Cross Addiction: A DRUG, IS A DRUG, IS A DRUG By Dr. Donna Marks, LMHC., CAP
It never ceases to amaze me when someone who has gone through the hard work, time, and money to get sober, and then suddenly thinks that it is okay to cross over to another mood-altering substance (cross addiction). I wonder what folks are thinking when they have so little regard for their sobriety that they convince themselves that it is okay to smoke pot, drink, take a little snort, or consume pills when they have sustained a period of abstinence from all of these substances. I often hear comments such as; “I know I can’t do cocaine, but I’ve never had a problem with alcohol,” or, “I clearly see that I can not drink, but I’m not addicted to pot” I commonly hear, “My doctor said I have to take (all 60 rather than a few days worth) these pain pills or else I might get addicted to them,” ‘Huh?’ And my favorite, “My therapist told me it was okay to smoke pot as long as I don’t drink.” I would tell your therapist that if they are going to counsel addicts, they need to either get their addictions license or, personally to seek an evaluation for substance abuse.
A drug is a drug, is a drug. The brain does not discern one drug from another; they are all substances that produce the same results—escape. The user either wants to avoid anxiety, emotional discomfort, or some type of pain. “I’m not okay just the way that I am,” is the underlying malaise. But you are okay just the way that you are, and as soon as you start telling yourself this, self-deception with not serve you any longer. So what if it takes a little extra time to get acquainted with a new person, grieve, or find your way through the
challenges of life. When you embrace your feelings just the way they are, you have discovered the secret to success.
Let’s take a deeper look at this. The brain that has been conditioned to use mood- altering substances to escape emotional pain, or simply enjoys getting high is never, ever, ever going to be a safe place for drugs (in any amount or form). It doesn’t matter if the drug is gas, liquid, or solid, it is all the same. Any person who has been addicted can never safely use drugs (alcohol, cocaine, pot, prescription, legal or illegal narcotics).* The brain doesn’t sit back and analyze; “Gee, I might want to stay away from something that might remind me of when I use to get high.” The addicted mind shrewdly sits back and waits to seize upon the opportunity to get the freebie. The freebie turns into the prison cell—maybe quickly, maybe slowly. It is just a matter of time before the slippery slope becomes too hard to ascend and the user is trapped in the prison of addiction.
The second problem with this fallacy of conditional sobriety is that recovery is about three important things; 1) Surrender, 2) Maturity, 3) Spirituality.
Surrendering means throwing up the white flag, giving up, finding freedom. If we continue to use mood-altering substances, we are not surrendering to anything; we are still running the show. If it did not work before, how will anything be different now? Why would anyone return to the insanity of thinking they can control something when they have already spent years trapped in that delusion? If we do not surrender and completely let go of using all substances, we will never get the freedom from the bondage of the addictive mind. Self-will never produces the results that surrendering will. If we are still allowing
self-will to run our lives, we are only diluting ourselves that we have a better way than the tools that genuine recovery offers.
Maturity only comes through learning how to cope with life in healthy ways. In recovery, we are told that we remain at whatever age we start drinking and/or drugging. Using substances to feel better blocks us from learning better ways to cope. Self- medication interferes with learning and growing and keeps us stuck at that age of onset. If we use substances, we remain like infants who will not give up their bottle. Successful careers, relationships, and marriages are the result of having developed coping skills and the ability to use the creative mind to problem solve.
Spirituality is a natural state of being. Addiction is a substitute for a true spiritual connection. A person who is spiritually connected is quite different than someone who is high. The superficial effect of drugs may seem authentic, but in truth, it is not much different than watching a movie—it is not real. Putting toxins in your brain will never advance you on the board of life.
A person who is clean and sober, who gathers the tools they need for a satisfying life, will wake up in the morning feeling happy and excited. They will know that they have a mission here on the planet, and they will be excited to fulfill that purpose. They will go through the day being productive and feeling good about themselves. Opportunities will find this person, and they will recognize those gifts that are brought to them. The person who is troubled will not reach for a drug—but rather—will reach deep within their mind for the inner guidance and to sober friends, both who, when asked are ever ready to provide direction and guidance. The more they visit the inner soul, the better life becomes.
If you are one of those people whose addictive mind has told you that you can continue to use a “different” mood altering substance, you have sadly sold out on yourself. I challenge you to see all drugs with the face of a joker trying to take you down the merry lane to Crazyville. Why take the chance that your addiction is ever-ready to snatch your sobriety and take an eraser to a beautiful future that awaits you? It does not matter where you have been or what you have done, all of that can now work to your benefit. You need only to be willing to embrace a life free of unmanageability, loss of loved ones, missed opportunities, physical consequences, and a brain that has been hijacked by mood-altering substances. Give up your drugs and keep your power so that your life can bloom into the success that you are here to be. You are worth the effort, money, and time, so why not reap the benefits?
* In the cast of a personal injury, surgery, etc., short-term pain medication can be administered by someone who is an advocate for your sobriety.