Trading Your Addiction

Bad news over the phone
Bad news over the phone

Trading Your Addiction

It seems as though whenever you defeat one addiction, another vice, addiction, or bad habit is just around the corner. In recovery, cross addiction refers to trading one addiction for another. In cross addiction, a new addiction takes the place of a previously addictive substance or behavior to produce a similar feeling or high. People with substance use disorders are not only craving the physical substance; they are seeking emotional or psychological release, comfort, or escape. Because of this, addictions are often transferred from one substance or habit to another.

Substituting One Problem for Another

A former heroin addict might start abusing alcohol. Or someone recovering from alcoholism may abuse painkillers. Many cross-addicted individuals will use a substance mimicking their original addiction. A recovering cocaine addict may gravitate toward prescription stimulants used to treat ADHD. Some recovering addicts may develop non-substance addictions to activities like gambling, sex, or shopping.

Attempting to Escape

Consider the following list. Which of these have you used as a way to escape emotional pain because of misuse or over-indulgence?

I am probably most vulnerable to escape emotional pain through:

  • Gambling
  • Alcohol
  • Illegal drugs
  • Pain medications
  • Physical and sexual pleasure
  • Food
  • Compulsive shopping
  • Smoking
  • Television
  • Computer
  • Electronic social networking
  • Game systems
  • Work
  • Compulsive exercise
  • Prescription medications
  • Sleep medications
  • Collecting/hoarding
  • Hobbies
  • Driving
  • Movies and books
  • Pornography
  • Over-committing
  • Sad and melancholy music and media
  • Co-dependency
  • Sleeping
  • Self-injurious behavior
  • Isolation
  • Garage sales
  • Caffeine
  • Telephone
  • Screen time

Partially Done can be Your Undoing

Frequently, people address the physical symptoms of addiction, but neglect the underlying mental and emotional connections. Your recovery is on shaky ground if you deal with the addictive behavior but not the driving force beneath that behavior. This may set people up for addiction substitutions. When you neglect the underlying emotions most people cannot maintain sobriety and either go back to the addiction or the addiction transfers to another object, interest, or vice.

Being Thorough in Your Recovery

Because of this link between emotions and substance abuse, it is absolutely necessary to identify underlying emotions and establish healthy ways to manage and cope with difficult situations as they emerge. As you continue in your recovery, identify positive coping strategies and practice them regularly. And as you do, you will gain the emotional strength to withstand temptations and triggers as they arise.


Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!