Cross addiction

Do you ever have that feeling that you just want something NOW. That  you can’t wait till you have saved up to buy the shoes, or you can’t chose between a skirt or a jumper so you just buy them both; have you ever avoided looking at your bank balance or credit card statements because you know you are overspending, but don’t really want to get the blast of reality that will make you feel guilty, or like you should actually cancel that weekend away you planned?

This is my other problem. Overspending.

I have always found it hard to budget. As a child, my brother would save, and I would spend – thinking only about today, and no cushion for things I might need as opposed to want tomorrow. When I first lived away from home at University (we had grants in those days) I remember looking at my grant cheque and thinking I had LOADS of money – and so I went and spent about half of it on clothes.Of course by the end of term I was overdrawn …

I’m still doing it now. I always always make sure the bills are paid, no mortgage arrears or scary defaulting for me, but I have NO savings, and pretty scary piles of personal debt. This is despite earning a good salary (I have always worked FT)… Every now and then I try to ‘take charge’ of my financial situation: draw up elaborate plans, budget carefully, work out how I will clear the debts, transfer money around and set up spreadsheets to monitor my spending. It lasts a couple of months and then, just as things start to look a little less scary, I find things I WANT  need, and off I go again on a spending spree. This is why all the money I have saved not drinking, probably about £1,200 by now, has been spent several times over.

I definitely get a buzz from spending. It doesn’t matter if its a new football kit for one of my sons, an original painting for the wall, or something personal for me. I enjoy ‘things’ but more I enjoy having what I want. Self denial is not something I am very good at.

I used to think this was a reaction to having grown up in a house where money was tight. Really tight. We lived in an affluent area and all the other families had a great deal more money than we did. I saw what it could buy – holidays, ponies and relief from the stress of wondering how to pay for the car repairs… I genuinely think this stimulated both my brother and I to strive to do well, and get established in secure well remunerated professions.

It’s more than that now. I don’t NEED anything material, we have enough. But I still get that buzz out of spending and seen quite unable to resist – unable to defer gratification. or just do without. Save the money – and pay down my debt, build up some savings for a rainy day, plan for retirement …I know all this – but I don’t act on it

I’ve read a bit about cross addiction, the theory that if you have one addiction, you are more likely to develop another; i.e one addiction came first and a by product of trying to control that is that you develop a different problem. and also the alternative concept of ‘dual diagnosis’ i.e just because you are alcohol dependent does not mean you cannot also be a gambling addict – in other words you have two separate primary problems.

Which ever way you choose to think of it, I quite like the biochemical ‘explanation’ for this which goes something like this:  Whenever you engage in something pleasurable, whether it’s drinking alcohol or spending money , your brain releases the “feel good” chemical dopamine. When you have an addiction, your brain begins to need that feeling. That need is what triggers cravings that drive you back to the substance or activity that made you feel so good. When you’re in recovery – even though the original substance is no longer in your body – your brain continues to desire that feeling. In other words, it wants a new drug or activity to give you that “high”. So whilst I’m not getting my dopamine ‘high’ from drinking, my brain craves it and so I spend (too much).

Need to think about this one some more  …


  1. I totally agree as I’m a bit of a shopaholic too. In the “Recovery Elevator podcast” I listened to last night, the guy said “you have to make sure you replace alcohol with something else when you decide to quit”. And when asked what it was for him, he replied “spirituality and love”. Of course, we already know that external rewards (alcohol or buying stuff) will never really fill in the void, therefore we should focus on internal lasting contentment/ happiness which comes from within. Easier said than done! But I find that yoga helps me attain that kind of inner peace. Namaste

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  2. Yep me too! Not drinking helps enormously with controlling it and I have found ways round it – so using the library rather than Amazon and putting things on my wish list and then coming back in a week or month and seeing if I still want it then (which invariably I don’t!). You can also do the virtual shop thing where you put lots in your online shopping basket and then cancel it rather than heading to the checkout. All the pleasure of the shop and none of the regret of the purchase 😉


  3. Yes, totally relate…. Only too well. Have you read Craig Nakken’s book The Addictive Personality? It helped me understand my behaviour a lot. Addictions are all related, we are looking for that instant gratification, feel good buzz that alcohol, overspending, overeating all provide…. Temporarily!

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  4. Yup. Totally get this. That obsession – that buzz – that need for instant gratification. Impulsive. I am starting to feel/realise I can get addicted to everything so my only chance it to get to the root of it all!

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  5. Hi Lily!
    I used to be an over-spender, and a workaholic.
    Big time workaholic. In fact when I had summer break I did more work, writing lesson plans, and so on.
    I let go of all of my hobbies, and to deal with it all, I drank.
    My spending I got under control, and now have learned to deal with a budget.
    Impulsive. I keep learning how to be a grown up now that I am not drinking!


  6. I know exactly what you mean. It doesn’t matter to me what I’m buying. I can get excited just from buying my daughters a new pair of socks. I have found my spending has got worse since I have been sober. I feel as if I deserve treats and having saved so much money by it drinking, to hell with austerity!

    I am finding it can be helpful to wait a while when I’ve bought something before I wear/use it so that I can let the buzz subside and decide whether I really want/need the item. I can then take things back. It is a bit of a hassle but it is working for me. Tori xx

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