I’m back to my old books again. This time I went underneath my bed and pulled out a very dusty copy (wth, dust ruffle?) of Under The Influence. If someone doesn’t get me to the library stat, pretty soon I’ll be forced to read my 7th grade diary, which is neither informative nor particularly entertaining.
I bought Under the Influence about a month into sobriety and skimmed it, but nothing really resonated at the time. This time around, I found myself fighting to keep from reading certain bits aloud to anyone who would listen or even the cat (who always listens) because it all felt profound.
This bit on page 17 really got me:
When yeast encounters honey, fruits, berries, cereal, or potatoes, for example, it releases an enzyme which converts the sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol…The yeast then continues to feed on the sugar until it literally dies of acute alcohol intoxication – the very first victim of “drunkenness.”
Oh my god, I am the yeast.
The quotes in “drunkenness” feels apropoos because lately I have been drowning myself in sugar in an attempt to get high or numb down or, hell, I don’t really know. I just do it and it’s gotten out of hand and I have to do something about it or I’m going to gain back the weight I worked hard to lose and feel like crap.
Tell me if any of this sounds familiar.
I try cutting back but pretty soon find myself right back where I was before, and much worse than I was years ago. I can’t seem to help myself and once I get started, it’s hard to stop. I spend too much time thinking about it and feel deep shame and regret at my lack of willpower when I overdo it, which is often. I don’t even know that it makes me feel that good, so I don’t know why I do it.
I am talking about sugar, but I could have been describing my drinking at the end. For the past (almost) year-and-a-half of sobriety, I told myself I wouldn’t worry about all the sugar in my diet because it was better than drinking. I already feel like I’ve shrunken my world by taking alcohol away. Some would argue it’s only gotten bigger and better, but the reality is I’ve imposed limits that sometimes put me at odds with the rest of society. Why would I want to be the weirdo who can’t drink OR eat cupcakes?
Plus there is this: Vices are fun! I’m convinced I have an overactive pleasure center in my brain. I get equally excited over fluffy puppies and bad movies, but fortunately these things don’t seem to be as addictive, probably because they can’t kill me. If I take away my vices, what fun will life be? This was my worst fear before I quit drinking and it turned out to be completely, miraculously unfounded. But are cupcakes and booze even on the same plane?
Part of my fear about giving up sugar is that it feels totally impossible. Do you hate failure? Sure, we all do. Sometimes it feels like alcohol is everywhere, but refined sugar and simple carbohydrates are even harder to avoid. Do I have it in me to read every label and follow a complete overhaul of my diet?
Can I still have an occasional ice cream or cookie or even artificial sweeteners? Some believe that even a little bit of sugar creates all new, all powerful cravings for more. This is why I gave up on moderating alcohol and why I don’t even drink fake beer. Well, also because fake beer tastes terrible, but the same can be said for aspartme.
I don’t know where I’m going with this post because I’m not there yet. Under the Influence theorizes that alcoholics may suffer from hypoglycemia, which is an abnormally low level of sugar in the blood that can cause concentration problems, anxiety and a number of physical symptoms. Even if I don’t have this condition, I recognize that a hypoglycemic diet would be good for me.
A hypoglycemic diet avoids sugar, white flour, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. From what (little) I understand, these things cause our blood sugar to spike and then crash, which makes us want more sugar in order to feel normal. Caffeine would be the hardest thing for me to give up because I so look forward to my morning coffee. Maybe there is life after decaf, but I’m skeptical/scared.
I cut out most refined sugar and white flour from my diet last spring, so even though I didn’t stick with it over time, I could view this as a relapse. I have the chance to pull myself back up and try again because obviously eating whatever I want isn’t working for me either.
If anyone has any experience with cutting sugar intake either altogether or drastically and sticking with it over time, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re also suffering from out-of-control sugar cravings and you’re an ex-drinker, just know you’re far from alone.
I’d also like to make a disclaimer that I personally don’t think people in early sobriety should worry over sugar cravings because early sobriety is hard enough! Baby steps, and all that. But some believe a diet free from sugar helps eliminate cravings for alcohol. An individualized approach is probably best.