In 9 days I will be 9 years sober. I could just wait until then to post, but I like the symmetry and also know myself and that I may lose heart and decide not to post at all.
I don’t remember June 21, 2011 too well anymore. I remember more about it than any other June 21 before or since. It was an unremarkable day except that I decided not to drink and managed not to, even though it was physically and mentally very hard.
It wasn’t all luck. It was work to commit every single day, some harder than others, not to drink anymore. Fear was an excellent motivator. Early on I heard that it doesn’t get any easier to quit the second or seventeenth time around. After losing and regaining the same 15 pounds for the last few years, I know that is true.
Doing something for nine years seems almost as natural as breathing. And yet I literally haven’t been able to break another bad habit for nine consecutive years. There is something about the simplicity of knowing I will not drink today that makes it the easiest hard thing I’ve ever done.
It definitely gets easier to maintain over the years. Temptation and self-pity around not drinking don’t beckon monthly or even quarterly like they used to. I did have one moment a few months back. We were about a month into quarantine and I’d spent an emotionally draining day with my grandmother. When I got home, I said to my husband you know, she makes me wish I still drank. It didn’t feel good to say. I felt like a petulant, pathetic kid who says you’re not my friend anymore to her best friend in the world. But after I said it out loud, I knew I didn’t mean it. These periodic urges to drink are a good thing because they bring me back.
So in nine days I will wake up and may not immediately remember the significance of the day because I am absent minded and it has become almost as natural as breathing. With a little luck I’ll be back in a year to celebrate a decade.
52,608 little hours. 3,156,480 minutes. 189,388,800 seconds. Did I spend them all well? Certainly not. But I spent them all sober, and that has made all the difference.
I never thought I’d get to 6 years sober and think boy, that went fast. A good part of me wasn’t convinced I’d get to 6 years at all. I’d heard the cautionary tales of relapse and how vigilant one needed to remain at all times and that made it seem harder than I was capable of. A future without summer beers or celebratory cocktails wasn’t one I could easily imagine, nor did I want to. But I stuck to each day which turned into months and then somehow six years. Time is funny how it slips past and takes care of everything, including us.
Somewhere between years 3 and 5, I noticed a shift from feeling like I’d made a real sacrifice in giving up alcohol, which invokes all sorts of fearful, complicated responses in sobers and drinkers alike, and realizing I never needed it in the first place.
Alcohol was a filter I used to mindlessly slip on when I wanted to feel more of something or less or occasionally nothing at all. I rarely wanted to feel what I was already feeling, which now strikes me as odd and sad. Once I removed the filter and kept it off awhile, I saw everything more clearly. It was a blessing and curse because the view was raw and sharp, not unlike getting glasses for the first time and taking a good long look in the mirror. Every imperfection was there for examination. Sunsets and kittens were equally clear, so it wasn’t all bad, not at all.
The other thing about removing the filter was I got to feel again which, as you know, is a mixed bag. Sometimes I love my family so much I’m sure my heart will explode into confetti. Sometimes I care about people or issues I am in no way obligated to care about, which is both reassuring and baffling.
Anxiety doesn’t go away. I wish I could say it did, but I’m 99% sure that’s why I took so well to drinking in the first place. Why would it leave when I’ve fed it my whole life? These days I notice it and think “I feel anxious” or else lonely or bored or weary. I put a name to it and realize it often has nothing to do with current circumstances but triggered by an old memory or not eating or sleeping well or mysterious moon cycles. I don’t own a mood any more than I own the weather. This too shall pass, they say, and goddamn it they’re right.
I can still go out to dinner and make small talk at a party and have sex and fall asleep without a drink, which surprised me at first. I can go on vacation and get through a stressful day or the holidays. I can handle being happy or excited or bored or worried or angry or sad. None of these things make me think of a drink anymore. (But oh, they used to.) Sober is mostly easy and second nature and sometimes fantastic and finally okay when it’s not.
