How to Confront Cross-Addictions

It can feel like the sun is finally starting to shine when your partner leaves a destructive habit behind. In my case, I was dealing with a meth addict that had a very hard time quitting. Although it may have not been the case, at the time I felt as though I was in as much turmoil as he was, and also desperate for answers and a new way of living in terms of his sobriety.
When my ex suggested we go to the casino across town for a date, I thought nothing of it. In fact, I was more than happy to leave the house. I had begun to feel a bit under the weather because of all the relapses and meth detoxes he was going through that kept us trapped in our apartment complex.

So we sat in his car and took the long drive over to the nearest casino. In Washington, there are three casinos within an hour driving distance from Seattle, all which you can imagine, attract the most broken of the broken in the area.

I hated the way my life was once we entered this “casino phase”, but we had no other answers. Despite me trying to help him in more conventional ways, like therapy and meetings, nothing was working. At some point I think I had just surrendered to his addicted personality and figured we had tried everything else and there was nothing left to do except enjoy the few good moments we had between each other.

So almost every night, even if it was a night on a weekday, my ex and I would sit in his car before we left the apartment complex around midnight, discussing the pros and cons of which casino to visit.

“This one has these machines, but that one has a café,” he’d reason. I’d reluctantly engage in this needlessly tedious conversation, however superficial and hollow it felt. I tried suggesting we stay in and watch a movie instead, but nothing was ever good enough. We couldn’t just stay home and enjoy each other’s company. He was always running from something, and because I was dating him, I found myself running with him too.

The mood on the drive to the casino was always different. Some nights, he liked to play his music loud, drowning out any chance of a possible conversation between us. Other times, he was at ease and able to open up very easily, with the anticipation of casino games just around the corner.
Other times, he was tight-lipped and bothered, impatient for his release.

Upon entering whatever neon-filled casino we arrived to on those weeknights around 1am, we were instantly hit with a heavy cloud of stale cigarette smoke and found ourselves playing musical chairs around the different casino games until the morning.
I hated when we’d go on different machines and then I’d have to look for my then-boyfriend, alone in the casino, with the leery eyes of different crackheads on me at four in the morning. Although I was twenty-four, I already felt like part of this community of the living dead. As I say in my book, “there were the regulars and the newcomers, but they all looked the same if you were standing on the outside.”

I don’t think I was familiar with the phrase “cross-addiction” at the time, which is basically when an addict temporarily halts one addiction in favor of another. It gives us sober people the impression that they’re recovering when they’re really not.
If I had known this is what the gambling thing was, my ex trading in meth for another adrenaline rush, I may have done things differently. As I mention in other posts, hindsight is 20/20. So here’s what YOU can do if you find yourself in a similar predicament:

1. Bring your suspicions of your partner’s cross-addiction to their attention. As human beings, we can all benefit from being called on our shit. Sometimes we do destructive or self-destructive things that we don’t see the ramifications of because we’ve become desensitized to the ways in which we cope. With addicts, being “called on their shit” could go one of two ways. They’re highly likely to deny the severity of what they’re doing, deflecting all accountability to maintain their “high”, but at least they will know that you are onto them and that other people are aware of what they are doing. This can help them STOP or it may prompt them to try and be more secretive/protective of their cross-addiction. If they do the latter, proceed to the following tip.

2. Get them professional help. One addiction is hard enough to heal from… Juggling more than one addiction signifies a highly addictive personality and serious inability to cope with reality. This is something bigger than you that requires professional help.

3. Don’t be fooled into the idea that one addiction is less damaging than the other. At first, I begrudgingly went to the casinos with my ex because I thought it was better than him doing meth, at least in terms of physical bodily damage. But all addictions are destructive and an addict trying to recover shouldn’t be given a pass on a “less harmful one” if they are serious about their recovery. They are just avoiding and/or postponing the hard inner work it takes to heal.

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