Entering treatment for addiction requires a person to completely change the structure and priorities of their life. The way they spend their time, their social circles, and their thought patterns must change in order to support a new, sober lifestyle. Because of the way addiction can take over a person’s life, going through treatment to remove that aspect can leave many people feeling as if there is an emptiness left that needs to be filled. It is not uncommon to find those in treatment for addiction begin gravitating towards other activities to fill the void and find purpose.

Substituting one addiction for another can happen without a person even realizing it. Sometimes, the substitution is equally unhealthy for a person, but in other cases, it may stem from a desire to find healthy alternatives to substance abuse. Finding healthy replacements can ease the recovery process, but even a positive hobby can turn into another damaging addiction. Uncovering your motivation for engaging in specific behaviors can help you determine if you are substituting one addiction for another, or simply exploring new potential interests and activities.

The Most Common Cross Addictions

Almost anything can become a cross addiction, but some activities are more common than others. That is because some cross addictions can cause the same chemical reaction in the brain that substances do. They are able to create a euphoric high much like what was achieved with drugs or alcohol. While in recovery, finding a new addiction that can produce these same feelings can alleviate discomfort, but creates new, impulsive habits that can be equally destructive.

  1. Food: Food is one of the most common cross addictions that develops. That is because food is cheap, easy to acquire, and legal. Food is not a substance people often think twice about, but it can activate the same areas of the brain that drugs or alcohol do. This can lead to food addiction, the development of eating disorders, and cravings to try and fill a void left by loss of substance abuse.
  2. Gambling: Gambling can seem like an innocent, fun way to pass the time, but it can turn into a compulsive, addictive behavior. Like during other behavioral addictions, the anticipation gambling creates can create emotional excitement that a person yearns for. Placing bets, scratching tickets, spending time in casinos, and online gambling can all create a high that a person continuously chases. While it is possible to gamble without creating a problem, once it begins to cause financial issues and strains relationships, the behavior begins to cause damage to a person’s life much like substance addiction.
  3. Relationships/Sex: It is not uncommon to find that a person may try to replace substances with relationships or sex. Rather than focusing inward to try and make changes, some may choose to look to others to try and fill any emptiness they feel. Relationships come with their own set of problems and can cause a person to not prioritize their recovery. They can become a form of escape that can enable negative behaviors.
  4. Shopping: Shopping can be a fun stress reliever, but it can also become problematic. Following all of the sales, buying things you do not need or cannot afford, and continuing to shop regardless of financial strain can indicate a problem is developing. Compulsive shopping can become addictive because it is attempting to use objects to achieve happiness.
  5. Work: Throwing yourself into your work is a common way to try and pass the time, but it can become problematic. Sometimes, a person may bury themselves in work in an attempt to make up for lost time, prove themselves to others, or improve feelings of self-worth. You can neglect relationships, your health, and other areas of life by hyper-focusing on work.
  6. Other drugs or substances: The compulsion to use can be difficult to overcome and sometimes, a person may simply replace one substance with another. In some cases, they may trade one illicit substance for another, but in other situations, they may choose a legal substance. Vaping, smoking cigarettes, caffeine, and other substances may be used in an attempt to fill the loss of the other substances used.

Preventing Cross Addictions

It is not uncommon for those in recovery to try and find something to fill the hole addiction leaves, but it can lead to financial stress, emotional problems, and other issues. Finding new interests and hobbies is an important part of the recovery process, but it is critical to make sure there is a healthy balance established as well. Once these interests become excessive and compulsive, it may be time to take a step back and assess why that is happening.

In order to create balance and ensure your hobbies do not become addictions, it is important to make sure you do not allow them to dictate your time. Neglecting your other responsibilities and relationships in favor of your hobbies can create a problem. Rather than allowing it to run your life, creating a schedule and relying on friends or family for feedback can help you stay organized, maintain control, and feel good about what you do.

If you are unable to find that balance on your own, it may be worthwhile to reach out for professional help. Experiencing a need to fill a void following addiction recovery is normal, but it does not make it easy to cope with. Talking to a therapist or counselor can help you uncover underlying reasons you may be struggling to feel fulfilled and can work with you to create a plan moving forward. Recovery does not happen overnight and dealing with difficult feelings and situations takes time. Allowing yourself the space to explore these topics and find healthy ways to cope can minimize the risk of cross addiction development and instead, help you find better balance in your everyday life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.


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