There are still a number of ways to numb out, and I’m intimately aware of most. A cupcake may not be a keg, but I can’t really seem to be able to handle myself around either. This disappoints me. I figured by 5 years sober I would have shown my sweet tooth to the door with a chuck to the chin. Same with the perpetual two-minute smartphone circuit, which my dexterous fingertips train hard for even though it never awards much. This year I’ve experimented with letting things go and I can tell you it feels different than the fifteen dozen times I’ve done it before.
Sober isn’t a cure all but I think it’s better than that. We are not meant to numb our spirit to the point of dysfunction, and there is deep and meaningful reward once we stop doing this to ourselves. We get to feel alive again, which is something drinking used to do before it stopped working. This time it’s real.
The other day, I got an email from a reader named Andy who asked if I would share his personal story of recovery. I found it compelling and empowering and think you will too.
As I close in on five years sober later this month, the last part of his story rings especially true. I initially stopped drinking for myself because I couldn’t stand the hangovers and personal pain anymore. Now I see pretty clearly how much better my life is without alcohol, but it’s truly exciting to feel the ripple effect of sobriety. It extends well beyond myself. Anyway, he explains it much better so please read and leave a comment for him, if you please.
From Addict/Alcoholic to Workaholic to Entrepreneur, A Guest Post by Andy
“There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”- Zig Ziglar
I would have to say that this quote by Zig Ziglar is pretty accurate, but he forgot to mention that the stairs are not straight and they do not always go up. The stairway to recovery success is a topsy-turvy one that has no actual end. It just sort of straightens up and levels out a little. Regardless, you are always going to be taking it a step at a time. In this post I’m going to take you through my personal sobriety journey.
I was only four years old when my parents decided to move from Colombia to California in 1986. I had a really good childhood and my parents worked hard to always provide for me and my siblings.
If you have Latino friends or family, you know how we party, let alone Colombians. Alcohol is a MUST at a Colombian party. The alcoholic drink of choice by most Colombians is an anise-flavored drink called Aguardiente. Not that all Latinos are drunks, it’s just simply something they enjoy once in a while, when there’s a good excuse to celebrate.
I remember the first time I got drunk. I was nine years old and it was at a family friend’s house party. The adults were all passing around a bottle of Aguardiente and taking shots. I was curious and asked if I could have a shot. Of course I was stopped cold in my tracks and scolded. After a few hours when the adults were tipsy enough to be distracted by the loud music and conversation amongst themselves, I stole a sip from a bottle. I hated it, but it was like a game to have a sip without being caught, so I had another one, then another.
All of my fears and insecurities magically disappeared. I felt confident and capable of anything. I danced salsa with my sister and cousins all night long. I wasn’t shy anymore. That’s how I learned that alcohol made me feel better and more confident, therefore I drank whenever I got the chance.
A few years later, at the age of 15, I was introduced to marijuana. I was a little afraid at the beginning, but all of the cool older kids were doing it, so I had to give it a shot. I fell in love and never looked back. At 19, I was introduced to meth at a party and so began the downward spiral. At 23 I was incarcerated in Idaho on drug related charges for two years.
What happened? Why did I jump over the juiciest parts of my story? Well, I’m not here to recount war stories. You and I both know where that may lead. Reminiscing doesn’t interest me at all and for many it can be a trigger. So let’s just move on to the important part of THIS story.
AA and NA
The first time I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous I was in jail. At first it was something I would do just to spend some time out of my cell. It was better to hear what I thought was bullshit, than to be in my shoe box. I had zero interest in the meetings and I would never contribute or assume any responsibilities.
After attending for months, some of the stories started to resonate. One of them was really special because it made me reflect on my own life. A fellow inmate told the story of how he hit rock bottom. He had been off abusing alcohol and drugs and one day he came back home and got into a very heated argument with his wife, took off, and bulldozed through a wall. The next day he woke up in jail. He shared that he was a psychologist by profession, but an alcoholic by nature. He told us that he also had an anger management issue and concluded that “rage spawns from anger, anger spawns from hurt, hurt spawns from getting your feelings hurt.”
