After going to rehab, you found that life was going really well. Finally, everything was lining up; you were going to meetings and you were regularly seeing a therapist. However, life started to get a little more difficult as time went on. Maybe you lost a family member or work became more stressful. You felt the urge to relieve your emotions and stress somehow, but instead of going for the drug you went to rehab for, you chose alcohol. Going out for a drink here and there lead to multiple drinks a night. Before you knew it, you found yourself struggling to cope without it and developed a cross-addiction.
What is Cross Addiction?
In order to avoid cross addiction, you need to understand what it is. Simply, cross-addiction is when you have traded one addiction for another. Since addiction is often defined as chronic and a relapsing disorder, it is no wonder why many people struggle with cross-addiction. Cross-addiction can entail any drug. A person recovering from alcohol may turn to prescription drugs, or someone addicted to heroin may start binge drinking. Most of the time people will choose a substance that is similar to their original addiction.
Cross-addiction does not just have to be a new addiction to drugs. It could be an addiction to over-the-counter drugs and can even be activities such as gambling, excessive shopping, or sex. While cross-addiction is not rare, it normally affects those who are newly sober, but not everyone will develop another addiction. It is also possible that someone who had been sober for years will suddenly develop an addiction to a different substance.
Why Do Cross Addictions Develop?
Your brain releases the “feel good” chemical dopamine whenever you engage in something pleasurable. When you have an addiction, your brain needs that feeling. That need is what triggers cravings that make you want to take the substance or do the activity that made you feel so good. During recovery, the drug is no longer in your body, but your brain can still crave and desire that feeling.
How to Avoid Cross Addiction
There are warning signs you should be aware of so that you can avoid cross-addiction or get help if needed. The warning signs include:
- Attempting to quit the activity or substance multiple times without success.
- Abandoning hobbies or other things you used to enjoy, such as reading, exercising, etc.
- Lying to your family, friends or co-workers about any activities related to your use.
- Ignoring responsibilities, such as work, family or school so you can use.
- Becoming irritable, anxious, or moody when you do not have access to the substance or activity.
- Committing illegal acts, such as theft or fraud, so you can use or do the activity.
In addition to warning signs, it is important to tell all of your doctors, or anyone who is treating you, that you are an addict in recovery. This way, if you need a prescription drug that could be potentially addicting, your doctor can find an alternative that is not potentially addictive. They may also recommend other treatments, such as meditation or relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety or pain. Whenever you undergo a medical procedure or treatment that requires potentially addictive medication, consult with your doctor to figure out a strategy that will reduce your risk of developing a cross-addiction.
Having knowledge and understanding of what cross-addiction is, why it develops and knowing the warning signs will all help you to avoid developing a cross-addiction and continue living a sober life.