committed to excellence. It got so bad that my boss would send me home at times, telling me I was overworked and exhausted on the job. This upset me, work was my safe place. After speaking about this in a meeting I realised that I based my entire life around work – I hated weekends!

In all honesty I am still a bit obsessed with my job. If I do anything wrong I become paranoid and self-obsessed. ‘I have to fix this!’ My mind replays an imagined drama in my head over and over again. ‘I have to fix this mistake now!’ ‘They are going to fire me.’ ‘I am an idiot.’ ‘I am worthless…’ The self-hate goes on and on and on. My life becomes unmanageable, I become obsessed with my job, triple checking all my work. Re doing my work if there is a single spelling error. Beating myself up over a ‘look’ I got from my boss. I ignore my relationship at home, go to bed early and rise at 4:00 am. I become depressed and self-indulgent. I may as well be using again.

And so is the nature of addiction…

Why is cross addiction so dangerous?

I can joke about my cross addiction, I can be grateful I am not back on my drug of choice. AT least this addiction is furthering my career, right?
It’s simple to minimize the seriousness of cross addiction. Your different addiction can seem harmless, especially when you’ve traded an illegal substance like heroin for an activity like gambling or gaming. The harsh reality is that anything that is having a negative effect (physically, emotionally, and financially) – on your life or the lives of your loved ones is monumentally dangerous and needs to be treated.

Gamblers can bet away their entire life savings or lose their home. A work addict (much like myself) can completely ignore other people and relationships in their lives and focus on work and work alone – blinded by the holes in their relationships.

Needless to say, the consequences can be severe.

Cross addiction is known to make it difficult to fight your cravings for your original substance. All too often it puts you back into an environment that invites relapse – think chaos, drama and emotional instability.

For example, if you’re a recovering crack addict and develop a cross addiction to sex, you could easily find yourself in a dangerous and illegal setting, surrounded by others who are smoking and partying. Such an environment would make it very difficult to resist the temptation to have a drink and hit that pipe.

Is there treatment for cross addiction?

If you’ve developed a cross addiction, it is important that you continue treatment for your original addiction and yes, treatment for the new activity or substance.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is proven to be effective in this regard. An experienced therapist helps you in identifying your feelings, thoughts and obsessions. Once you recognise these devious though and emotional patterns, you find strategies for dealing with them in a healthy way.

Other treatment for cross addiction includes support network or support group – you can ever start this with other addicts suffering with a similar or the same cross addiction.
Recovery is a lifelong commitment and lifelong process. Essentially it is a lifestyle. It is possible that you may face cross addiction at one point or another. All you need to do is be AWARE, take your daily inventory and share in meetings. Friends in recovery may pick up a pattern and approach you about your addiction – or, if you are honest with yourself, you can call yourself out.

Live a healthy lives fellow addicts. It works if you work it…

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