Right before the New Year, I quit sugar. For real.
My husband and I had a movie date, and in preparation, I stopped at the store and bought bags of candy – jelly beans, chocolate covered almonds and cashews, caramels, gummy bears – so that we would have a plentiful assortment for a long movie (Wolf of Wall Street – highly recommended!) and not have to pay the outrageous prices charged at the theater. The next day the candy was gone. All of it. Not only had I consumed pounds of sugar, but I couldn’t remember eating it all. Sugar blackout.
I used to drink like that too. Same with drugs. Consume mass quantities, and not even be aware I had done so. But I always knew that I had, because the hangover was horrible, and often the memories were fuzzy at best. Many times there were no memories, just blackness. I quit drugs over 30 years ago. I quit drinking 19 years ago. Never looked back.
Smoking was like that too. I’d get emotionally wrapped up, or distracted, and then next thing I knew, I had smoked a pack of cigarettes. Before noon. I quit cigarettes 22 years ago.
I quit all these things because I became totally powerless over them, and life definitely had become unmanageable. Certainly this was true for drugs and alcohol. As far as cigarettes were concerned, I was spending a fortune (when a pack was $1.25) and had started coughing. I couldn’t control how much I smoked. Nicotine had me by the throat and wasn’t letting go.
Sugar, on the other hand, had always been in my life, and was part of a Euro-American upbringing. One ate lovely sweet things at tea time. Pancakes and maple syrup or delicious muffins at breakfast – desert after dinner – a crystal bowl of candies always within reach – boxes of chocolates to while away a winter weekend. Licorice sticks while watching long movies. Gummy bears for snacks at work. And ice cream…..ah, the ice cream. Gallons of the stuff. It was not a challenge for me to sit down with a half a gallon (or a gallon!) of coffee ice cream (Starbucks, Ben & Jerry, or whatever was on sale) and consume it in no time flat. Or vanilla. Or chocolate. Pistachio. Espresso. Plain and unadulterated, no sprinkles or sauces.
When something terrible happened in my life, I would buy a gallon of ice cream on the way home, scoop at least half into an enormous bowl, crawl into bed, and eat it, spoonful after spoonful. Afterward, curling up in a ball under the covers and trying to make sense of what had happened, or crying (when the dog died), or just going to sleep, waiting for a new day to begin so a new perspective would arise.
(I hate to say this, but my weight never suffered. Either I have a high metabolism, or I worked it all off with the stress – but the amount of sugar I consumed was not directly correlated to the bathroom scale reading each morning.)
In the past year, I began to notice that when I became stressed out, I would stop at the 7-11 after work, and buy giant sized Snickers bars (2 or 3) and eat them on the way home. All three of them, one after the other. Or stop and buy a pound and a half of licorice sticks and ravish the bag so that by the time I pulled up to my driveway, more than half the bag was gone.
One night I stopped off at the local grocery store where they provide a plethora of candy bins of every style and variety by the pound. I bought three pounds of chocolate covered peanut clusters, caramel cashew clusters, and dark chocolate chunks – got back in the car to head home and during the 1 hour drive, consumed all three pounds.
When I pulled in and looked around the car – I realized all three pounds were gone. Gone! I didn’t even remember eating them. Mindlessness from stress; preoccupation with upset from my job; emotionally stuffing myself so that I wouldn’t have to address what I knew was really gnawing at me. It stopped me dead in my tracks.
I realized I was doing with sugar what I had done with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.
So I started to look at my habit with sugar – daily observations of how much I really was eating, what I was eating, how often. That sort of thing. I still consumed the ice cream, chocolate and licorice, but now I was paying attention. Sure enough – it was all tied into my emotions that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, otherwise express.
But after the movie fiasco – I said “enough”. I said to my self: “Self – you can’t keep doing this. Aside from being horribly unhealthy, you are not dealing with the real issues at hand, and you are not being true to the principles of sobriety and spiritual living. Time to quit.”
There aren’t any 12 step meetings for sugar addicts that I know of – although I’m sure they exist. So I just did it one day at a time.
The first day I prepared a Detox Water made of lemons, limes, lemongrass, ginger, and oranges, and drank at least a gallon of the stuff. It actually tasted pretty good, and the second day I consumed a gallon without any hesitation. I drank copious amounts of herbal tea. Lots of seltzer water too. Fruit was acceptable – so clementines, grapes, raspberries, blueberries and apples became a staple for my diet. The detox process took about a week.
But the gnashing and gnawing that was going on with my jaw and my poor teeth was untenable. I was going to end up grinding them to a powder. So I went back to the store and purchased every type and flavor of sugarless gum made on the market. All kinds and sorts. Tropical twist, Watermelon, Lemon Lime, Minty Mint, Very Berry – if it had a fruit flavor, I bought it. Some of it was awful and not purchased again – but some wasn’t too bad. I emptied out the crystal candy bowls that were placed around the house, and filled them with the flavored gum. Gum in the car, gum in the handbag, gum in the bedside table drawer. Lots in the bedside table drawer.
The irony is I hate gum – and I hate seeing people chew gum. But this was serious business, and I was going to get over this hump with whatever weapon I had in my arsenal.
I took it one day at a time. Each day has 24 hours. Eight of those were filled with sleep – if I was lucky. That left a lot of hours to keep busy, do other things, and stay away from any temptations. My dogs were more than happy that I wanted to take extra walks throughout the day. The younger one loved that I wanted to jog. My yoga practice became more serious. As did my meditation practice. Each day I contributed to my overall wellness.
When the emotions arose – as they will – as they do – I took deep breaths. Lots of them. And popped a piece of gum.
So today….today I choose a life without sugar. I have come to believe that my life can be restored to sanity and good health. A power greater than myself is getting me through this each day – despite the advertising and media hype of Valentines Day, Easter and who-knows-what-else is coming at us. Today I feel better in my body, mind and spirit.
Now if I can just deal with the gum issue…………