We all have our demons. Our obsessions, healthy or not. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, and it isn’t homogenous either. For some, addiction is as simple as social media—“I should probably stay off Facebook for a while, to cleanse my system,” they’ll say. And while I’ll admire their introspective and self-control, I’ll also sneer. I’ll shake my head, and think to myself how nice it must be to have such pretty, shiny demons. How lovely it must be to be able to just delete your problems. Because for others, addictions are messy. They’re unhealthy, and unsafe, and they can’t be put out of your head with just a click of a button.
For too long, my father struggled with alcoholism. It took him from him, and was the main reason for my parent’s divorce. And then, when I was 13, it took him from me. It killed him. Alone in a motel room, alcohol murdered my dad.
He fought hard. Went to rehab, multiple facilities. Asked for help, prayers. And we all did. He was strong, but I don’t think strength has anything to do with it. I don’t think it matters how much willpower we have, sometimes our demons are bigger than it all—bigger than us—and we can’t win.
At too young an age I made a promise to never drink alcohol. I saw what it had done to my father, and I didn’t want to put myself a risk of that. I also knew that children of addicts are predisposed to addiction themselves, so I wanted to play it safe. However, it wasn’t until a very wise young woman—one of my best friends abroad—got real with me that I realized I already had an addiction, and alcohol wasn’t it.
“Yeah, but, by not drinking aren’t you sort of giving alcohol even more power?” she asked. And I saw her point. By refraining from drinking I was putting alcohol in control—I was afraid of it. So, I changed my perspective. I drank, and I was fine. Alcohol wasn’t an issue for me.
But something else was. One Sunday while I was studying abroad in Istanbul, I went to my favorite cafe with nothing but my book and my camera. Sounds quaint, doesn’t it? I sat down after ordering my favorite tea and a chocolate cake—I could treat myself, couldn’t I?—and opened my book, smiling. The cake came, and less than three minutes later, it was gone. I thought nothing of it. An hour and a half later, I was walking back to my dorm, and I passed my favorite bakery. I decided to pop in and pick up something for lunch. I got some bread, and then after spying my favorite chocolate cake balls, ordered four of those. I planned to give some to my roommate, but she never saw them. Later that evening my roommate and I were watching a romcom on Netflix and decided it would be immensely more enjoyable with some chocolate. So, we went downstairs to the vending machines and bought some. I got two bars of chocolate. They were gone before the movie was over. If you’re keeping track, which I wasn’t, that was a slice of cake, four cake balls, and two bars of chocolate in one day.
In case you’re not catching on, I’ll spell it out for you: I was, and am, addicted to sugar. Now, here’s a little fun fact for you that’s especially important here: children of alcoholics are biologically predisposed to a larger-than-life sweet tooth. It’s an interesting trait, and it really does make sense. It also makes sense that a family history of alcoholism was also linked to an increase in depression. It also sucks.
After I realized I could, and would, consume inordinate amounts of sugar on a daily basis, and feel fine the next day, I knew I had a problem. I could eat an entire pan of brownies in one sitting, and still want a coke afterwards.
It wasn’t until someone on my Facebook shared this article that I realized that the amount of sugar I was consuming was a problem. And then, I tried drastic measures to control it.
I went on the 21-day Sugar Detox and lasted a week, which maybe just goes to show just how deep my addiction runs. (But to be fair, any “detox” that only lets you have one piece of fruit—and only green apples or grapefruit at that—is really just setting itself up for failure.) The point of the detox was to stop my sugar cravings, and while it failed in that aspect, it succeeded in showing me how badly I needed to slow my sugar intake.
So then, I came face to face with failure, or what I had thought was failure. If I couldn’t stay off sugar for more than a week, how was I ever supposed to overcome my addiction in its entirety? Because that is exactly what my battle with sugar had become—a complete, full-on addiction. I couldn’t go more than a few hours without wanting something sweet. I considered trying to only give up treats—things with added sugar, pre-packaged, preservative-ridden junk.
And that’s kind of where I am today. Today, I try to satisfy my sweet tooth with fruit, and sometimes tea with honey. I try to keep it as natural and clean as possible; basically I avoid buying something sweet when I want it. Those pre-packaged cupcakes? Yeah, they’re so full of, for lack of a better word, crap, that it has even made me turn away in abhorrence. I remind myself that I can make myself something at home, where I can be in control of the ingredients. But sometimes, scrolling through Pinterest leaves me really wanting a cupcake. So, what I’ve started to do is, as soon as I get a craving, I look at the clock and make note of the time. If, in another hour, I still want said cupcake, then you know what? I’m going to make myself a freaking cupcake.
That’s kind of how I’ve combated by battle with sugar: by putting mind over matter. I’ve realized that so much of addiction—particularly mine—is in your head. I can’t speak for others’ addictions, Lord knows my dad lost his battle even though he was the smartest and strongest man I knew, but I can speak for my own. And my own addiction is something I can defeat—one day at a time.