Wheel of Addiction

As a hardcore reader, I have read so many addiction memoirs. Next to fiction, memoir is my favorite genre. Doesn’t matter if the memoirist is addicted or not, but so many of them are, and these are the stories of how they got better, got the monkey off their backs. I love happy endings.

While reading this addiction memoir by Erica Barnett, I realized that more than a happy ending, I want to know the HOW of hardcore users just up and quitting. It’s fascinating to me. Barnett makes it clear that it’s not so easy, and easier to quit than to quit relapsing. She’s been in a slew of rehab facilities, and usually, the day she got out, she stopped at the liquor store on her way home.

Something clicked while I read of her relapse after relapse. That’s what happens to me with sugar. I know that if I go three days with no sugar my cravings will disappear. I also know that if I have one donut or one scoop of ice cream, or even one bite of a candy bar, my need for sugar comes roaring back with a vengeance. And it takes me a week or two of eating all the sugar I can buy before I shame myself into going through three days of constant craving to get free from sugar. Again.

My A1c continues to be in the “pre-diabetes” zone, and that’s because my body no longer tolerates wheat or dairy. So I keep my body semi-okay because wheat is nothing but sugar and, before I knew that, I had wheat with every meal. Cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner. It was easier for me to give these staples up because I got really sick when I ate them. I don’t get sick when I eat sugar, at least I don’t feel sick.

Inside, sugar is not doing my body any good, and I had that hamster wheel of staying clean, falling off the wagon, and going through rehab again. Just like an alcoholic, but a sugar addict. Sugar doesn’t make you slur your words, black out, ruin relationships, or leave you without a job, like alcohol does, but when I read Barnett’s story, I identified with that constant round of wanting, craving, and finally giving in.

It seems stupid, really stupid, for me to be on this wheel. I’m 65. If I don’t want to spend my old age sick and miserable, I need to take better care of myself. And I wish people wrote memoirs about their sugar addiction like they do their alcohol addiction. I already have “I Quit Sugar” but as far as I know, that’s the only book out there on beating sugar addiction.

Also, it’s much harder now with Al home. He loves sweets, but he is not even close to diabetic. He gets mad when I eat his cookies, because he can keep them in the pantry for a month and I eat them in a day or two. Same with ice cream. He likes donuts, too. I feel ashamed of myself and his attitude is not helping matters. Although…he told me to ask my doctor about seeing a dietician. Really, that’s what I should do.

Sweetsville

Last week when I stepped on the scale, I was thrilled. I’d lost two pounds after a couple of weeks of plateau. It was due, I knew, to my decision to stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol isn’t banned from plant-based whole food diets. But it has calories, lots of them, empty ones that add no nutrition. So with weight loss as my #1 goal to reverse the diabetes train, dropping wine (and the occasional martini) from my life seemed obvious.

I went without alcohol and stuck firmly to the PBWF diet and I lost weight. Then I started to eat a little bit outside the PBWF box. I didn’t drink any wine, but consoled myself with cake. Just a little square. Which led to more sugar. Because I hadn’t really wanted the cake, what I really had been craving was a chocolate chip cookie. Once the cookies were in my shopping cart, I knew I’d eat more than one.

Now it is Friday and I have done my weekly weigh in. The two pounds I lost last week are back. Even though most of the time I have been faithfully eating my vegetables and fruit, my potatoes and rice, my oatmeal and almond milk … most of the time isn’t enough.

Sure as the sun shines, eating sugar leads to eating more sugar. There is nothing like the high of losing weight unless it’s having a little something sweet to reward myself. I have done this over and over again for thirty years now. Why? Because not eating sugar is hard. And I say sugar but there is a very long list of what I am no longer eating: no meat, poultry, fish, bread, oil, no dairy or processed foods.

I looked it up. About 1% of the US population is vegan. That’s about a million people. I couldn’t find any numbers for PBWF vegans. But really how much lower can you go than 1% ??? So, even the numbers say this is hard. I’m sticking with it, though, because I want to have a healthy rest of my life. After a brief detour into sweetsville, I am back on the PBWF path.

It’s not a coincidence that taking away wine made me crave sugar. It’s replacing one treat with another. Some people who quit drinking alcohol will drink endless cups of coffee laced with sugar and cream. Others smoke two packs of cigarettes a day. That’s a trope of AA meetings, the addicts with their coffee and cigarettes. Cigarettes would solve my problem with sugar. I never had a problem with sugar until I quit smoking. Quitting smoking is harder than quitting sugar. I tried to quit at least ten times before I finally did it thirty years ago.

I am worried right now that my week of eating sugar is going to show at the doctor’s office. My next visit is in ten days. That’s when I do the fasting blood work. Meanwhile, I will not be eating any more sugar. Once you get off of it, with PBWF you don’t even want it. In that way, it’s so much easier to kick than cigarettes.

 

Motivated

A few weeks ago, I got some unfortunate news from my doctor. I have pre-diabetes. This is not the first time I have had sugar problems, and in the past, knowing the problem, I’d cut sugar out of my diet and the issue would solve itself. So of course, I vowed this time to cut out all treats that were made with sugar, while still allowing myself a little dark chocolate with high cocoa content, because I don’t binge on it and it’s healthy.

Shortly after making that promise to myself, I went out to lunch with a friend and ate the two free warm chocolate chip cookies that came with our meal. I didn’t eat them so much as inhale them. My friend Donna had one cookie, ate it slowly, and took the other home. So sensible. So not me.

I’ve been trying to beat my sugar addiction forever. Well, since I stopped smoking in 1987 and food started tasting good. Before 1987 I could care less about candy, cake, bread, chips. Eating was an annoying necessity. I was all about the nicotine. Pack a day for 15 years, except for the two times I was pregnant and the 10-20 times I tried to quit. But finally to my utter amazement I was able to quit nicotine. Harder to get off than heroin! So how come I can’t quit sugar?

I really don’t know the answer. I just know that I can’t quit trying to quit. I’m hoping Judy Smith, who has a chapter on indulging in her book “Good Self, Bad Self” will give me clues. She does have a method, it’s a little complicated, you really have to read the book, but I’m trying to put it into action. Today I figured out that I can actually work The Plan (a healthy lifestyle eating habit my friend Lisa came up with to successfully lose 30 lbs.) and exercise.  Instead of saying “well I’m shopping later so that’s exercise” I got on my treadmill and then hit the yoga mat.

And I’m still going shopping:) Will I be able to give up sugar with the same ease that I have incorporated exercise into my life? It seems so stupid to keep eating cakes and candies and cookies when I am headed on a fast train to giving myself shots of insulin. But I’m not stupid, just a sugar junkie.

I was able to add exercise because it makes me feel so better afterward. Yoga is a must for my back. I hurt if I don’t do some yoga every day. And walking helps cheer me up. I’ve been depressed, I admit it. I hate admitting that. But what I noticed when I started walking was that I am not depressed after 30 minutes on a treadmill. A little exercise gets me through a 24 hour day in a much better mood. Amazing!

Giving up sugar doesn’t have that same gratification. Sugar tastes good. It’s an instant hit of wonderful. I don’t feel a sugar crash like some people do. There is nothing tangible to keep me from indulging. Well, except my health, and I value it as much as my mood. Except when I am confronted with a delicious something full of sugar and slip into sweet denial.

I am motivated to quit sugar. Now I just need to get some practice with “no thanks” under my belt. I need a few successes. The next three days’ social events will all be sugar-rich opportunities. If I say no three times, I’ll have those successes to lean on during the coming holiday sugar rush. Wish me luck. And determination.