I had convinced myself that I didn’t have a problem; that I was in control; that everyone else had a problem not me. I was so self-absorbed that I could not even look an inch under my current situation to understand that I had a drinking problem, a drug problem, a personality problem…a life problem.
AA and NA helped me a lot during my incarceration, yet my life after prison was everything but easy. I struggled a lot to find a job, and even though I was attending AA and NA meetings on a regular basis, I had a few relapses. I lost my job and life seemed unbearable and that is why I checked into a rehab center in Idaho.
After I was released, I felt great and thought I was ready to take life on sober, but I was mistaken and I relapsed after a few months. Again I was broke, unemployed, alone and feeling like life made no sense at all. I had no other choice but to focus my energy on something else to avoid going back to drugs or alcohol.
I moved back to California where I landed a job selling knock-off cologne. I would go out at 5am to gas stations, shopping center parking lots, flea markets, etc. to sell perfume out of the trunk of my car. I learned how to approach strangers, to get their attention and make a successful sale. Making some money really helped with my confidence, so I was feeling positive, focusing on becoming a better salesman.
Next thing I know I was training other people on how to sell the products and a few months later and 10 pounds lighter (still sober), I had my own office and was pushing quite a bit of perfume per day. I had become obsessed with the business and had let every other aspect of my life deteriorate including my physique. Like byebyebeer said in a blog post, “The thing about addicts is we’re always addicted to something.” I had traded drugs and alcohol for work.
In 2007 I was introduced to a book that helped change my life, Jeffery Combs’ Psychologically Unemployable (Jeffery is also a recovering addict). One of the most important things he said in his book is that you should never confuse obsession with passion. A workaholic and a passionate entrepreneur are very different things. That’s when I realized my addictive personality was ruling my life again, but this time with work. After a few months I sold the business and decided to spend some time at my parent’s house in southern California.
Moving in with my parents was a very good decision at the beginning because they gave me the support I needed and that helped me get over my rut. After a month I found a job at Target, a job for which I had no passion. It was just a way to help pay the bills. I also found an AA/NA community close by, and I acquired a really good sponsor.
What happened while I was working with him on my personal issues is something I will always be grateful for. He told me he would only keep working with me if I took a class at the local community college.
I was not interested at all in doing that because I felt at that point in my life it did not make sense. I just needed to stay sober, go to work and do my job so I could make money to pay the bills. I forced myself to go to the nearest community college campus and enroll in the only class that really caught my eye. It was a course called Introduction to Website Development (HTML). I liked computers and websites, so I thought why not give it a shot?
It took me just three months to fill my bedroom at my parents’ house with books related to HTML and website design. I found myself at the computer for hours, coding, creating, and learning. Finally, one day I thought to myself that it would be great if I could make a business out of my newly acquired skill.
To not make a long story even longer…today, after nine years of hard work, I co-own a successful digital marketing agency. I have a great team that feels like family and, in fact, my brother is part of it. We are based in Medellin, Colombia, which means my life has taken a 180 degree turn. 30 years ago my parents left Colombia to give my siblings and I a better life, and now I am back with that better life.
Although I’ve been sober for eight years, I still go to meetings. Being sober becomes something you get used to; it’s part of your life and with time it gets easier. Regarding my business, I didn’t let myself get lost while pursuing success. The entire point of being successful is to be who you are and love what you do without getting buried under a ton of work. I went out and found something I was passionate about, put my skills and knowledge to work and built a business. Sobriety, just like building a business, does not happen overnight, and one has to commit to it and work hard.
It’s Not All About You
When you are in the process of recovering, every single thing you do to maintain sobriety seems like it’s about you. Every one of the 12 steps you complete, every single task or piece of homework your sponsor gives you, every book or article you read is all about you and your recovery.
