War on drugs: Just Stop.

“I understand addiction now. I never did before, you know. How could a man (or a woman) do something so self-destructive, knowing that they’re hurting not only themselves, but the people they love? It seemed that it would be so incredibly easy for them to just not take that next drink. Just stop. It’s so simple, really. But as so often happens with me, my arrogance kept me from seeing the truth of the matter. I see it now though.
Marie SextonStrawberries for Dessert

Cocaine. Heroin. Meth. Bath salts. LSD. Alcohol. Sugar. All of these things are different and all of these things are the same. For so long I thought of addiction only in terms of illegal “hard” drugs; crackheads and methfaces were the definition of addiction. Then I added alcohol to this as I got older and realised alcoholism could be just as bad as heroin addiction. I have always prided myself on not having an addiction; no cigarettes, no weed, no alcohol, no drugs, nothing. I mean I don’t even drink coffee. It was not until very recently that I seriously included sugar in this.

For a while I definitely viewed addiction as a choice- why would you do drugs when you know they will ruin your life? Just stop drinking dammit! In recent years I have become more sympathetic to addiction, strangely due to watching My 600lb life. Still my sympathy was from a high horse- I, a non addict, feel sorry for these poor sad addicts. It turns out that I am not that much different from these poor addicts.

In December 2020 I was out with my friend and her friends; I don’t remember what we were talking about (probably drugs) but the question came up about whether I had an addictive/obsessive personality. Without any hesitation, my friend replied that I did and that took me by surprise. I wish I had asked her to provide more details on why she thought so, but she was right. When I like something I am obsessed with it for a little while until I tire of it. I have had a Haribo obsession, a flapjack obsession (which really did a number on my teeth and jaw) to name a few. This also goes for my crushes; I want to know everything and I spend days consuming all publicly available content about the crush, only to move on and never think of them again. This is also why when I have junk food around I can never just eat a bit and save the rest for later, I keep going until it is all gone.

All of this is to say; sugar is a drug and I am a poor addict.

My personal physician- WebMD– agrees with me. Here’s a quote from their page:

Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you often eat a lot of sugar, you’re reinforcing that reward, which can make it tough to break the habit.

Why do you get a rush when you eat a midday candy bar? The sugar in it — called a simple carbohydrate — is quickly turned into glucose in your bloodstream. Your blood sugar levels spike. Simple carbs are also found in fruits, veggies, and dairy products. But these have fiber and protein that slow the process. Syrup, soda, candy, and table sugar don’t.

Yesterday I went for a walk, as part of my pseudo exercise routine, and as I have mentioned all my walks involve me walking to a supermarket. Supermarkets are my kryptonite-especially the larger ones- as they have everything. I get in a fair number of steps walking up and down the aisles like a crackhead looking for her next fix. Entering a supermarket must be like entering a crackhouse for a an addict of the crack persuasion; must be like a marijuana fiend paying Snoop Dogg a visit. Everything jumps out to me; the big bowl of popcorn, the vanilla custard doughnuts, the gummy bears, the apple pie, steak pastry, the shortbread biscuits, ginger biscuits, the cookie dough ice cream, the chocolate chip muffins, the madeira loaf, the cinnamon rolls, flapjacks, brownies, toffee sweets, lollipops, even crisps which I usually don’t like become so alluring to me. I want it all! My body yearns for this and i try my hardest to fight the battle. I walk through the aisles slowly, picking up these lusty seductresses and staring at them as I will myself to put them back. On my last trip I even picked up a beef brisket that was on sale- why? what did I want to do with it? All I know is that I was craving everything. I almost pulled out my phone to do a quick google search for a beef brisket recipe. The people who review the security cameras must be bemused/confused to see this terribly dressed woman with horrendous posture walking briskly and aimlessly through the store, touching everything (my hands are sanitised!) and putting everything back.

In the olden days it never occurred to me to be mindful of sugar, let alone check the sugar content of the crap I was consuming. Yes we all know too much sugar is not good for you, I’ve heard this since I was a child. However I thought I was being good as I didn’t actually add sugar to anything. I never bought sugar and didn’t add it to my cereal so surely that means I’m sugar free? {This is why I was so shocked when the dentist told me I had a cavity and needed a filling. Me? I don’t eat sugar and I brush twice a day unfailingly. How could the gods be so cruel?”} Ha! It was horrifying to find out that one chocolate chip muffin has 26g of sugar, when in those days I would wolf down a pack of four in one inhale, and then start on the custard doughnuts while saving the hazelnut chocolate for the end. I would easily have been eating almost 200g of sugar daily. Crikey! It was not until my body starting revolting against my diet, via weight gain, crazy skin breakouts, and dental issues, that I was forced to take stock of my life. Without these physical reactions it would have never occurred to me to reduce my sugar intake. Nowadays I make a half hearted attempt of checking the health content at the back; 67g/100g of sugar? Oh no. Well this one is only 48g so that must be better.

The only thing that saved me during my last trip to the store was some good ol’ self introspection. I said to myself: You have been through this a thousand times. You give in to the temptation and when you do consume all of the junk it does not bring you joy. You’ll feel bloated and uncomfortable, your skin will break out like crazy, and you will say never again. Your brain is craving these things because it knows that they taste good but you don’t have to give in. The temptation is in this store and if you buy all these things the temptation will be in your room and that will be impossible to resist. How many times have you given in to the temptation, lying to yourself that you won’t eat them all at once; Iying to yourself that you’ll make sure the haul lasts the week knowing damn well that all of the food will be gone by evening. The craving is in this shop. You will not think of that lemon slice once you leave this store. Resist. Resist. Resist.

Folks, this is why I can never try crack.

In the words of Oscar Wilde, I can resist everything except temptation. I am proud of myself in that I managed to walk away with just two toffee sweets. I ate the first one through my mask on the way home and it was absolutely delicious. As a child with no self control, I immediately started on the second one when I got home and it didn’t taste as good as the first. Lesson learned.

Addiction is hard and difficult to dislodge, even harder when there is nothing to counterbalance it. In my case I think my addiction is definitely exacerbated by my loneliness. When I’m with friends and family, I find that I don’t crave sugar as much, and I am actually judgmental when people (ahem my little sister) can’t seem to stop eating sugar. This is the same with my phone addiction-when I’m with my friends I wonder how they can bare to look at their phone so much. Get off your phone and let’s chat. But when I’m alone in my room my eyes are permanently glued to a screen resulting in restlessness, lack of adequate sleep and general unhappiness.

My heart goes out to all the addicts out there. It is easy to say just stop doing what you’re doing, just say no. If I am finding it difficult to say no to sweets, I can only imagine how much tougher it is for someone on heroin. The first step is realising and admitting you have a problem. The third step is actually making changes. I’m progressing away from the second step- which is shrugging and saying oh well life is short and I am alone, I might as well indulge.

May God make it easy for us.