Cross Addiction: It May Have a New Flavor, But It’s Still the Same Behavior
Running into Trouble
Examples are memorable, so let’s look at a case study. Frank liked to run. He began going with his mom on her morning runs as soon as he was old enough to keep up with her and continued running with the cross country and track teams in high school and college. Frank wasn’t an especially gifted runner, his wasn’t a name anyone engaged in the world of running would recognize, but it was an activity he enjoyed and it kept him in shape. Then, on one early morning late fall run, he slipped on some wet leaves and severely damaged his left knee. He later learned that he had torn two ligaments and that he would have to wear a brace for an extended period of time.
As part of his recovery process, Frank began to take opiate pain killers which helped him heal and mitigated the pain he felt. But, unfortunately, he developed an affinity for the pills which led to an eventual addiction. After about a year of sneaking the pills and finding multiple doctors who would prescribe them, Frank realized his problem when he was reprimanded at work for his tardiness and mental lapses. He sought treatment and was able to “kick” the addiction. Now clean, clear and healed from the injury, Frank began to run again. But this time it was different. Frank had always been in shape because he was active, but for more than a year he had been healing from his extensive injury. Usually not given to eating junk foods, he had given in to unhealthy dietary urges during his recovery and had gained some weight. So, when he decided to run again, he was also bent on getting back in shape. So, Frank ran every day despite the outside conditions or the pain he felt. He ran even when it made his wife angry because he was more distant and would rather run than pay attention to her and the kids. He ran on his lunch breaks at work and repeatedly took an extra half hour which began to infuriate his boss. People remarked, behind his back, how skinny and unhealthy he was looking. Then Frank began taking a mild pain killer for some small aches which led him back to opiates. He reasoned that he could handle it this time and didn’t talk to his wife about it. So What is Addiction? Many words originally coined by someone in the psychological community for a specific use, become misunderstood as they reach the larger communal vocabulary. Thus, to understand the essence of addiction, it is necessary to have a firm definition. According to Webster, addiction is “a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble).” This is a simplistic definition, but it suits the purpose. It means that when an individual harms themselves, others or both with a substance they take or and action they perform, they are addicted to that substance or action. It doesn’t matter what it is. People have been treated for addictions to:
- Many different types of drugs
- Energy Drinks
- Eating Healthy or Dieting
- AA Meetings, and many other substances and activities.
- Have you noticed anything you can’t give up or live without?
- Have you started lying about, or attempted to hide a behavior, even if it seems innocent?
- Do you feel like you ‘cannot do without’ the new substance or activity, leading to feelings of grief, anxiety, frustration, or even anger?
- Are you rationalizing a certain behavior by saying things like “Well, at least I’m not drinking alcohol”?
- Do you exercise despite its effects on your life (injuries, missing work, etc.) or drink pots of coffee even though you haven’t slept well in weeks?
- Remember that recovering from addiction takes constant work. If you stay active in recovery, it will help you stay honest.
- Recognize the signs that it is turning into an addiction.
- Addiction doesn’t go down without a fight. It’s like pulling a weed from the root. If you don’t get the root, it’s going to pop up somewhere again.
- Even without knowing it you might be approaching other things in an addictive manner. Check yourself constantly for the signs.