But after months or even years of working on your sobriety, you start to realize that there is a bigger reason for it, a reason beyond yourself. It might be to be a great provider for your family and to watch your children grow; working at a job that you love that becomes your career; helping your aging parents during retirement; or like me, building a business and helping people around you grow. It may not seem clear right now, but every action and step you take in this process brings you closer to your personal success.
In the spirit of free-write Fridays (aka baby, you don’t need to wash your hair today because you already smell real nice), I’m sharing a post I wrote for Chris at KLĒN + SŌBR.
Chris is in his 18th year of abstinent recovery from alcohol and other drugs and is the founder of the KLĒN + SŌBR Project, including the Since Right Now Pod, which is breathing new life into my daily commute.
At first I was going to write about reconnecting with spirituality in recovery, but that story’s barely started. Besides, it was fun to go back to the time before I discovered high school parties and my new god, beer.
To read the story, say abracadabra and click the above image to find yourself magically transported to a much spiffier site.
Or here’s the link if you too are distrustful of magics: http://www.sincerightnow.com/insights/2015/2/9/the-class-ring
The fine print:
All the names in my story were changed, mainly to protect the innocent, but also because who would believe the ladykiller I called Glenn was really named Dirk?
Truth > Fiction.
Here’s the poem Class Ring, which I heard in the mid 80s. In the early 90s, it was co-opted and changed to deliver an anti-drunk driving message, which the original author seems cool with. As with middle school poems and many things I read on the internet, this warms the cockles of my heart.
Audrey Conn died just before Christmas. According to this article on The Fix, she swallowed pills and vodka and then hung herself. It took awhile for the news to break. The founder of Moderation Management was living in relative obscurity at the time of her death.
In 1996, I knew her as author Audrey Kishline. The picture on the back of her book Moderate Drinking made her seem more school marm than alcoholic. In fact, she was clear her approach was not for alcoholics. Moderation Management was aimed at helping problem drinkers return to moderate drinking. If only the lines in real life were that clear.
Moderation Management guidelines are pretty clear about moderate drinking. For women, this means no more than 3 drinks a day, but here’s the real kicker: no more than 9 drinks in a week. This must be some kind of joke, I thought, when I first pulled Audrey’s book off the shelf at Barnes and Noble in 1996. I was 22 and it was the only book I could find that wasn’t about quitting alcohol, although I knew I needed some kind of help.
I’m in awe of people in their twenties who quit drinking. Those were carefree days for me, and I was in denial about where my drinking was headed. By day, I worked as a mental health worker with schizophrenic adults. I lived with my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and we reserved most drinking for the weekends. A close friend held fabulous cocktails parties so we’d get all dressed up and head into the city. I’d creep outside my comfort zone of beer and guzzle liquor and later spew it back up along the walkway of our apartment building. It was a real classy affair. The next morning I might recline the driver’s seat of my white Festiva so I could curl into a fetal position in the grocery store parking lot. I was alternately working up the nerve to get the shopping over with and wishing I was dead because I felt like I might be already. That was how I drank. Can you believe I stopped?
But I didn’t stop then, no. I bought Audrey’s book and took it home and poured over it. I started the 30 day abstinence period during the month of October. I’d forgotten all about Oktoberfest. I went to one outdoor celebration anyway and white knuckled through while a drinking buddy snorted “What, do you think you’re some kind of alcoholic?” Of course not, I said. That was such an ugly, hopeless word. When November rolled around, I was relieved, but I wouldn’t say it was all that hard to abstain for a month. Thirty days is a light sentence.
By all accounts, Moderate Drinking should have worked on me. I was in my early 20s and not yet a daily drinker. I had a steady job, a nice place to live, a boyfriend, and no real personal or health consequences from drinking. I binge-drank on weekends, but even then puking and hangovers were saved for really special occasions. I continued to drink for the next 15 years, never once sticking to 9 drinks a week.
I read somewhere recently that moderate drinkers don’t call it moderate drinking. Shocking, I know, but they don’t feel the need to count drinks and plan their whole night around how much they drink or don’t drink. The first sign that you’re not a moderate drinker might be using the phrase moderate drinker.
