People who suffer from an addiction to drugs or alcohol may be addicted to more than just the substance itself. Substance abusers usually have addictive personalities and this can lead to them becoming addicted to activities surrounding their drug use or replacing their primary addiction with another.
Any other addiction that accompanies or replaces their primary addiction is known as a secondary addiction. It is important for people in recovery to determine if they have any secondary addictions because these can slow down their progress or in more serious cases lead to relapse back into the primary addiction.
Those in recovery must make an effort to rid their lives of addictive behaviors so that they can be free from compulsive and unhealthy patterns. Treating a primary and secondary addiction simultaneously is the most effective way to make a complete recovery.
Types of Secondary Addictions
Secondary addictions are often co-occurring conditions that result from the primary addiction. When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol they may engage in certain behaviors while they are intoxicated. They may be addicted to behaviors like sex, eating, gambling, shopping, smoking or anything that is associated with their drug abuse.
Addictions to sex or eating can be a result of underlying emotional or physical issues like childhood abuse. While many secondary addictions co-occur with someone’s primary addictions, they may also replace someone’s former addiction to drugs as they go through recovery. Alcoholics can sometimes become addicted to eating sweet foods to replace the lessened intake of sugar from alcohol.
Having an addictive personality can also lead to a person needing to replace their drug or alcohol addiction with something else. People with especially addictive personalities may even develop multiple secondary addictions that can be difficult to deal with in recovery. Secondary addictions can often contribute to primary addictions and vice versa. In order to be rehabilitated, addicts must be treated for their primary and secondary addictions at the same time.
Treating Secondary Addictions in Recovery
While in recovery, it can be helpful for addicts to be educated about the relationship between primary and secondary addictions so that they can determine which of their behaviors, if any, represent another addiction. Many treatment centers are equipped to handle multiple addictions and can help patients treat their secondary addictions while they remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol.
Individual and group counseling can be beneficial for people dealing with secondary addictions because they can gain insight into why their addiction developed and how to avoid it in the future. Support groups also give people a chance to talk about their primary and secondary addictions and how they cope with each problem.
In a twelve step or other type of support group, an addict can receive guidance and advice from peers and mentors that have been through similar co-occurring or replacement addictions.
People in recovery at times can develop addictive behaviors and personalities as a response to unresolved stress and trauma. In a treatment center, an addict can use their time spent in therapy to talk about and heal from these issues.
Some of their feelings about past events or traumas can be resolved and this can go a long way toward reducing their addictive behaviors. It is important for an addict in recovery to address their secondary addiction and resolve it through therapy.
When other addictions are not resolved it can cause problems and put them at a high risk for relapse. A healthy recovery means addressing each addictive pattern and moving away from this type of behavior rather than always replacing one addiction with another.