Image by Tiia Monto
The Real Danger of Replacing One Addiction with Another
Breaking free of an addiction is huge achievement. Alcohol or drug abuse has a toxic effect on your relationships, reputation, career prospect, finances, as well as your physical and mental health, so eliminating this handicap is almost certain to lead to a major improvement in your life.
You may have noticed I used the words ‘almost certain’ above when describing the positive impact of escaping addiction. Surely, by taking such a positive step, a better future is guaranteed, isn’t it? Why the doubt?
The reason I use the words ‘almost certain’ is even after we put a lot of effort into overcoming one addiction, we can make the mistake of almost immediately replacing it with another one – in order words, we switch from a primary addiction to a secondary addiction.
The Difference Between a Primary and Secondary Addiction?
Those of us who fall into addiction will have a drug of choice such as alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, prescription medication, or cannabis. It will usually be problems related to the use of this particular substance that drives us to initially seek help. We may assume that if only we could stop using this particular drug, our lives will get better, but it may not be so simple.
A secondary addiction can be described as ‘co-morbid’ or a ‘cross addiction’. To say that it is ‘co-morbid’ means that it is a problem for us at the same time as our primary addiction (e.g. you could be addicted to alcohol and gambling). A ‘cross addiction’ occurs when we replace one addiction with another (e.g. you give up heroin, but you begin drinking alcohol heavily).
A secondary addiction doesn’t need to involve a mind-altering chemical. It can also come in the shape of a ‘process addiction’ (behavioural addiction) such as:
• Sex addiction
• Shopping addiction
• Internet addiction
• Porn addiction
• Eating disorders – e.g. comfort eating, binge eating, or obsessive fasting
• Video game addiction
• Gambling addiction
• Relationship addiction
• Work addiction
• Exercise addiction
• Caffeine addiction
Can You Really Have an Addictive Personality?
The term ‘addictive personality’ is sometimes used to describe the habit of some of us to move from one type of addiction to another. There may be aspects of our genetics and personality that makes us prone to cross addiction, but perhaps more significantly, there is usually some type of underlying issue driving us to engage in maladaptive behaviors -it is the goal of rehab to examine these issues and provide effective tools so we can avoid making this mistake.
Don’t Allow Co-Addictions to Sabotage Your Recovery
It would be a real shame if you made a huge effort to escape one addiction only to replace it with another one. This doesn’t need to happen. You can avoid this mistake by being aware of the risk and taking precautions against it and by creating a better life. These secondary addictions arise because of a need to escape, but if we have effective tools for dealing with life, this desire to escape will be much less of an issue.
The goal of our program at Hope is to prepare you for a better future. With our help, you will have the tools you need to avoid common mistakes like replacing one addiction with another. Contact us now to find out more.