Cross addiction or multiple addictions are a fact of life inherent within the eating disordered community. Many of us come to the rooms of a 12-step program, treatment facility, or related support group intending to tackle our "primary problem" such as alcoholism, drug dependency, or an eating disorder. However, many of us realize we have other addictions to manage beside the one we think is a "biggest problem.".Putting off the need to tackle the remaining addiction(s) has brought many a recovering person back to his or her primary addiction.

So, here's a copy of an email I received from someone very recently.

"My husband said something tonight that made me realize how sick I really am. We both don't really talk about my bulimia. I still try to hide it but We both know that he knows what I'm doing.

I just had an early miscarriage and I was telling my husband that I read that a woman can have a miscarriage if she has health problems or infections. I said to him, "I'm totally healthy. What could have caused this?" My husband replied, "maybe your *** damn bulimia!" I was literally at a loss for words. I guess my eating disorder has become such a "normal" part of my life that I don't even think of it as a problem/health problem anymore. I'm sure you hear this all the time... I guess I just wanted to share it with someone else. On a happier note, I celebrated two years of sobriety over Christmas. I'm just taking it one day at a time I guess." signed..."L"

Putting off treatment can involve all sorts of mental gymnastics - mostly rationalizing, denial, or minimizing the consequences associated with our addiction(s). Not uncommon is the plight of the alcoholic, perhaps new to recovery and sober for a few months or even years. Here the problem becomes confronting the co-occuring addiction(s) that typically accompany the "primary" one.

We tell ourselves a myriad of things, just like we did before we addressed the alcohol, drug or other primary addiction. "It's enough that I gave up alcohol, now you want me to give up [you fill in the blank]. Better yet, we tell ourselevs [and maybe our sponsors, therapist, or family] "I know I have to stop, but not now."

In particular, I notice woman - not that men are immune - are "not ready" to give up their eating disorder because "I will gain weight" or "I won't be able to eat what I want without gaining weight," or "I can't stop doing this without getting more depressed." For nicotine addicts, the tendency is to harbor the same thoughts about "gaining weight" or "not being ready to quit - at least not right now."

The list of "co-occuring addictions," AKA "things we believe we need to fix how we feel and be able to manage" is almost endless. Some addictions are more subtle and insidious than others. However, having crossed the line and entered the realm of powerlessness, each [addiction] has it's own unique way of creating a crisis or catastrophic consequence that puts our "primary" recovery at risk. To be clear, once our primary addiction is taken off the table, albeit one day at a time, the next addiction we manifest will likely take center stage and patiently wait for a chance to create havoc.

Putting off getting help for the "other addiction" in your life invites a bottom you may not be prepared to experience. You need not wait for a miscarriage, divorce, bankruptcy, lung cancer diagnosis, another dui or worse before waving a white flag. In fact, experience would suggest many of us faced a progression of relapses and ever deeper "bottoms" until we gained a foothold on recovery from addiction in ALL it's forms.

So, "easy does it, but do it."

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Lerner is the founder and executive director of the Milestones in Recovery Eating Disorders Program located in Cooper City, Florida. A graduate of Nova Southeastern University, Dr. Lerner is a licensed and board certified clinical psychologist who has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders since 1980. He has appeared on numerous national television and radio programs that include The NPR Report, 20/20, Discovery Health, and ABC’s Nightline as well authored several publications related to eating disorders in the professional literature, national magazines, and newspapers including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Miami Herald, Orlando and Hollywood Sun Sentinels. An active member of the professional community here in South Florida since finishing his training, Dr. Lerner makes his home in Davie with his wife Michele and daughters Janelle and Danielle and their dog, Reggie.