Addiction · Guest Posts

Guest Post: Sugar and Sobriety

"Decorating Sugar" © Gloria García, 2009. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Decorating Sugar” © Gloria García, 2009. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Three years ago to the date, I was living sugar-free. Actually, I was consuming no more than ten grams of sugar per serving. Unless you count naturally occurring sugars, like those found in fruit, which I did not. I gave up all sweeteners, including artificial ones, so no diet sodas and nothing in my coffee. I definitely gave up daily dessert and near daily sugar binges.

What started out as Sugar-Free January got a little easier and continued into February until a few bites of rice krispie treat on a family trip started a slow but undeniable unraveling. It wasn’t long before all the wheels came off the dessert cart.

Sugar is a real slippery slope for me. I gave up drinking completely over four-and-a-half years ago and tore open a bag of Starburst in one fluid motion. Sugar didn’t make not drinking easy exactly, but it provided a little cushion. Sugar–cookies and candy in particular–provided immediate distraction from stress and possibly some emotional boost, though I never felt better after a binge. So why do I consume it so compulsively?

It’s no secret that sugar is highly addictive. Some claim sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine. Wow, no wonder I have trouble quitting Oreos.

And what happens when I do give up sugar for any length of time? Oh, it’s not pretty. People stop loving me pretty soon after. The sun dims and clouds roll in from the west and I realize what’s the point? There’s an unhealthy side of agitation.

After about a month of this, the sense of power and control (the high?) I get from eating right mostly replaces this, but I still miss that emotional cushion. Not that eating whatever I want makes me feel very good about myself.

This brings me to moderation. Yes, please, I’ll have some of that. What I really want is to have my cake, but make it a small piece and hold the ice cream. And I only want it on birthdays, plus maybe a handful of times a year where cake is appropriate, like Bob’s last day or Polly’s baby shower but not Monday through Sunday.

People I know who successfully kicked the sugar demon have a different tale to tell. There is no such thing as moderation with sugar, they warn. Addiction is addiction, they tell me. I think they’re probably right and look for powdered sugar at the corner of their mouths. They seem pretty normal, well-adjusted, not curled into a fetal position.

So no more ice cream, you say? Like forever? Why can I commit to a lifelong with no booze but the thought of no ice cream makes me melt like a soft serve cone in July? Is it the more addictive thing or is it just that I don’t have much more left to give up? Don’t I get to keep a couple good vices for the hard times, parting gifts for my sobriety?

While there are many similarities between how I drank and how I eat–obsessively, secretively, shame-filled–sugar is no booze. I can eat a pint of Häagen-Dazs and safely drive. A sugar binge might make me a little spacey, but it doesn’t affect motor skills or make me say terrible things I won’t remember later. It is, afterall, just dessert.

Since that Sugar-Free January three years ago, I’ve had a couple more semi-successful quits. I say semi because I’m still eating sugar, overeating it if I’m honest. My weight is about the same now, though it was lower two years ago.

I think I have healthier eating habits now. I strive to eat more greens and protein in hopes I’ll feel satisfied enough not to want to binge on sugar. This occasionally even works, though not as often as I’d like. I also eat better because good food tastes good. I never noticed this before I did my first sugar-quit.

Last month I came this close to declaring another Sugar-Free January. Then I read this post and it hit me. I have never been at a weight where I’m like “okay, perfect” and I’ve always felt anxious about how much I exercised and what I ate. Even when I weighed ten pounds less and ran almost every day, I still thought my ass was too big. I have never been enough.

So I’m taking a break from expectations this month. This week I’ve eaten a cupcake every day, not as some sort of obscene experiment but because my daughters and I made some after school and work on Monday. It was a bad day, a very bad day you see, and I picked the one thing I knew would rouse us all: sugar.

We stirred and mixed and poured and baked and frosted, mouths watering all the way into the first few delicious bites. We laughed and talked and everything became a little sweeter. Sugar saved the day again, it seemed, but really I know it was the conversation and connection. Next time I’ll try it with a nice brussel sprout casserole.


Kristen lives in the northeast US and writes about important life stuff and assorted nonsense at Bye-Bye Beer. She has also written about recovery for After Party Magazine and The Fix.