Fifteen years of progressively heavier drinking got me back to the bookstore for another copy of the book that helped me so much the first time around. It was not there. The shelves were lined with books on how to quit. What the hell? I googled and found a book from Moderation Management, but with a different title and new author. Eleven years after it happened, I quietly read about Audrey Kishline’s deadly drunk driving accident. I think that’s the moment it fell into place for me. I’ve always described my decision to quit drinking as a mysterious, quiet thunderbolt from beyond. But now I think this was it. Thank you, Audrey.
I actually wrote to her in October. I said how much her book helped me over the years. I told her because of her book and my inability to actually drink moderately, I’d quit drinking and found something that felt like peace. I told her I would love to interview her, that I was curious how she was doing and thought other people might be too. I hadn’t worked out where the interview would run, and figured I probably wouldn’t hear back from her and didn’t for awhile.
Her response was short and sweet. She thanked me for writing and said she was glad I found the recovery approach that worked for me. She said she was totally abstinent and planning on staying that way. I remember she put a smiley face after that sentence. She said she was too busy for interviews because she was writing again. I was half-disappointed and half-relieved. It felt like a happy ending. I wrote back and told her I was glad to hear she was writing again and wished her well.
Suicide is black hole territory. I can’t help but wonder if I could have reached out differently and helped her in some way, however small. Imagine how her mother must feel. Her children! I feel sad for the woman who lost her daughter and ex-husband in the drunk driving accident and later became friends with Audrey. They wrote a book together, I imagine to tell about the devastating effects of drunk driving and healing powers of love and hope.
For what it’s worth, it all helped me. I can’t say for sure I would have stopped drinking if not for Audrey’s first book and her accident. Her drunk driving accident was my wakeup call. When I read about it in 2011, I thought that could happen to me. I didn’t know then that not drinking would turn out to be easier than counting drinks and trying hard to be something I was not. Everyone involved in her story cleared a path and lit the way.
I’m loading loose groceries into a tiny, ancient rental convertible and waiting for some guy to bring me paperwork so I can leave. Apples roll into the front passenger side, smooshing a shrink-wrapped pack of sausages. I check the time. 6:45am, the same time I’m supposed to meet my sister for the race. I still have a two-hour drive ahead of me. Where is that guy with the paperwork?
The nice thing about built-in alarm clocks is they have the opposite of a sleep function. At least mine does. That’s when you wake up before the alarm is set because your subconscious doesn’t trust real alarm clocks on account of not using them much. I imagine a mostly unused alarm clock might be passive-aggressive when it comes to big events. Plus I’m not sure I even know how to set mine properly.
There’s no taking chances when you have to meet a group of people two hours away at 6:45am on a Sunday morning and you have the parking pass. The rental car dream was a big red flag, so I got up before the alarm did or didn’t go off and I went downstairs to make coffee and mentally prepare for the big 10K.
A 10K is 6.2 miles, which I’d run a half dozen times since late August. My favorite run was also the first one I did along a flat and shaded roadside to an abandoned watchtower on the Delaware coast. On all my practice runs, I paused my running app so the clock wouldn’t roll while I snapped pictures, a hobby that paired nicely with running this summer.
This was the summer of running for the enjoyment of it. Actually, I forgot that I wasn’t going to call it running anymore. I jog. What happened when I went out for sporadic, leisurely jogs and left the timing gear at home was I got slower. Like, a minute-a-mile slower. I started tracking my pace again around the time I started 6 mile practice runs, but I never got faster.
I was nervous going into this race. The night before, we all got an email from the organizer that basically said “Look, we better tell you right now: expect long lines and delays. In case you didn’t know, you’re not the only one doing this race. You’ll be running with 20,000 other people. Twenty thousand. So take off the crown and just show up and enjoy yourself.” I thought it was the kind of email that might be helpful to get every single morning.
