Cross-addiction is a term used to describe the compulsion of an addict or recovering addict to replace one addiction with another. For example, someone who is addicted to alcohol may become cross-addicted to gambling. Cross addiction is not a clinical diagnosis but rather a way to understand patterns of addiction in individuals and among groups of users. There are many people who struggle with “cross-addiction” on the road to recovery from drug or alcohol addictions.
The good news is that there are support groups, sober living homes, and other resources designed specifically for those dealing with cross-addiction issues. In this article, we’ll explore what cross addiction is, its potential triggers and how sobriety homes may provide some assistance for those struggling with these issues.
What is Cross Addiction?
When someone replaces one addiction with another, it is called cross-addiction. For instance, a person who is dependent on alcohol may switch to smoking cigarettes, or an individual who is dependent on prescription drugs may start using illegal drugs. Frequently, when people try to quit one addiction, they replace it with another. And sometimes, people have more than one addiction at a time. Cross-addiction isn’t a medical term, but it’s a word used to describe the switch from one substance to another among people who are addicted. It’s widely agreed that switching from one substance to another isn’t a sign of failure. Rather, it’s a common occurrence among people who are trying to recover from addiction.
Theories Behind Cross Addiction
There are many theories as to why people struggle with cross-addiction. Some of these theories include:
- The need to feel the rush of a high – After the initial “high” of sobriety, many people feel less emotional, more “in their heads” and less impulsive. Without the rush of being “high”, some individuals feel like they are just going through the motions of everyday life without feeling much of anything. In this sense, the need to feel a high is a normal part of being human – we all seek out some sort of rush in our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, some people attempt to get that rush from their drug of choice, which can lead to cross-addiction.
- Environmental factors – While none of us can truly know what an individual’s childhood was like, we can look at the general trends. For example, someone who grows up in a very low-income household or in a family with a history of substance abuse is statistically more likely to struggle with cross-addiction than someone who grows up in a two-parent household with a high income.
- The fact that addiction is a chronic condition – Addiction is understood to be a chronic brain disease. This means that it is, in essence, a disability that can be managed with treatment. The severity and length of the disease varies from person to person and while many people manage to completely “kick the habit”, it is a lifelong struggle. Because of this, people who suffer from addiction may try to replace one substance with another, or they may even try to replace one addiction with another.
How to Recognize Cross-addiction
People who struggle with cross-addiction can sometimes be unaware of their need to find another addiction. It is therefore important for friends and loved ones to look for signs of cross-addiction and be willing to speak up about them. Signs of cross-addiction can include:
- Using substances that are different from what the person had been using before – In the example above, someone who was previously addicted to alcohol might switch to smoking cigarettes.
- Using substances that are similar to what the person was addicted to before – That same person might switch to chewing tobacco, which is similar to smoking and is therefore often used by people who were previously addicted to smoking.
- Using for different reasons than the person was using before – The individual might switch to using a prescription painkiller to combat anxiety or to calm nerves. This is different from the reasons they might have been using heroin while addicted to opioids.
- Finding that sobriety isn’t as satisfying as it once was – When people manage to break their addictions, they often feel like they have “won” and are proud of their sobriety. But as time goes on, they may feel like being sober is more of a chore than a celebration. This is a common occurrence among people who have been struggling with addiction and can lead to a desire to switch to something else.
Strategies for Managing Cross-addiction
Cross addiction is a term used to describe the secondary addictions that often result from abstinence from primary addictive substances. For example, if you are an individual who has struggled with alcohol or drug addiction, your road to recovery may include sobriety. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never again be exposed to addictive substances. Instead, it simply means that you will work diligently to avoid exposure to these dangerous chemicals and habits while in recovery.
As a result, many individuals struggling with cross addiction find themselves needing sober livings services as part of their ongoing recovery. Staff members at sober living homes help residents by encouraging them to make use of all resources and tools at their disposal. Some suggestions for managing cross-addiction include:
- Reach out for support – It is important to be open and honest with people who are close to you about your cravings and struggles. Having someone close to you who knows what you’re going through can make a huge difference. Whether you choose to attend a support group, talk with a therapist, or confide in a close friend, being open about your struggles can help you feel empowered to overcome them.
- Consider therapy – Having an objective and trained third party to help you get a new perspective on your problems can be incredibly helpful. Whether you choose to see a psychologist or a therapist, or speak with a life coach, sometimes having a new person to help you through your struggles can be the push you need. Cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT, shows particular promise as a treatment for addiction.
- Seek out healthy distractions – Sometimes the best strategy for dealing with cravings and triggers is to find healthy distractions. If you find yourself constantly thinking about smoking or chewing tobacco, try attending a sporting event, reading a book, or doing something else to take your mind off your cravings.
- Take care of your mental and physical health – Addiction is a disease that impacts both your mental and physical health. It is important to regularly see a therapist and work with a psychiatrist to make sure that you’re managing your medications properly and staying healthy.
How Design for Recovery’s Sober Living Homes Can Help
Sober living homes are residential recovery programs that are designed to help people break their addictions and stay sober. They are often used by people who are in the early stages of recovery, particularly after they have graduated from an intensive outpatient treatment program or while they are attending an outpatient rehab program.
Some people make use of sober livings without attending a formal treatment program at all, but regardless of how you treat your addiction, they can provide a supportive and healthy environment for you to break your addiction. If you are interested in quitting drugs and alcohol for good without replacing them with new addictions, reach out to Sober Living West today!