Sweet things are made of this: more sweet things. It’s true. I’m in the grips of a sugar and bread-product withdrawal so severe, I’m reminded of my early days in recovery.
A re-cap of the exciting events of our lives: we laid off the sugar and other carbs for three weeks before Christmas. Tyrhone wanted to lose weight (he did), and I wanted to lose my sugar-induced mood swings (the highs! the lows! living with me was like being on the set of the Bold and the Beautiful, just ask him).
Since getting sober four years ago, after a decade and a half of plying my body with alcohol, cigarettes and more, I have realised I’m actually insane enough without all that stuff.
I wish I were more even keeled, I do, but even without mind-altering substances, I am prone to drastic changes in my mood and outlook.
Yes, I realise there is medication for this sort of thing, but apparently, I’m not clinical, just, sensitive. To the weather, my facebook feed, the lady at the grocery store looking at me the wrong way, and well, food. I get high wrapping my lips around a soft ring of spongy goodness (otherwise known as a donut), then crash into a mid-afternoon coma (after which I seriously question whether my age is in fact 83, not 33).
I’m not a food addict (a serious and very real addiction, I might add), but I do use it. I guess on the spectrum I’d be at ‘problem eater’ status, but because I’m not overweight, I don’t necessarily look like one.
I’m reminded of my first recovery meeting, when I was convinced they would all think Tyrhone (my chaperone) was the one in trouble because he has tattoos and dresses like someone who doesn’t care much about appearances (he doesn’t, but now I know that alcoholics care very much about appearances, that’s why we’re so good at hiding it).
But I digress.
We did the low-carb, high-protein, moderate-good-fats and lots-of-leafy-greens diet for three weeks and I felt fantastic. So good, in fact, that when Christmas rolled around, I was kinda disappointed to break my new healthy habit.
Among the benefits I received were:
a) I slept like a baby at night (I swear there’s no better mood enhancer than a good night’s sleep).
b) I didn’t have my usual post-lunch crash where I am rendered a useless, fatigued mess, and
c) I had next to no cravings for sweet, bready products.
Plus, I didn’t feel like I was carrying a balloon around in my stomach all day, and apparently, I looked better. It felt like a bloody miracle. The thing that surprised me most was that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. Tyrhone and I enjoyed shopping for our groceries each day to prepare our unique version of scrambled eggs and chicken-wings-fifty-ways.
I always thought eating cleanly would involve long hours of boredom, but in reality, I found more time for writing, more energy for yoga and felt more alert and content overall.
Over Christmas I had a fairly indifferent attitude to carbohydrates. I ate them, yes, because it was the social thing to do and it’s hard not to when you eat out, especially in Mexico. Mexicans looove them some sugar and bread, which I am sure has absolutely nothing to do with soaring rates of obesity and diabetes*.
Somewhere along the way though, I just fell off the wagon completely. Chocolate croissants became my regular breakfast and a meal didn’t feel like a meal without some carby goodness. It wasn’t as though I wasn’t aware of what was happening, it was just that I knew resistance was fruitless over the festive season, and well, I really bloody enjoyed it.
But the trade off has been that now we are back on track, making a final push for health and well-being before we set off for Guatemala early Feb, I am in the grip of a sugar and carb craving so severe I’m wondering if it’s all worth it.
As a recovering alcoholic, I have another added level of insanity which asks, “Well what else are you going to give up? Breathing??” while it waits for me to crack and say,”Fuck it,” to the whole damn thing.
But I know I have to be true to myself. Just as I know that living sober is my only chance at a healthy life, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I know what sort of eating makes me feel good too. I know it’s probably not possible to eat well all the time once we are on the road, but I do want to give it another go for the next couple of weeks.
‘To thine own self be true’ – William Shakespeare.
I’m not doing this for anyone else, and I’m no longer looking to the world for my road-map to life.
Because the world is nuts! Beautiful, but nuts.
Playa del Carmen is currently overrun with BPM festival goers. Today, my local supermarket was filled with hipsters in vintage Ray-Ban sunglasses and revealing tank tops (and that’s just the boys).
They looked good.
While I filled my trolley with fruit, leafy vegetables and meat, they pushed carts full of Redbull, Corona and heat-yourself pizzas with waife-ish nonchalance.
“Fuck yooooooooouuuuuu!!!” my voice of insanity screamed silently.
“How can they look that good and be so buff while eating and drinking all that crap, not to mention all the drugs they must be taking???!” it continued (because, according to my head, why else would you attend a music festival? The music? Not likely!).
I felt old and boring and miserable. It probably didn’t help that I hadn’t bothered to change out of my pajamas.
I confessed my insane thoughts to Tyrhone.
“Hey,” he said, “We were buff when we took drugs, that’s why they look like that.”
He was right. I came across some old photos the other day of the music festival we met at in 2006. We were so intoxicated, and we looked pretty good.
Young and wasted, 2006.
I look happy in the photos, but in reality, I was pretty miserable. I just hadn’t fully realized it yet. I still lived with the illusion that another drink, or joint, or pill or party or man was the answer to all my problems.
I love this quote from Chloe Caldwell, author of Legs Get led Astray, which says, “In my early twenties, I felt that my life could be one big experiment, and in my mid-twenties I am coming to terms with the fact that no, my life is actually my life.”
In my twenties I was happy and ignorant and invincible; selfish, arrogant and hurtful. In my thirties I’ve had my fair share of unhappiness, but most of that has come from cleaning up the wreckage of my twenties. The rest has been joyful, fulfilling, creative and real.
Imbibing a lootta sugar on my 33rd birthday…
So I’m back on the healthy eating bandwagon, because I know that within a week I’ll feel very different than I feel today. Just as I conned myself into recovery four years ago by saying, “Just give it a year. After that, you decide whether you want to drink or not,” I’m giving myself one week to kick these damn sugar cravings and feel like myself again.
The slightly less crazy version, that is.
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