It turns out, the race was extremely well organized. I met my baby sister and her running buddies right on time and we parked at the nearest shuttle stop and were whisked off to the start line. Here I am in the only pair of sunglasses I seem to have left after summer, with the stunning Bay Bridge in the background, plus what looks like an unsuspecting woman getting ready to take a swim.
The course was 4.35 miles of bridge, plus some mileage before and after to make up the 10K. The bridge part was absolutely amazing. At the midpoint, we were hovering 186 feet above sea. There were telephones and sobering signs for a suicide hotline. My sister said she looked over the side at the top, but I didn’t dare. We were so close to heaven. This is where I hit my peak, the part in the run where I felt strong enough to keep going to the finish line and maybe forevermore.
Then mile 5 came. For some reason, I was still chewing gum I’d had since the drive down. I didn’t want to throw it over the side of the bridge and hit an unsuspecting seagull, and suddenly this old gum felt like an albatross, a real liability I was lugging towards the finish line. My mouth was desert-dry and I a little panicky. This is where I wanted to walk so bad. Then a song came on my playlist that made me keep going.
I’m superstitious about using the shuffle feature during races. One reason is that it’s really hard to get my phone in and out of a running belt (more on that in a bit) to skip songs, but I also think the songs talk to me at various points, and often when I need to hear them the most. Around mile 5.2, when desert mouth hit and I noticed a hill looming in the distance, Ray of Light came on. I don’t even know I’d ever listened to the lyrics before, and then in my about-ready-to-give-up-and-walk state, I heard this:
Faster than the speeding light she’s flying
Trying to remember where it all began
She’s got herself a little piece of heaven
I happened to be jogging alongside an airport with grounded planes that were “flying” faster than me, so I got a case of the chuckles, which are like giggles for delirious, tired people. Then trying to remember where it all began brought it home.
Awhile back, I wrote about how driving across the Bay Bridge in the worst hungover state of my life indirectly, and not until many months later, led me to remove the demon alcohol from my life. Running over it sober, healthy? This was a big deal for me. I did remember where it all began and in that moment I was like “okay Universe, thanks buddy” and kept dragging towards the looming hill and heaven.
I got this when I crossed over. The finish line, I mean, not heaven. Maybe they give medals in heaven too, not that I’ll probably find out.
I had the best cup of coffee in my life after the run. I got a space blanket, which I thought they only gave out for marathons, but I took mine because a 10K is as close as I’ll get to running a marathon.
The coffee wasn’t free, but luckily I’d brought a twenty dollar bill in my running belt. Remember the post where I shared the preachy, tragic short story I wrote when I was 11? Well, it almost came true.
While taking out my phone at the 1.5 mile mark to take a blurry picture of my feet or something, my precious $20 fell out! Now, I might let a $5 spot go, but not a $20. I nearly took out two unsuspecting runners in a mad scramble to pick it up. I feel really bad about that part and only later did I make the connection that I very nearly died, just like 11-year old me predicted.
So the run is over and I had such a wonderful time. It was amazing and empowering and all the things I’d hoped it would be, despite the race organizer’s low-expectations email. The best part was getting to spend time with my sister, who I don’t see nearly enough. After the race, we cleaned up and went to lunch at a fun place on the water with her husband and sweet baby boy. These are the precious moments, you know? This is what life is all about.
Occasionally I get emails from people who are thinking of getting sober but aren’t quite there yet. I love getting these emails, but they scare me a little too because I want to tell them it’s fine here in Soberland – better than fine, even peachy keen most days – but I remember that jumping off point and how little I thought about it before making the leap. My counselor at the time told me to get to AA and I blindly did that and it just so happened to work for me in those early days. I went to meetings and I soaked in the stories and feeling of support and hope, and sobriety just kind of blossomed from there.
But what about those people who don’t believe AA will work for them? I know numerous people who got and stayed sober without setting foot in a meeting because it didn’t appeal or sometimes didn’t occur to them. They took up blogging or yoga or painting or running or chocolate – sometimes all of the above – to fill that god-sized hole that people at meetings talk about all the time, but of course they don’t know that because they’ve never set foot in one. Is their approach any more doomed or less-than compared to a 12-step recovery program? They certainly don’t seem to think so.
