Although it’s widely acknowledged in clinical circles, the concept of cross addiction hasn’t been in the public eye for very long. People understand dual diagnosis and co-occurring addiction, but cross addiction and cross dependence are slightly different. If you’re cross addicted, you replace one compulsive behavior with another. This can be hugely frustrating as you can complete a treatment program but quickly relapse one way or the other.
What Is Cross Addiction?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that anyone in recovery is in danger of developing a substitute addiction to another substance after overcoming a SUD. As such, if you’ve been through the recovery process, it’s important that you understand the risks of transferring one addiction to another. For instance, if you’ve been through rehab because of addiction, you must let your doctor know if you require pain control. Narcotic pain relief medications could put you at severe risk of cross addiction. Another example would be to avoid drinking alcohol if you’re in recovery from a benzodiazepine use disorder. The two substances have a similar effect on your central nervous system, so the chances of cross dependence are high.
Difficulty processing emotions and unresolved past trauma can make you even more susceptible to cross addiction. You might have become highly adept at masking specific symptoms, which can prevent doctors from picking up on underlying mental health issues. This isn’t your fault or something to feel guilty about, but you’ll need to work hard to address it.
Addiction transfer is usually present because the individual has such a hard time coping with their feelings that they need to find a new distraction. People who are prone to compulsive behavior are significantly more likely to develop cross addiction.
What Is Cross Dependence?
Cross dependence is a milder version of cross addiction that tends to occur when a person is young or before addiction entirely takes hold. The mind and body become dependent on the feeling you get from substances or behaviors. However, instead of relapsing when faced with triggers or setbacks, you get used to turning elsewhere for comfort.
This pattern often begins during the teenage years when an authority figure catches you out for one behavior and you replace it with another. It’s a challenging pattern to break because it tends to affect people who are intelligent and self-aware. These sorts of people are often the hardest to treat because they’re so good at convincing themselves and their caregivers that they’re fine.
Techniques to Help You Overcome Cross Addiction
When you’re trying to break the cycle of cross addiction, the key is to change your lifestyle so it’s in line with your future goals. Consider what you imagine your future looking like, and think about the type of person you need to be to achieve this. The harder you work at becoming that person, the happier you’ll be and the easier it becomes to resist temptation.
Implement these techniques as part of your strategy to make the lifestyle changes necessary to feel happier. Cross addiction represents a method you’ve found to cope with challenging feelings — but you’re strong enough to find means of self-soothing that serve you.
1. Write a Journal
People get the wrong impression about journals. It doesn’t have to be anything artistic or fancy, just a quick record of your feelings and a note about what happened in the day. Go into more detail if you have a particularly good or bad day, and take note of aspects of your life you’re grateful for.
Over time, you’ll notice patterns when you look back over your writing. For example, you might see that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more prone to anxiety. Another familiar pattern people notice is a strong correlation between neglecting self-care and feeling low.
You’re more likely to use drugs or alcohol or turn to an addictive behavior when you feel low. So understanding what lifts your mood is crucial to breaking the cross addiction cycle.
2. Be Honest — Especially When It’s Hardest
It’s so important that you try to notice when shame or fear gets in the way of telling the truth. It’s natural to want to hide thoughts and feelings that you feel ashamed of, but it’s unhealthy.
The more you can open up and be honest about how you feel, the better your caregivers can help. It’s also true that negative emotions seem much more prominent and scarier when they only exist in your head — it’s better to express yourself.
3. Find Comfort in Movement
One of the most crucial aspects of a healthy lifestyle is movement. You don’t have to take up running or a team sport — although you can if you like. Dancing to your favorite songs on YouTube, yoga classes and martial arts are fun, alternative ways to exercise.
4. Seek an Expert Therapist and Think Long Term
Working through trauma, past experiences and triggers alone is almost impossible. Therapists undergo years of training to learn how to identify certain traits that lead to cross addiction and mental illness. Seeking medical guidance for a year or more is usually the best course of action for someone who is stuck in a cross addiction cycle.
5. Assess Your Diet
When it comes to the body, diet is arguably even more important than exercise. The food we eat affects the balance of our hormones and blood sugar, so eating a low nutrient diet that’s high in processed food makes recovery much harder.
Meat, eggs, fish, cheese, vegetables and whole-grain pasta, rice and bread are delicious. Try switching to a healthy diet for just two weeks and note any differences in how you feel.
6. Be Kind to Yourself
The cycle of cross addiction is usually exacerbated by shame and low self-esteem. Sometimes we tell ourselves negative stories about ourselves without even realizing it. The more we believe these stories, the more inclined to substance abuse we are. Try to make an effort to be as kind about yourself in your thoughts as you would be to the people you love most in the world.
7. Try Meet-Ups With New People
If your old friendship group mainly consisted of people whose friendship with you revolved around getting high or drunk, you might consider finding a new friendship group. There’s no need to feel any guilt for this — the people we surround ourselves with have a massive impact on us.
Use meet-up groups to find people who share similar interests. Whether you’re into drawing, singing, coding or gaming, you can find a group to go on fun days out and take part in activities together.
8. Focus on a Consistent Sleep Routine
For some reason, we pay close attention to children and teenagers getting enough sleep — but many adults are guilty of an inconsistent routine. The body is more sensitive to this than we realize. If you go to bed and wake up at the same time consistently, you’ll notice a significant change in your mental well-being.