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Guest Posts · Personal Development

Guest Post: She’s got it all

"Entrance into darkness" © Dragan, 2015. CC 2.0.
Entrance into darkness” © Dragan, 2015. CC BY 2.0.
I have a friend who is gorgeous, tall, svelte, and talented. She’s always fashionably dressed, has great hair, is good at her work, and fun to be around. Basically she’s perfect.

As we became closer I began to notice that she didn’t feel perfect. She felt shunned by a few co-workers, pressured by her managers, and wasn’t enjoying our work environment. Everyone has these experiences so it made her more human to me. Yet she still looked pretty perfect and I loved being around her and her light.

Recently we went out for  lunch. It was one of those catch-up ones where you try to condense four months of living into one hour. Near the end she asked, “How do you do it? You’re always upbeat and you’ve got your stuff together.”

I laughed and said to her, “It’s the drugs.”

My laughing remark became serious as I saw the effect it had on her. Then I had to confess. I told her it’s a lot of therapy and occasionally a pill I’ve been prescribed to help me let go of the anxiety and focus on the lessons learnt in therapy. I told her I adore the psychologist I work with. That her goal on day one was to see less of me and give me the tools to fight my anxiety on my own. I told her I went from multiple sessions a week to visiting my psychologist a few times a year when my tools need sharpening. I offered to send my friend her contact information.

Then it was her turn. She told me she’s been suffering with body dysmorphic disorder since her early teens. Everyone compliments her body, her style, her life, but she feels that she’s barely hanging on. She’s in a committed relationship but confessed , “He didn’t fall in love with me. He fell in love with the girl I pretended to be, not some sick woman.”

Listening to her I knew how she felt. The gift of mental illness is that we can wear a mask so beautiful that it fools the world. So people look at us and think,”She has it all!”

To be honest, I usually don’t mind people thinking that. Today I’m clear so I can see that I have a lot. Can I improve? Yes! What’s the point of life if you can’t improve and learn and grow. Does this room for growth mean that I’m rather incompetent and only making it through by faking it? Not at all.

On days when I’m less clear it comes crashing down. Every mistake is an emergency failure. I’m not really successful I’m just some talented fraud who will be found out at any moment.

I know I’m not alone and unfortunately my friend was honestly hoping for a secret that could help her. Some trick I’ve got to great mental health. My only trick, which has come from therapy, is to attempt to recognize when I’m engaging in distorted thinking and immerse myself in the truth.

The mask I mentioned, well it’s interesting. As we’re busy fooling the world, we’re also fooling ourselves. We really are the strong, fashionable, smart women we’re pretending to be, but the masks are on firmly. When when we take them off we don’t recognize that the faces in the mirror are even more beautiful. The faces behind the masks are everything in the masks, but so much more. The  face have seen darkness, survived, and continue to battle. We are warriors.


youmeanme is the pen name of a millennial blogger who is blogging her journey out of debt on Saving without Scrimping. She has been battling anxiety and depression for the last twenty years and is learning to cherish each day as a victory.

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Guest Posts · Mental Health

Guest Post: Wake Up Call

"DSC_0087" © Harvy, 2012. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
DSC_0087” © Harvy, 2012. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

You heard it before you knew what was happening, before you were even fully conscious, opening your eyes to the dark and to the sound. A ghostly sob behind hypnopompic curtains, fuzzing into your dream like an alarm clock. And maybe it was an alarm, in a way. Not the ring-ring-ring kind, but an alarm of another variety. An alert, a Mayday signal from your subconscious, saying wake up and feel this.

You woke after the crying had already started, the pillow wet beneath your cheek. You tried to keep the noise down, so as not to wake him. Because you wanted to be polite in your grief, because you didn’t want him to ask. Because you didn’t know the answer.

But you also needed to get it out. Out of your body as if it were something you could retch up from your stomach and out your throat. It would come out heavy and hard because that’s how long it’s been sitting there. Shoved down, stuffed down, pressed harder and harder into a ball. Your own personal diamond.

What happened to you? What is going on in those delta waves? When did this start? You never used to do this, did you?

No. I didn’t.


Shannon Noel Brady is a multi-genre author of novels and short stories. Her blog muses on the craft of writing with pieces of fiction interspersed.

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