Ever heard of the term cross addiction? It’s not a fun one to think about, but in some way or another we’ve all probably experienced something similar.
Someone wants to stop overdrinking—overeating follows.
Another may stop overeating—online shopping picks up.
Someone wants to stop viewing pornography and switches to video games because it’s more socially acceptable.
Sometimes, addictive behavior kicks in when a person doesn’t have the tools to feel negative emotions. The emotion feels impossible to handle. Buffering it away with something numbing can give temporary relief.
Years ago I cut out sweets and guess what it was replaced with? Online shopping. I was emotionally eating to feel better. When I cut sweets out of my life I simply replaced the action with online shopping. I don’t consider this behavior of mine an addiction, but the idea helps me to have compassion for others.
With pornography, this is where sobriety vs. recovery comes in. Switching from pornography to video games may help with sobriety, but what about recovery?
When you cut something addictive out of your life that and don’t have the tools to figure out why you were consuming it in the first place, a cross-addiction, though less harmful, may ensue. This isn’t the worst thing in the world because the individual is reducing harmful behavior. However, that person is still numbing and escaping. Harm reduction is good, but in some cases people justify doing harmful things because they’re “less harmful.”
I used to refer to my husband’s gaming as a secondary addiction. Then I learned about the term cross-addiction. It was so validating!
Now this information isn’t something to shove into someone’s face when they’re gaming or netflixing or whatever it is they do. I no longer have the energy to worry about other people and what they should be doing (who I have no control over). All of these things we do (eating, netflixing, gaming, online shopping, viewing social media, etc.) aren’t bad.
In a podcast I listen to (The betrayed, the addicted, the expert) one of the hosts mentioned the idea of renewal vs. numbing. Gaming with friends after a long day of work may be just what someone needs for renewal. Sometimes watching an episode of Frasier, West Wing, or Parks and Rec is just what I need to give my brain a break.
There is balance in everything and I know where that line is for me—not other people.