I have been thinking about long-term abstention from sugar as a compulsive overeater. Intellectually, and on a gut-level, I understand that I made a decision today to not put sugar in my tea or eat sweet dessert type things like ice-cream and such. But I also began thinking about the concept of abstinence and what is a trigger food for some is not a trigger food for others and how sugar fits into that. Comparing this to my years in recovery from alcohol I consider:
- For the last few years of my drinking, I searched for the magical alcohol mix that would not cause me to black out or drink to oblivion. I went through the drinking only gin, then only beer, then at the end there were only two types of beer I would drink – one from Australia and a local beer in Ohio – the reason I thought these would work was because they did not have “additives” and were marketed as “natural” beers and that whatever was causing me to binge drink was the additives in all of those other beers – of course, never considering that the additive was alcohol. By the way, I blacked out on less than a six-pack of the “natural” beer at the very end.
- So I think today, if someone said “aha! We have brewed the perfect alcoholic drink that we believe will keep you from bingeing, blacking out, etc. would you like to try it?” My answer would be a very adamant “No, I am not interested.” In fact, I realize that the only reason I drank alcohol was to escape, so why should I even want something that allowed me to do otherwise.
- I then thought about that with the sugar. So I am committing that I will not knowingly consume refined sugar, like in my tea – nor will I eat dessert things loaded with sugar today. But then I considered I will have the Herculean task at some point to start thinking about long-term abstention from sugar and what that means – and that perhaps I can eat the ice cream and put the sugar in my tea and so forth and still deal with my compulsive overeating. But then, I had some clarity – should not knowing that I was climbing onto the kitchen counter as a toddler to shovel scoops of sugar into my mouth be convincing evidence that I was getting high on the sugar long before I picked up my first drink of alcohol. So in the same way, today, you could not pay me to consume an experimental new alcohol drink to see if it “worked” for me, why should I treat refined sugar products differently?
- The above is very important. If I classify sugar in the same way as I do alcohol, why should my commitment to abstain from both substances be any different, if the result of consuming them is essentially the same?
- Which then led me to the next thought – what about the sugar-free ice cream, or honey in the tea, or artificial sweetener and so forth. Then I thought about how I don’t drink that sparkly non-alcoholic cider stuff they put in wine bottles to pretend it is like champagne or near beer because it is too close to the “real” thing (and it tastes horrible) so I just stay away entirely. I can see that putting some sort of artificial sweetener in tea would have the same impact – that it is not quite right, and that what I really crave is the sugar – so my sugar-less tea needs to become something different.
- But I also know that when my wife and I go out, if she has a Bloody Mary, I will occasionally have a Virgin Mary – after repeated assurances by the wait staff that there is no alcohol in it – but I am comfortable with this because I never drank a Bloody Mary in my life, and don’t really think I ever drank Vodka enough such that I could ever remember buying a bottle. So I am good with a Virgin Mary. Perhaps honey or sugar-free something will work in the future for me, but that is not something I am interested in dealing with today.
- Today, in the same way that I am totally comfortable that my life can continue well for the duration without alcohol, though a bit less enthusiastically, I can say the same about sugar. I have to believe that the proof will be in the pudding as it were. Meaning that I realize today that one shot of alcohol and the entire life I have come to know over the past 30 years is gone – very quickly. I am leaning into the same realization with sugar too.