And what about someone who already went the AA route and doesn’t want to go it again but fears there is no easier, softer way? This isn’t a deal breaker. I believe there are as many ways to get sober as there are to go about your day. You can wake up and drink and lose most of it in blurriness and blackout regret or you can choose not to drink and read a sober book or blog or email a sober stranger instead and start to build your sober support network. And not drink. That last part is the only thing you absolutely must do if you want to stop drinking.
In the meanwhile, if you’re thinking of not drinking and aren’t quite there yet or you just want to read a poem about how to climb out of hell, Christy at Running on Sobercranked this out in a bout of sober insomnia. I’ve been up since 3:30 and all I wrote was an essay about carrying a metal Holly Hobbie lunchbox to school and fighting over a tire swing for my daughter’s first grade class (my daughter just asked who’s Holly Hobbie?). Some of us make beautiful music, some of us clank around pots and pans. It’s still sober, and sober is pretty awesome, let us be the first to tell you.
I’ve written about my struggle with sweet, sweet sugar too many times to count, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find I’m still learning new things.
I’ve had a sweet tooth my whole life, but in sobriety I’d lost my trusty emotional cushion of booze and instinctively turned to sugar. While part of me wishes I could just live with it, I’ve worked really hard over the last five years to lose more than 40 pounds through better diet and exercise, and sugar binges sabotage that. Plus it doesn’t feel good to feel out of control.
I’m writing about it this morning because some new ideas came my way via where else but the sober blogs.
First, More to Me Than This wrote this excellent piece on how sugar affects the brain and how it has affected her personally since getting sober. I would say it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve realized how much I’d been self-medicating with sugar, so her insight and ideas really impressed me.
When I started the herbal cleanse I mentioned in my last post, I took most refined sugar out of my diet. I say most because I did allow ice cream on two special occasions that fell within the cleanse period. In the past when I’ve attempted to wrangle sugar, ice cream was strictly forbidden.
I observed some new things this time around.
Moderation with sugar is pleasurable!
When I drank moderately, I hated it. I used to count drinks and as I got closer to the maximum number I’d allotted, I would feel every ounce of pleasure drain away. I didn’t enjoy a mild buzz. I wanted more.
When I eat dessert moderately, I enjoy the taste and textures. I’ve never really noticed an emotional effect from sugar, but I believe the reward centers of my brain are feeling it plenty. When I don’t overdo it, I also don’t suffer the post-binge crash, though there has been a curious emotional reaction more recently.
The guilt is still there, but maybe not forever
The secretive binges and shame I feel from overindulging in dessert remind me so much of how I used to drink. When I ate ice cream these last two times, I enjoyed the experience but not the guilt I felt while eating it. I wondered where this anxiety and fear came from. I was eating moderate servings. I wasn’t doing it every day. This wasn’t a binge, so why was I reacting like it was?
For me, I think it’s that I don’t trust myself yet. And with good reason. Enjoying sugar moderately is not something I have much experience with in sobriety.
When I ate the ice cream these last two times, part of me was thinking “oh no, here we go again.” Only I didn’t keep going back and I got back to healthy eating with the next meal. I also noticed my mood overall has been better when I eat sugar moderately compared to when I cut it out completely.
How will I know I’m cured?
I predict a continuation of cycles of eating better and overindulging with cravings. This doesn’t sound like much of a cure, huh? My hope is that with continued, consistent practice of making better choices about what I choose to eat, the eating-better cycles will last longer and the binges will slink back from whence they came. This will happen over time, like it already has. I have seen improvement in the last three years, so I can reasonably expect to see more if I continue seeking it.
A “cure” might be asking for a small slice of cake because I know it will satisfy. My hope is that I can enjoy dessert occasionally…moderately.
The last thing I wanted to share (via Sober Truths) is a TED-Ed on how sugar affects the brain. Watch if you have 5 minutes!