Cross Addiction – Healthy or Unhealthy?

exercisingBefore we begin here, let me just say that I’m, speaking here about cross-addiction in recovery – folks that are no longer in active addiction.


I know, I know, there’s a crowd at the back already shouting “how could cross-addiction *ever* be healthy????????”


I need to explain this.


From my own experience in an alcohol addiction treatment centre, an alcohol abuse prevention charity, in and around meetings, and others in recovery, for the last several years, most of us struggle in the first while.




Because we’re being asked to suddenly accept, come to terms with, and be at peace with, an emotional tidelwave of events, trauma, health, relationship, and financial issues, that have been suppressed for the last……well, let’s just say, a very long time.


Without sounding too cliche, we don’t choose addiction from choice.


We choose addiction from need – i.e. a place of pain.



We were in it because we were in pain, and didn’t know how to get out. No-one told you how.


During our life leading up to active addiction, we likely tried all sorts of ways of coping with stress, like exercise, food, or spending money, sometimes to an obsessive degree.


So we became good at the elements of life that kept us afloat, at that time.


And when we leave treatment, and enter the real world again, the old issues of trauma, and mental health, still surface, but this time without the accompanying obsessive behaviors that we used to exhibit, to help us cope.


This is why cross-addiction is so common. Our mind needs ways to cope, needs to know of ways to cope, so that everything in life is not perceived as a threat.


So, an addiction to something else, *appears* to fill the gap between the stress that our old mental health issues is causing to surface; and our ability to cope with that stress.


Can you see how it becomes much more likely, that without **a lot** of support, and of the right kind, that relapse becomes much more likely?


So, when can cross-addiction actually be useful?

When you know and understand fully what the addiction did for you in the first place, and the “cross-addiction” doesn’t fulfill that.

Let’s consider this.


To be able to “use” cross-addiction in a positive way, we first must have an extremely thorough grounding what the addiction did for us, and why.

How it contributed to trigger situations, high emotions, and negative consequences.

And, the positive intention that that behavior was trying to achieve.


For example, some learn that “the way to feel important, is to drink alcohol” – so the secondary gain is feelings of power.

We can only begin to replicate that gain in the real world, post-treatment, by coming up with creative ways to enhance our mental sense of self-esteem, and *perceived* power, in more healthy ways.


Exercise, is one of the more common ones. Diet, support groups, self-support like writing, or artistic forms of expression, can also help us to release old powerlessness, and regain a sense of control, in a healthy way.


Becoming addicted to any of the above, post-treatment, wouldn’t be considered the end of the world.


Can you see that by first understanding the nuances of the purpose the addiction served in our lives, we can then replace it with something more useful, that achieves the same end goal?


Now we’re getting there 🙂