This post was originally published don February 17, 2015.
People who can control and enjoy their sugar irritate me way more than those who can control and enjoy their booze.
You know the types. They sit there with a huge buttermilk doughnut, take two prissy little bites, then wrap it back up in the white paper bag to “save it for later.” I don’t “save sweets for later” anymore than I would save my margarita on the rocks until the chips and salsa arrived on Monday Margarita Nite at Acapulco.
My first year of sobriety, I inhaled sugar like junkie. I also smoked like a junkie and sustained myself off 16-ounce cans of Diet Cokes along with gallons of viscous black coffee. Luckily, I had one of those old-school sponsors who never gave me shit about it, all in the spirit of “First Things First.”
“If a piece of cake or a cigarette stands between you and a drink, you eat that goddamn cake or you smoke that goddamn cigarette,” she’d say and then howl in laughter.
The 75 year-old oracle had been raised at those no-nonsense AA halls in the San Fernando Valley way back before sobriety included drinking herbal tea and cutting out the caffeine. I had picked up previous sponsors when I first tried to get sober who instructed me, with just a couple of months of sobriety, to ween myself off coffee and knock off the nicotine and sugar. But all the times I tried to cut back on those vices in early sobriety, I ended up relapsing.
But I did have another problem that my current sponsor wasn’t too thrilled about: I stole my roommates’ food. Well, mostly cookies, cakes, candies and ice cream, because I never bought any for myself.
The reason I don’t keep it around is that sugar is like alcohol for me—once it gets into my system, it is nearly impossible for me to stop chowing down. I’ve been known to put away an entire box of Oreos, a whole half-gallon of Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream, nearly a dozen doughnuts and three-quarters of a sheet cake. Knowing my inability to stop once I start, and not wanting to weigh 3,000 pounds, I prefer to just keep the sugar out of my home.
I’ve had this problem from the moment I started rounding up roommates. Kristen, my roommate freshman year of college, filled our dorm room micro-fridge with her mother’s homemade white and dark chocolate banana bread every fucking week. She added to that Twinkies, Ding Dongs and a bunch of fancy chocolates filled with liquor.
I’d inhale all of her sweets when she went home for the weekends, then freak out and replace them as fast as possible. But obviously I could not replace her mother’s special banana bread. This gave me some problems.
The biggest problem was that she told me I could have a slice or two. But if I had a slice or two, I’d have to have five or six, which inevitably finished off the whole loaf. So by the end of the year Kristen hated my guts, and we became permanent enemies after that, ignoring each other when our paths crossed in various courses as upperclasswomen, which happened often since we were both creative writing majors.
Once I graduated from college I lived alone for years. But my food problems started up in unexpected places. While most of my boyfriends got a kick out of me finishing off 13 Eggos or a box of Chips Ahoy, one didn’t find it so funny: a co-dependent depressive boyfriend named Andrew who always bought a box of Van de Kamps chocolate-covered old fashioned doughnuts and savored them over the course of a week or two.
One day he was at work, teaching inner city high school students Algebra, and I was off work dicking around at his pad. Around 1 pm, those doughnuts caught my eye, and before I could stop myself, I’d eaten all of them. Immediately, I drove over to the nearby Ralph’s and replaced them and felt confident he’d never know. Unfortunately—and maybe I was in a sugar-induced blackout—I left the empty doughnut box right on the table along with chocolate smears all over the bottom of his microwave having heated the doughnuts up without putting a plate down on the floor of the microwave. They needed to be soft and gooey in my mouth!
“You ate all my doughnuts and left a mess in the microwave, and you didn’t even try to hide it!” Andrew yelled when he got home.
“I replaced them!”
“But it’s a violation of my privacy to eat my doughnuts.”
What a tool. I could understand that he’d be pissed if I didn’t replace his precious doughnuts, but I technically left him with more doughnuts, since he only had 10 left and I bought him 12.
“How did you know?” I asked. “I threw the box away!”
“Yeah, you threw the box away in my kitchen!”
We lasted about two weeks after that episode.
Unfortunately, the same problem followed me into my Sober Living where I lived with a bunch of psycho chicks in 2009. They were all very forgiving when I first started nibbling on their peanut M&Ms and Oreos, especially since I would immediately go out and replace their food, but when it started happening over and over and over, they got together and admonished me in a group setting.
“Why don’t you buy your own food?” they yelled.
Because I don’t want to get fat. Because if I eat one crumb of sugar I won’t be able to stop. And what kind of alcoholic/addict are you anyway, that you can eat two Oreos and leave the rest for later? Lightweights.
While I was pissed off at the confrontation, I also felt terribly ashamed, knowing I was wrong. This self-hatred nearly drove me to drink, but thankfully I called my sponsor first. She lovingly pointed out that I was not just eating their food.
“You’re stealing,” she said. “You are stealing other peoples’ stuff. You don’t have a leg to stand on. You’re 100% at fault here.”
Now I didn’t like that word…stealing. Borrowing, sure. Eating, sure. Sneaking, fine—I can handle that. But stealing? It seemed a bit harsh.
“But I can’t stop myself,” I whined.
“You need to buy your own sweets.”
So, after I’d made amends for all my gluttonous antics, I never ate a crumb of my housemates’ food. Instead I bought my own sweets, though a package of cookies would last me a day-and-a-half at most. Then I’d have to buy another and then a bag of chocolate. But only three weeks after that intervention, I found an apartment and moved out.
It’s still something I struggle with. Every now and then when I can’t sleep, I go straight for the Chocolate Orange Milanos and salted caramel gelato. Nothing knocks me out like sugar—nothing. It works better than Ambien.
Maybe that’s the best I can do, maybe that’s not okay, maybe I’m a glutton or maybe I should go to OA. But I can say that I’m making improvement..and hell, at least I’m still sober.