What is a cross addiction? When an individual begins recovery from one addictive behavior, but may not be fully addressing the underlying issues causing the need to engage in the destructive behavior, they can tend to shift to another addictive behavior to replace it. For example in women drug and alcohol abuse and eating disorders tend to be cross addictions for one another. Whether the substance abuse or eating disorder came first, women tend to seek recovery for one, and end up struggling with the other in its place. Or for men substance abuse and gambling or betting become easy addictions to cross addict with. Some people may think that giving up substance abuse, but picking up an eating disorder or gambling addiction is ok, because the ladder of the two is less “dangerous” or immediately life threatening, so it’s ok. The problem is that the brain is still engaging in addictive behavior, and therefore not undergoing any real healing process, and their are always dangerous repercussions with any addictive behavior over time.
First, we feel emotions all the time whether we want to or not. If we accept the idea that we are driven by our core needs and the quest for safe and loving relationships, then we cannot live without or try to negate our emotions. Individuals suffering from addictive behaviors tend to avoid emotions, and would rather engaging in whatever addictive behavior they can to avoid feeling, sometimes the good as well as the bad. Emotions and emotional interactions are a natural and vital aspect of our existence, one that can’t be avoided by deflection or denial. Left suppressed and unexpressed, emotions simply find other ways to make themselves known. Eating Disorders like substance abuse disorders are adaptive. They are, in good part, attempts to find a way to cope, compensate, sooth and adjust to internal and external demands and stressors. So consider that negative emotions need an outlet. Cutting, abusing drugs, cyclic bingeing & purging, or starving yourself are all outlets. These forms of emotional expression may seem radical and, indeed, the outlets any of us use for feelings that otherwise have no voice vary greatly. A person may feel anxious or depressed, get sick, or engage in behavioral responses like drinking, gambling, shopping, or overworking. A person may develop an eating disorder. These are all methods we may resort to when the free expression of emotion is prohibited, denied, avoided or inaccessible.
Recovery is designed to help people address these emotions in a healthy manner, and learn that deflecting from emotion is never going to be a long term solution in life. However, if someone is not engaging in recovery as suggested, and not getting the healing they should be, cross addictions become much more likely. Often times engaging in cross addictions are not something you or someone in your life will recognize right away. Often times the cross addiction will go unnoticed until it too has become a problem, and led you or someone you love down an unmanageable road again. So how can cross addiction be best avoided? Staying mindful of thoughts and new behaviors, being continually active in your recovery whatever that looks like on an individual level, and being open about new and possibly compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Being aware of your own thoughts and behaviors, as well as being willing to talk about them outside of your own head is always a good place to start. Talking and working with your sponsor, or whomever your support is will help keep you accountable and less likely to cross addict.