Going from Cocaine to Cupcakes? Just Do It
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Going from Cocaine to Cupcakes? Just Do It


This post was originally published on October 9, 2014.

A recent blog in The New York Times addresses the phenomenon of “transfer addicting,” when alcoholics and drug addicts go from drinking a fifth of vodka and slamming dope every day to doing something else addictively, like eating Twizzlers, once they are sober. The post has a cautionary tone—almost warning people who may be considering getting sober to think twice because those who get clean also get fat. Not only is this article potentially harmful for millions of people who struggle with addiction and whose addict brains are desperately searching for any excuse to start using again, but I can’t even figure out who this information is supposed to be helpful for—well, besides liquor stores and drug dealers.

Yes, it’s true—the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous states that many alcoholics have a “tendency to eat sweets and have found this practice beneficial”—and, trust me, it is. I don’t think I would have ever been able to stay sober if it weren’t for the permission I gave myself to eat whatever the fuck I wanted my first year sober. Did I gain weight? You bet I did—25 pounds—and I worked my ass off to not beat myself up about it. My sponsor and other friends in the program promised me that I would lose the weight when it was time. And I did—five years later. It took me four months of dedication to calorie counting and exercise—the kind of dedication I only learned from being in AA—and the weight came off and stayed off. Even after I quit smoking, I never got back up to my early sobriety weight.

But 25 pounds is a far cry from 115 pounds—the amount that Rodney Zimmers, now owner of Blueprints for Recovery, supposedly gained his first three years off heroin and cocaine. Zimmers blamed his massive weight gain on the lack of healthy food available at his rehab but unless he was in rehab for three years, this theory doesn’t make much sense. It’s certainly possible that many moons ago, alcohol and drug rehabs didn’t offer nutritious, well-balanced meals but times have certainly changed in that area. Although there are plenty that serve meals that aren’t anything to write home about, most offer a diet that is well balanced—even if the quality of meat and produce isn’t top of the line. There are quite a few rehabs that don’t even provide food anymore and require their clients to go food shopping and cook for themselves. In addition, a large number of residential treatment centers don’t even allow sugar or junk food anymore—even caffeine. This argument may be convincing to some who don’t know anything about rehab but it’s ridiculously outdated.

But more than anything, I am frustrated by how this piece almost aims to scare people away from getting sober and shame already sober people into curbing their sugar intake. I don’t think the author understands how damaging her connoted proposition—urging newly sober people to seriously watch what they eat while also making the dramatic lifestyle change of cutting out their only known coping mechanisms—is. It’s like going from a high carb diet to a no carb diet while also starting a new job and moving—it’s just a recipe for relapse, either on sugar or on substances or maybe both.

When I was in my first year of sobriety, I was out of control with sugar. In fact, I distinctly remember days when that was all I would eat. Of course, I felt disgusting but it was all I could do to keep it together. Thinking outside help might get me back on track, I made an appointment with a nutritionist. Meeting with a nutritionist, for me, was a lot like meeting with a financial planner in that I felt like whatever I was doing was really wrong and never enough. The truth is that it was a very bad idea for me to expose myself to that so early on in my recovery. But before I left feeling like a weak and hopeless overeater, she did say something very funny. When I told her I was eating cookies nearly every night because I was newly sober and they have them at a lot of AA meetings, without a shred of sarcasm in her voice, she said, “Yeah, I know they have all kinds of junk there. I have talked to them about changing that. It’s just not right.”

This was years before the popularity of LOL but you can bet that is exactly what my sponsor and I did when I reiterated the story to her on my drive home. I am still dying to know who the “them” this nutritionist thinks she talked to at AA about not having cookies at the meetings—perhaps replacing them with baby carrots and fresh jicama—but even if there was a “them” to talk to (which there is not), they would have politely told her to fuck off.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.